1) Why should tooling manufacturers implement Industry 4.0 technology now?

JF: Industry 4.0, Smart Factory, and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies result in a flexible, fully connected system that uses data flows and operational inputs across the shop floor for transparent monitoring and optimal decision making throughout the value chain. Technological improvements sparking this phenomenon include:

  • Exponential increase in data volumes transmitted and stored, and the computational power required to handle these volumes
  • Emergence of data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning
  • New forms of human- machine interaction (HMI)
  • Improvements in transferring digital data into the physical world and from physical to digital
  • Use of time-sensitive networks in industrial environments
2) What are the biggest hurdles in creating Industry 4.0-compliant tooling?

JF: Smart technologies are limited by the lack of standards at sensor, control, plant management, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) levels. Most systems are proprietary or lack consistent data formats, resulting in poor layer-to-layer interoperability, particularly in legacy systems. Machine controls use different internal communication protocols and different interfaces. There are many wired and wireless communication systems for sensor reading and actuator control, and data from different ERP systems is not easily interchangeable.

3) Is there data security for Industry 4.0 tooling?

JF: A large portion of a company’s knowledge is susceptible to hacking, however, the problem is more critical at an ERP and IT level than at a tooling level. We use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) as a standard for several reasons. A small battery-operated, fine boring tool equipped with BLE can only communicate within a few meters.

So, a hacking device needs to be placed near the machine tool, work undetected, and send information outside the factory. Recent Bluetooth versions have added security features that would further deter hackers.

4) How does BIG KAISER plan to close the loop for automatic tool adjustments?

JF: We aim to provide the simplest possible automatic system to install and use. For customers who don’t need a closed loop, the tool can be adjusted via a smartphone or tablet app. A handheld device is under development if such devices are not allowed in the shop. In legacy machines, the closed-loop system uses an industrial PC to interface the machine control (via Ethernet) and tool (via Bluetooth). In a third envisioned scenario, machine tool builders could equip their units with hardware, software, and HMI functions for direct communication to our devices without external hardware.

5) What information might tools send or receive in the future?

JF: BIG KAISER boring heads are much closer to the cutting point than any other element of the machine tool, and this is where the “real stuff” affecting production quality and performance takes place. Our R&D department is developing wireless communications strategies, sensing capabilities, and signal pre-processing to offer vibration analysis, chatter detection, cutting forces, monitoring, and impact analysis.