VIDEO: How Advanced Technology Can Make Automation Easier to Use
James Anderton posted on June 26, 2017 | 3461 views

North American enterprises big and small are increasingly concerned about adaptability and ease-of-use, as industrial automation and trends such as Industry 4.0 promise to change how manufacturing is done. The growing skills gap is doing nothing to assuage any fears, but it seems automation providers are.

In the video above, ENGINEERING.com’s Jim Anderton reports on the latest initiatives from FANUC America Corporation, at the company’s recent annual open house event at the base of Mt. Fuji.

Mike Cicco, president and CEO of FANUC America, explained how the company is responding to end users’ concerns about ease-of-use and Industry 4.0 solutions.

“We have a number of different initiatives that we’re currently executing. The first is about smart machine control and ease of use. We utilize a technology called MT-Linki, which facilitates communication between the machine tool and higher-level systems,” Cicco said.

MT-Linki functions like an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solution, connecting machines with FANUC CNC via Ethernet to collect, manage and present information like performance data. It can also be used to connect with peripheral devices, such as PLCs.

“We also have a new development called iHMI, which puts a graphical interface on top of that machine to highlight ease-of-use features,” Cicco continued. “In addition, we have a large initiative for a CNC simulator product, which we actively sell to schools and businesses to train the next generation of manufacturing employees to help bridge the skills gap.”

The FANUC CNC Simulator is being used in classrooms today, allowing students to learn the ins and outs of the technology, with the need for a full mill or lathe. The simulator is based on the FANUC Series 0i – MODEL F platform and can be run in either milling or turning configurations. Students can program the simulator as a three-axis mill or a two-axis/one-spindle turning system.

In addition, FANUC is offering an Industry 4.0 solution with artificial intelligence (AI) elements with the Zero Down Time system, that functions with the company’s line of robots.

“We have over 10,000 robots currently utilizing advanced AI and analytics, where we can predictively determine failures weeks before they happen,” Cicco explained.

“We’ve utilized that level of AI on the customer side in the automotive industry, and that is starting to trickle down into the SME business. On the machine tool side, we’re looking at ways to predict failures from spindles for tool life, how to increase uptime and all of that is going to be built right into the control, using the smart manufacturing technology that we have.”

For SMEs interested in the technology, but unsure on how to approach Industry 4.0, Cicco shared what he considers to be their greatest obstacle and how to overcome it through automation specifically designed for ease-of-use.

“A lot of the challenge they face is the high model mix that they encounter. They may machine one part at a time, with one part being completely different from the last. The way FANUC is trying to tackle this is with ease-of-use. By making all our products easier to use, we can give our end user the experience where they really can go from one part to the next, with a completely different model mix, but still use automation and machine tools to help their factories be more efficient and generate more revenue for them.”

For more information about FANUC America’s latest technological innovations, visit the FANUC America website.

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