Whether it’s a new CNC machine that needs an update or an older machine that must have a complete retrofit, the experts at NUM Corporation are available to make that a reality.
“Beyond delivering world class hardware, our philosophy is toward developing unique software solutions for CNC machine tools that make the OEM’s machine a more highly engineered control-system product,” said Steven Schilling, managing director at NUM. “We bring our engineers to the OEM to help them with that effort so that they don’t have to do it all by themselves.”
NUM (rhymes with “zoom”) offers control systems that are specific to gear machines, according to Schilling.
“For example, for the gear industry, our gear-hobbing solution has machining cycles built into the control and a conversational user interface so that any integrator, or any OEM, can very quickly apply our control to a gear-hobbing machine,” he said. “There’s really a minimal amount of engineering work that they have to do. We provide a base PLC, but they can customize it or write their own PLC. If they’re happy with all the machining cycles that are provided by NUM, they really don’t even have to do any gear production motion cycles themselves at all. For retrofit or new, it’s a great fit.”
“In gear hobbing, we have a full electronic gearbox included within the control,” he said. “It allows us to synchronize the 5-axis motion as a function of gear settings, and then we include a nice conversational software package around it, so when the operator interfaces with the system, it’s all menu-driven. Very simply, the user enters their gear data, feeds, and speeds, and the hobbing process is ready for execution.”
NUM has been making systems controls, motors, and drives out of Europe for many years, but in 1988, the company opened an office in Naperville, Illinois, which is where NUM sells its CNC controls, according to Schilling.
“From Naperville, we have full engineering support for application and HMI development,” he said. “At our customers’ preference, NUM can do all the usual control implementation tasks, like electrical diagrams, PLC work, special machining, or setup macros. We also have a full inventory of local spare parts, remote and field dispatched service, and we offer a full-range of control operation and integration training courses at our facility in Naperville.”
Latest software developments
NUM continues to be at the forefront of CNC controller software with its latest version of Flexium.
The Flexium software includes an enhanced RTCP (Rotation Tool Center Point) function with tool-vector programming that significantly simplifies how the company’s customers can use 5-axis machine tools.
NUM’s implementation of RTCP includes 24 pre-defined kinematic configurations, and its Flexium+ CNC systems can accommodate different kinematics on the same machine — for example, when different milling heads are needed.
NUM’s basic RTCP function is backed up by ISO code G151, and it offers a number of user-specified variants. The function can be activated with an inclined coordinate system or after a positioning move. In either case, the CNC system automatically calculates the mechanical offset to ensure the tool center point is always in touch with the defined workpiece surface while the rotary axes are moving. The RTCP function can also be activated by the actual positions of the rotary axes.
The Flexium software is just one example of what NUM can offer the gear industry.
Niche market for gears
Schilling pointed out that one of the reasons the Naperville staff is so familiar with gear machines is because it’s a niche market for NUM.
“We have staff in the office who are very familiar with gear hobbing, gear shaping, and gear grinding, whether that’s form wheel grinding or threaded wheel grinding,” he said. “We’ve got engineers that we consider experts out of the office that have already had their hands on many of these types of machines, helping OEMs and retro-fitters to integrate our controls into these machines.”
But NUM also has the ability to retrofit older machines, according to Schilling.
“We provide an equal amount of our gear CNC systems for new machines and retrofits,” he said. “We’re very familiar with the old machine market. In fact, when a customer gives us a model of a machine, many times we can suggest motor and drive sizes that would be a good fit.”
‘Ease of setup and operation’
NUM takes its role of making a machine interface easier to use for its customers very seriously, according to Schilling.
“That’s probably the most important thing as the product has evolved — the ease of setup and operation, with available online tools like graphical parameter editors, automatic tuning utilities, manuals, and help files — all intended to make the customer’s NUM experience as efficient and productive as possible,” he said. “Beyond that, NUM has Industry 4.0-communication technology supporting the Smart Factory. With MTConnect and OPC UA adapters built in, a customer with NUM controls on their floor can quickly and easily link the system to their factory’s data-collection.”
Control technology plays a major role in the success of Industry 4.0, because it will control the machines that produce the products. Anticipated benefits include improved effectiveness, innovation leaps, increased information transparency, and competitive advantages.
Different customers have different needs, and Schilling said NUM likes to get as involved with its customers’ needs as clients will allow.
“We generally like to dig in and really understand the machine, and we are interested to learn of their past experience, either with NUM or other brand controls,” he said. “We then help the customer in sizing and recommending the best fit motors and drives on the machine, to discussing optimized operational interfaces for the end user. Whether our engineers do the customization or we empower the customer to do it themselves, the goal is the same: to complement the hardware by delivering a software solution that enhances the machine’s capabilities.”
NUM is headquartered out of Switzerland and developed the first CNC controller in 1961, making the company one of the first CNC providers in the world, and it’s a point of pride for Schilling that NUM’s products are still going strong.
“We’ve been in the market for a long time with a broad installed base,” he said. “It’s a proud moment when you see NUM controls in plants, and they’re 25, 30 years old, and they’re making parts for our customers every day. It’s just a good feeling of accomplishment in the history of the installed base along with the customer relationships that we’ve enjoyed for so many years.”
As NUM moves into the future, Schilling expects machines to move more toward linear technology and direct drive torque motors.
“We see a number of our customers switching in that direction, and NUM has solutions for both,” he said. “I think on the machine side, this trend will help OEMs to reduce mechanical components, at the same time we will continue to deliver user interface improvements and to reduce the OEM’s workload — both eventually bringing more value to the machine’s end user.”
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