In the face of growing global competition in the sheet metal working industry, computer-based automation technology company Beckhoff has launched a range of computer-based control solutions for metal forming and sheet metal working.
The company has launched the EtherCAT conventional Fieldbus systems, which can easily be integrated into the EtherCAT input-output system through gateways. The company reports that the EtherCat system offers sheet metal working processes the speed, precision and high repeat accuracy that the pro- cesses demand. Further, the EtherCAT offers full Ethernet compatibility, increased use of the Ethernet bandwidth and real-time characteristics.
The benefits of the EtherCAT system for sheet metal processing systems include higher speeds for punching, stamping or laser treatment, since actuators with precise defined rate times enable switching systems with an accuracy of greater than 100 nanoseconds and axis movements with increased reproducibility.
The motion control system with a number of axes for the bending of sheet metal involving several synchronised axes is a further benefit of the control system. Distributed clocks precisely synchronise the EtherCAT devices, such as axes, die cushion controllers or synchronism controllers for hydraulic cylinders.
The company’s TwinCAT system integrates all these functions into one software package. It provides the synchronisation of several axes with high repeat accuracy for the precise sheet metal processing of bending, punching, stamping, cutting or joining. The TwinCAT network computer and TwinCAT computer numeric control replace the complete motion control hardware for all servo axes, including feed, ram or transfer components. Machine manufacturers can customise sheet metal working processes based on their system-specific control expertise, allowing for even complex bending algorithms to be easily programmed into TwinCAT.
The company reports that, with TwinCAT, subsequent modifications and revisions and the high degree of flexibility required for sheet metal cutting or nibbling are no longer a problem. The comprehensive TwinCAT libraries with temperature, cam and hydraulic controllers, flying saw and cam plates simplify the programming. The programmable logic controller (PLC) drives can be programmed with the motion control library and cam plates, according to virtual desktop infrastructure guideline 2143, with TwinCAT NC camming, or temperature compensation with the TwinCAT PLC temperature controller library in accordance with industrial control organisation PLCopen.
The company reports that its computer-based control technology offers scalable and flexible solutions with high performance and precision for an increasingly wide variety of products, varying batch sizes and strong cost awareness.
Sheet metal components, which come in all shapes and sizes, require a wide range of machining processes, including rolling, cutting, stamping, folding, drawing, joining, cleaning and finishing. Sheet metal production is based on processing machines, presses, punch presses, machining centres or fully automatic production lines comprising sheet metal working equipment, as well as handling devices, storage facilities, automatic material feeding and integration into the company network.
The production systems, therefore, need to be highly productive, precise, reproducible and cost effective, reports Beckhoff. This, the company adds, requires optimally adapted processes with reduced stoppage and set-up times.
Further, large forces in combination with high velocities are required for pressing, which demand advanced control technology. Manufacturers of production machines require expandability and flexibility to be able to meet customer requirements effi- ciently and cost effectively.
The scalable and modular range of Beckhoff products allows customised solutions in computing power, complexity and costs.