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INDUSTRY 4.0 INITIATIVES PUT SORALUCE MACHINING DEVELOPMENTS ‘AHEAD OF THEIR TIME’

That the Industry 4.0 integrated information initiative holds great benefit for machine tool users is patently clear to Soraluce – and will be to its worldwide customer base.

“The developments we are instigating now with machines and automated manufacturing systems are just scratching the surface of the possible rewards that users could harness from 30 years or more of advances in IT and computer technologies,” says Xabier Medizabal, R & D Director for the Spanish machine tool builder and multi-axis and multi-tasking machining solutions provider.

“The correct use of these technologies holds the key to information gathering in automated machining scenarios that will enable users to not only boost production output but also help guarantee machining quality and consistency.”

He continues: “These solutions are not expensive and they are available now. But the real challenge is being able to gather the information efficiently then to trust and utilise that data and make objective decisions in order to gain real benefits.”

Speaking at the BIMATEC Soraluce ‘Ahead of its Time’ Technology Days open house in Germany, Soraluce‘s managing director, Rafael Idigoras, added how the event not only served to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Spanish company’s Centre of Excellence in Limburg, but it also showcased to more than 800 European, American and Asian customers a host of technological developments with the company’s machines and systems.

Underpinning Soraluce’s world standing, the innovations were spread among nine milling, boring and turning multi-tasking machines – three of which were being displayed to the public for the first time in the company’s new design livery.

The live machining demonstrations included Soraluce’s award-winning (Quality Innovation of the Year/Best of Industry Award) Dynamic Active Stabiliser (DAS) system. This increases machine stability by reducing chatter, generating improvements in surface quality and, especially under extreme milling conditions, enhances tool life and minimises tool breakage – effectively boosting machining performance by up to 300 per cent.

Also being shown was Soraluce’s Dynamic CNC Ram Balance system. This enables machines to automatically compensate the vertical deflection of the ram using an electro-mechanical system carried in the vertical saddle. This not only corrects the vertical position of the tool tip but also any angular deviation derived from the deflection. The system is integrated with automatic head exchange and is able to dynamically self-correct the true position of the quill for the different heads.

The new Modular Quill system was also demonstrated. This allows the automatic interchange of a modular quill spindle with other heads, allowing for the speedy use of different quill spindles (of different diameters and lengths) and therefore permitting five-axis/multi-tasking machining in a single set-up.

Complementing these were two new heads – models H100 and H200T - for five-axis (H100) or two-/three-axis (H200T) multi-tasking operations. The H100 head operates in 0.001deg increments in both vertical (+/- 230deg) and diagonal (360deg) planes. The 46 kW, 5,000 revs/min heads boast nominal torque values of 1,500 Nm. The H200T head was demonstrated on a TA-M 20 bed mill that featured a rotary table for integrated turning operations. These new heads add to the 30 standard and 70 different special heads that Soraluce already provides.

Also on show was the DHC dynamic head calibration and Adaptive Control feed adjustment systems, alongside demonstrations on one machine of coolant-free drilling to 350 mm deep.

In addition, and reinforcing Mr Mendizabal’s Industry 4.0 comments, Soraluce’s new Smart Machine technology highlighted how real-time machine status from smart sensors can be viewed and harnessed.

Based on Cloud computing, the system captures and records all relevant information on overall machining cycle performance and energy consumption, as well as temperature, tooling usage/wear, energy consumption and downtime. It also, for example, produces alarms (including by email) of key process signs/preventative maintenance requirements. All data is accessible via PC and mobile devices as well as the Internet.

The Smart Machine technology was demonstrated on an FL8000 moving column, floor-type milling-boring machine, one of a number of machines ordered/sold at the event.

All of the machines on show at the Centre of Excellence – a facility that includes 2,500 m2 of showroom plus a training room and departments for technical assistance, service, project management and technology - were what Soraluce describes as its ‘new generation’. These feature newly-designed livery and improvements in their dynamics, and improved regimes and access for maintenance, as well as operator ergonomics and working environment.

Indeed, the Soraluce FXR machine was awarded Red Dot 2016 status for innovative product design.

All machines in the Soraluce range – “the most comprehensive multi-tasking range on the world market”, says Mr Idigoras, and available from T W Ward CNC Machinery (Ward CNC), Soraluce’s exclusive distributor in the UK and Ireland - will exhibit these new features.

The full range covers 15 mill/bore/turn models with 50 different head options, the largest machine supplied having X and Z travels of 64 metres by 8 metres. Additionally one of the world’s largest ever gantry machines is nearing completion for a company involved in Italy’s energy sector. Soraluce’s Bergara headquarters in Spain is where all the machines are built.

Such developments stem from Soraluce investing eight per cent of turnover in R & D, as part of the Danobat Group, the machine tool division of the Mondragon Corporation which has an R & D centre accommodating 120 engineers and 24 PhDs. “Indeed,” added Mr Idigoras, “we have invested more than Euro 18 million in R & D over the past eight years.”

The Technology Days also heralded the launch of the Soraluce Academy within the BIMATEC Soraluce base, where customers, associates, distributors, suppliers and employees can share, learn and implement leading–edge solutions and projects to improve productivity levels via seminars and workshops, as well as laboratory and R & D resources.

As Mr Mendizabal pointed out: “The market is always evolving and customer requirements are increasingly more demanding. We are constantly striving to develop new solutions to meet these demands - such as multi-tasking machines and automated systems, particularly to satisfy the move for more automated solutions for the production of large components – and utilising technologies that will improve the productivity and accuracy of our machines.”

Highlighting the importance of BIMATEC Soraluce’s Centre of Excellence, Mr Idigoras also pointed out that of the 2,500 plus machines sold worldwide by the Spanish company, around 40 per cent go to customers in Germany.

“Whatever the industry sector, it is clear that single set-up machining in increasingly automated environments, including extensive flexible manufacturing systems that run unmanned and at night - and the use of such automation on travelling-column machines - is the way forward at a time when there seems a worldwide skills shortage. This is currently a major a focus of our close collaboration with customers and of our extensive R & D activities.

“Europe has been leading the world in engineering technologies for more than 100 years and Soraluce, for one, is not about to give up that mantle easily!”

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