Innovative CNC platform gives machine tool OEMs virtually unlimited performance and flexibility

Assembly Automation

ISSN: 0144-5154

Article publication date: 18 April 2008


(2008), "Innovative CNC platform gives machine tool OEMs virtually unlimited performance and flexibility", Assembly Automation, Vol. 28 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Innovative CNC platform gives machine tool OEMs virtually unlimited performance and flexibility

Article Type: Mini features From: Assembly Automation, Volume 28, Issue 2.

NUM has launched a radical new CNC platform for machine tool manufacturers that delivers “no- compromise” control system solutions.

Called Flexium, the modular platform has unprecedented scalability that can be applied economically on a machine with a few axes, or as many as 200+. This is combined with open programmability that gives users complete freedom to customise the man-machine interface (MMI) and add value.

Flexium provides machine builders with a common platform for all system building activities, from standard machines to special-purpose equipment such as transfer machines and integrated production lines. Underpinning the platform is the unique fidelity and accuracy of control that is made possible by NUM's complete product line and proprietary communication interfaces from controller to motor and decades of intellectual property in designing machine tool control systems and software.

At the heart of the new platform is an advanced new CNC kernel. The kernel is at least four times more powerful than the fastest version of NUM's existing Axium controller, which is a popular choice today in a number of machine tool applications including tool grinding, gear manufacturing, woodworking, high-speed cutting, and transfer and special-purpose machinery.

Two versions of the CNC kernel are available, to provide economic solutions for different sizes of machine: Flexium 6 and Flexium 68. Flexium 6 is a compact solution that is cost-optimised for standalone machines with up to five axes of motion. The more powerful Flexium 68 will handle up to 32 interpolated axes, divided into as many as eight coordinated groups. If more axes are required, to support very large equipment projects such as a multi-cell production line, then Flexium 68s may be interconnected using a real-time Ethernet link. CANopen interfaces provide additional system expansion capability, including positioning drives, I/O and handwheels, and operator panels. This allows the Flexium 68 system to be expanded to control over 200 interpolated axes, as well as further positioning axes and I/O.

The CNC kernels are rounded out by a complete range of system building blocks including an industrial PC front end with soft-PLC functionality, MMI panels, I/O modules, drives, and a broad choice of servo and spindle motors.

Software flexibility has been at the core of NUM's development project. The resulting Flexium platform gives machine tool OEMs complete control over the look and feel of the machine. The system's PLC is programmed according to IEC 61131-3 standards, and offers a choice of development software, providing machine control programming environment in forms to suit individual programmers. Flexium's MMI is also completely adaptable, and can be easily programmed using standard tools such as HTML, Java Script, or one of the PC-based rapid software development environments such Visual Basic, Delphi, Visual C or C++. This flexibility, which allows users to add their own unique “look and feel” branding to each machine, is in stark contrast with some competitive platforms, which have fixed user interfaces that may only be modified by the vendor.

NUM's long-established range of drives and motors complement the Flexium platform with motion control capability that is highly optimised for machine tool applications. Accuracy and fidelity of motion are central to the control loop, and are achieved by a number of unique measures including a high-speed proprietary bus between the CNC kernel and drives, and fine interpolation of the movement profile by closing the positioning loop at the drive level at a fast rate of 5kHz. This is combined with special motors with optimised torque ripple and high-inertia characteristics to suit the requirements of the mechanics. NUM's control over the complete motion axis chain secures an unmatched performance where it matters most: at the direct mechanical interface to the machine.

“NUM's CNC technology has been developed and refined over decades to the point where it is a leader in some machine tool segments. We have always complemented this with strong engineering support, and a partnership ethos where we work alongside the machine tool company and take complete responsibility for the control system,” says Jan Koch of NUM. “Flexium greatly widens the applications potential, giving the machine tool industry a platform with almost unlimited applications scope. We expect it to appeal to small- and mid-sized OEMs, providing a common platform for any size of machine. One that can be completely tailored to their needs, and which has great software flexibility for adding value and building a distinct brand.”

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