Blazing the Trail for CNC Controls
CNC control technology has been around since the 1950s, when the Aircraft Industries Association (AIA) and Air Material Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base joined with MIT to standardize this work and produce a fully computer-controlled NC system. Just 6 years later, in 1963, Okuma developed the OSP III, an NC controller with absolute position feedback, becoming Japan’s only comprehensive manufacturer of both CNC machine and controller (one year before IBM introduced the System 360 family of computers).
Milestones in Okuma CNC Control Technology
Since 1963 a lot has changed in CNC control technology at Okuma. Just a few of the milestones include:
- 1980: Okuma developed the conversational programming system, Interactive Graphics Function, IGF (which is now part of our Advanced One-Touch IGF).
- 1981: We released IGF to the public with the OSP 3000 control.
- 2005: In response to the pioneering consortium OMAC’s (Open Modular Architecture Control) request that builders and control vendors open up their controls, Okuma developed the THINC® OSP P200-Series control. With the development of this control, Okuma created another piece of important technology, the custom Application Programming Interface (API) which is open to third parties and end users for customization that suits their unique requirements.
- 2007: We released the API to the public, being the first CNC control having the ability to read and write data from the Windows® operating system to our CNC operating system.
Open-architecture, Windows-based CNC Controls Expand Possibilities
Today there are over 6000 CNC control data points that can be used for everything from the operator specifying the coolant pressure per tool to informing the president of your company on the number of hours the machine spent cutting parts. Since this interface has been developed, Okuma customers have benefitted from many custom applications that allow them to incorporate the advantages of PC-based programs with our CNC environment. (For an extreme example of this, check out the story of Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind, where Okuma’s open-architecture, Windows-based CNC control allowed access to setting up voice-activated commands for blind operators.) Today, Okuma America provides commonly used free applications on the Okuma website, and our Distributors develop their own apps to support your needs.
The THINC-OSP Control: Part of The Road Map for MTConnect
This leads me to a “new” form of factory floor communication being developed by The Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) called MTConnect. MTConnect is a universal factory floor communications protocol. With MTConnect, the data is defined only once at the MTConnect compliant interface to the device or machine tool. Once the data is defined based on the MTConnect standard protocol, it can then easily be used by all MTConnect compliant software applications. (See MTConnect.org). As Paul Warndorf, VP of Technology of The Association for Manufacturing Techology said in 2008, “you guys have already done for yourselves what we’re trying to accomplish globally” after touring our industry leading collaboration facility, Partners in THINC.
The ability to utilize data from the production floor and the machine tool to understand what is occurring on our CNC machines is not new to Okuma. Our Machine Management (MacMan) software has been on the OSP control since 1993. Machine monitoring is also not unique to Okuma, and we know there are very few single-machine tool shops out there, so without reservation we support the MTConnect initiative to ensure all of your machine tools can provide information in real time to improve your productivity.
So as you can see, Okuma has pioneered many new technologies, from the first absolute position feedback encoder to one of the first conversational programming controls, and even led the way in standardized factory floor communications. In the next couple of months, I will blog about even more “firsts” from Okuma, including some of Okuma’s Intelligent Technologies.
Your comments are welcome, or send us your questions about control technology for your application. Every scenario is different. We’ve been preparing for decades to take on your challenge.
Tim Thornton is Controls Product Specialist, Okuma America Corporation
REFERENCES Wikipedia. (n.d.) Numerical Control. [Online]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N... [Accessed 10-24-2012].