Cutting Tool Engineering
July 2011 / Volume 63 / Issue 7

Remote control for machine diagnostics

By Bob Blunk, Okuma America Corp.

Technology is continually changing the manufacturing process. Part manufacturers improve quality and accuracy while increasing machining speed and efficiency, which happens when they embrace new technologies. These technologies make the manufacturing process more integrated but also more complex.

Components of the process no longer stand alone; they are part of a complete manufacturing system. To make a system work, information is directly fed from one component or device to another. This information sharing is the core of process improvement.

As manufacturing processes grow more complex, service initiatives must also grow so manufacturers can embrace new technologies without being overwhelmed by their complexity. Providing a means to share information accurately and quickly is a pivotal part of maximizing machine uptime and minimizing unplanned downtimes. That’s why Okuma developed Constant CARE (Constantly Available Resource Experts) software.

The software provides an advantage when diagnosing issues and preventing or limiting machine downtime. With Okuma’s THINC open-architecture CNC, all an end user needs is an Internet connection, and, when something goes wrong, a service specialist can be connected directly to a machine by pressing a button. This level of connectivity eliminates wasted time when diagnosing a problem. Confusion is also eliminated and troubleshooting can begin immediately.

Constant CARE comes standard with every Okuma machine equipped with the THINC-OSP P-200 control. The software enables a remote desktop connection with the company’s service specialists, who can access the machine control to diagnose and, in some cases, correct the issue. A service specialist remotely sees everything the operator sees. And with express operator permission, a service specialist can take control of the machine’s computer to review parameters, check programmable logic control status and perform other diagnostic operations.

CCP Program.tif
Courtesy of Okuma America

The Okuma THINC-OSP control showing the Constant CARE interface.

In addition, the software transfers critical information about the machine and customer, such as machine model and serial number. This ensures that once a session begins, a service specialist has the information needed to diagnose the issue.

These sessions also serve as a training tool for less experienced operators or maintenance technicians. By remotely controlling the computer, a specialist can show how to utilize some of the existing features on the machine or how to perform data gathering or logging functions.

Because the OSP P-200 control is essentially a Microsoft Windows-based platform, Constant CARE can use existing technology to facilitate a remote desktop session. By using existing technology, Okuma ensures that security isn’t compromised and no information is transferred to or from the machine without express operator permission. If security is still a concern, the machine does not need to be constantly connected to the Internet to utilize the software’s features. Also, the use of portable wireless devices, such as a MiFi, can be used to connect the machine when necessary.

In the event the issue cannot be resolved remotely, the diagnosis ensures that a service engineer with knowledge of the problem and parts in hand is quickly on-site. This type of “intelligent dispatch” is only possible once the issue has been remotely diagnosed. Once on-site, the service engineer can focus on repairing the machine and time isn’t lost on understanding or troubleshooting the problem. Together, remote diagnostics and intelligent dispatch minimize unplanned downtime.

Bob Blunk-Okuma.tif Future additions to the product will allow customers and Okuma to remotely monitor machines on a continual basis. The software will then open the path for predictive maintenance functions, a key component to eliminating unplanned downtime. CTE

About the Author: Bob Blunk is the service technician responsible for the development of Constant CARE. For more information about Okuma America Corp., call (704) 588-7000, visit www.okuma.com or enter #350 on the I.S. Card.



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