While the advantages of CNC machining compared with traditional, manual methods of manufacturing are many and varied, it is not a perfect technology.
One of the issues is that efficiency can take a nosedive and costs can spike if equipment suffers unplanned downtime due to an unexpected issue.
This is both costly for companies and frustrating for operators. It also applies whether you are using the latest gear, or relying on an old CNC machine to fulfill a critical role in your production process.
Luckily there are solutions to help with this, and unsupervised learning offers perhaps the most significant opportunity to recognize issues with CNC machinery and allow you to act sooner rather than later.
The importance of detecting anomalies
The first point to make is that anomalies are exceptionally useful in pinpointing when CNC gear is close to failing.
The issue here is that the specific details of an anomaly in equipment operation which signals an impending catastrophe can vary a lot. Thus when it comes to anomaly detection, vast volumes of data need to be recorded, analyzed and tracked over time in a range of scenarios.
Most machines have specific operational tolerances, and when they move outside of the ideal parameters, alerts are issued to operators.
Unfortunately, these parameters will shift according to a number of variables, such as the material being worked on and the tooling used. Thus the traditional approach to anomaly detection is labor-intensive, time consuming and vulnerable to human error.
The impact of automation
As in many industries and fields, machine learning algorithms are being applied to the process of monitoring CNC equipment and monitoring for anomalies so that alerts can be issued intelligently and automatically, regardless of the equipment’s current state.
Simply by feeding in the data generated by the sensors and specifications of the gear, software tools can automatically deduce baseline readings for ideal operational scenarios, then adjust these when other materials, tooling and variables are at play.
This frees human workers from needing to be always making minute adjustments to the safe working limits of machinery, giving them time to focus on other responsibilities.
In the event that the algorithms notice that something is amiss, operators will be called upon to intervene, and thus protracted periods of costly unplanned downtime can be averted.
The data involved
It is interesting to explore the types of data that unsupervised learning tech can take onboard and work with to monitor CNC machinery.
As you might expect, this includes obvious and straightforward metrics like the speed with which the equipment operates, as well as more complex variables like the position of tooling and the load it is handling from moment to moment.
The parameters for detecting anomalies are even adjusted according to the number of parts that have been created, and the overall status of the machine.
Of course while there might be specific metrics not covered by unsupervised learning solutions which apply to a given machine type, this is not always relevant when it comes to anomaly detection.
With just a handful of telltale troubles to look out for, automated software is streamlining monitoring and maintenance in manufacturing, as well as making it far more affordable.
Aside from all of the advantages of detecting CNC anomalies with unsupervised learning solutions covered above, it is worth remembering that this is not a technology that sits still.
Rather it only continues to improve with time, and the more data fed into it, the better the outcomes it offers.
This is certainly something that is set to define CNC machinery going forward, and because it can be applied to gear of all ages, it’s reach should be significant.
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