Making CNC machine tools more open, interoperable and intelligent—a review of the technologies

The subject of the paper is computer numerical control of automated machine tools operated by STEP-NC system. The author of the article looks into the future of distributed interoperable intelligent manufacturing in an attempt to predict what will shape its development. The claim is made that objectives of such development will be in portability, interoperability, and adaptability of CNC machining.

G-codes that have been used in machine tool programming for more that 50 years are significantly limiting the further development of CNC manufacturing. A new standard known as STEP-NC is being developed as the data model for a new generation of CNC machine tools. A new control language is intended for creating a more open and adaptable architecture that would allow achieving better functionality and compliance of machine tools with the programming language. STEP-NC interface permits the exchange of information between CAD systems and CNC controllers without loss of useful information about the model such as geometric dimensions, tolerances, material properties, etc. An STEP-NC file is not restricted to only one particular machine tool and can be used on various machine tool controllers. A bi-directional data flow leads to minimizing design and manufacturing costs and makes the process easier to manage.

In this paper, the author gives an outline of the prospective functionality of STEP-NC system. He focuses on the topics of access to autonomous manufacturing workstations through global networking, compliance of data interpretation with STEP system, intelligent manufacturing of components, machining system diagnostics and maintenance, monitoring and scheduling of work production. The author anticipates these aspects to be cornerstones of innovation of CNC systems and offers his view on the approach towards future development of the interoperable intelligent manufacturing, discovering how the potential areas of development can be employed in practice.

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