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Innovation project: Intelligent machine tools for individualized production

Manufacturing companies face great challenges as the result of increasing demand for individualized products. Machinery and systems, such as machine tools, must be able to carry out manufacturing processes flexibly and use resources efficiently. At the same time, they need to ensure the quality of the product and ease of operation. Up to now, machine tools have mostly required manual adjustment when changing to the manufacture of a different product. Moreover, errors such as variations in product quality are not able to be recognized and rectified during the manufacturing process. This results in machine downtime and production waste. New developments in information technology, such as optical recognition systems and measurement technologies, offer the opportunity to increase the level of machine tool automation. 

The aim of the innovation project is to develop an intelligent machine tool that is capable of autonomously adjusting the machine set-up for different machining processes, and checking the quality of the finished workpiece.

The first step is to determine the automation requirements for different machining processes. This forms the basis for developing suitable optical recognition systems, for example image processing with a 3D camera. Innovative measurement technology and mathematical algorithms make it possible to analyze the workpiece to be processed and the working space, and automatically adjust the machine for each machining process. The quality of the finished product is checked by automatically comparing it with target data from the CAD system. The project draws on the results of cross-sectional projects in self-optimization, human-machine interaction, intelligent networking, energy efficiency and systems engineering. The process will be tested using a demonstration system, and then integrated into machine tools.

This innovation project will achieve an increase in the flexibility of machine tools in the future, without reducing the reliability of the machining process or the quality of the product. As the result of the automatic adjustments, efficiency is expected to increase by around 20%. Manual readjustment and resetting of machine parameters will no longer be necessary, thus simplifying operation. The procedure developed can also be used in other production machinery, for example in punching and bending machines.

Project duration
01 July 2014 - 30 June 2017