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CHIRON Group: Digital systems for maximum productivity

The latest topical issue in the machine tool industry, as well as in industry in general, is the continuing trend towards digitalization and networking. The CHIRON Group is convinced that this can create enormous potential for rationalization in manufacturing – whether for applications in the automotive sector, in mechanical engineering, in aerospace or in medical and high-precision engineering. The group of companies has therefore long since evolved from being a manufacturer of classic CNC machining centers to becoming a system provider right across the machining process chain.

With the SmartLine modular program, the CHIRON Group is providing digital systems that control and optimize the manufacturing processes, increase the productivity and availability of the machines, and facilitate the operation and handling of the machine tools from the CHIRON Group. With a tailored digitalization solution, every customer can continuously optimize their individual production process and take even better advantage of the potential of their machining centers.

Core competence and innovative strength from a single source
With DataLine, the user has a continuous overview of important data, such as the machine status, the status of the manufacturing processes, productivity or the number of workpieces produced. If deviations from the target status occur, the process owner can respond to this immediately and adjust the corresponding parameters. Dr. Claus Eppler, Head of Research and Development at CHIRON explains: "With comprehensive expertise in machine engineering, we aggregate the data that accrues in the system, evaluate this data, develop parameters, and generate and evaluate statements. We then provide this information to the foreman, the scheduler, the controller or the management. In this way, we create transparency and added value throughout the machine's life cycle and for vertical networking."

With RemoteLine, the machine's relevant operating data and faults can be automatically transferred to the CHIRON Group's service based on the customer's requirements. A hotline technician analyzes the faults using remote diagnosis and eliminates them online using remote maintenance. If required, they can plan and implement a service deployment and provide all of the required parts. It is increasingly important for the customers to be continuously updated about the machine's current status because the ever-increasing productivity pressures demand maximum machine availability.

Systems that record data about the machine's status, aggregate this and make it available to the customer are therefore a focal point of the current development activities at the CHIRON Group. With ConditionLine, faults and impending failures can be detected or prevented at an early stage. The software automatically analyzes all machine parameters that are relevant for the machine to operate reliably. In this way, manufacturing can be optimized, maintenance and repair work can be planned precisely, and productivity losses can be prevented. "The great advantage that we have over IT companies is that we are familiar with the mechanical engineering side of things and are therefore able to acquire the relevant insights quicker and more effectively – to the advantage of our customers," explains Dr. Claus Eppler.

Using ProcessLine, the entire machining process can be developed and optimized in advance, thus drastically reducing the process development times on the real machine. The user therefore gains additional process security thanks to the detection of potential collisions during the machining simulation. ProcessLine is a comprehensive CAD/CAM and simulation solution for the entire machining process. The simulation takes place using a digital twin of the machine. In other words, the model combines the geometry, kinematics and dynamics of the real machining center with all of its functionalities.

The ProtectLine software solution employs preventative measures to protect against collisions in all types of operation. To achieve this, the machining centers from the CHIRON Group have a "digital twin" which fully replicates the real machine. In addition to the machining center, all of the machining tools, including tool holders, and the workpiece with clamping arrangement are integrated into the model. Furthermore, ProtectLine stands out thanks to an automatic removal simulation. This means that a virtual machining process takes place in parallel to the real machining process. In doing so, the geometry of the virtual workpiece always corresponds to that of the real workpiece – a model quality that is unique on the market. During the machining process, the digital twin runs ahead of the real machine in real time and experiences any potential collisions first. The real machine is shut down in good time and in a controlled manner, and is therefore preventively protected against a collision. Used together, the ProcessLine and ProtectLine modules form a continuous digital process chain. ProcessLine simulates the real NC program ahead of time and ProtectLine protects against malfunctions in a live environment.

Using the modern and intuitive TouchLine operating system, the machine operator is supported in their daily work. The technology, which is becoming increasingly complex, is counteracted at this point by a context-sensitive provision of information and user guidance, which makes the machine significantly easier to operate.

Despite increasing digitalization, many companies are skeptical about cloud applications because they are afraid that they could threaten their own expertise. The experts in the CHIRON Group take these reservations extremely seriously and have comprehensively dealt with them. SmartLine therefore also offers solutions for companies that do not want to connect their machines to the Internet. The increasing demands for digitalization and networking are a fixed component of the design of this new, increasingly intelligent series from the CHIRON Group.

In the age of the virtual machine tool
Virtual machine tools are already being used in the CHIRON Group – from system development and software and process development, through to the installation of the real machine. With the mechatronic design, this "digital twin" provides support in topology optimization, for example, in order to achieve an optimum balance between rigidity, weight and price. Conversely, the data flows back to the virtual machine tools from production via the SmartLine modules RemoteLine, DataLine and ConditionLine, meaning that the processes of the CHIRON Group's manufacturing facilities can be analyzed and optimized.

International interface standard and IoT solutions in focus
Harmonized and standard data interfaces are essential for the progressive digitalization of the entire production environment. A consistent manufacturer-independent evaluation of machines and systems from different manufacturers is currently impeded by interfaces that have been defined differently. Irrespective of their size, companies can only benefit fully from the digital shift and networking of machines if proprietary stand-alone solutions are being further developed such that they support a common interface standard. Together with seven other companies, the CHIRON Group is part of the core team of the VDW initiative for networked production. The objective is to use the "umati" (universal machine tool interface) interface to enable a standard international connection of machine tools.

Furthermore, the CHIRON Group is also a founding member of the MindSphere World, a global user organization that was initiated by Siemens for the cloud-based, open MindSphere IoT operating system. The objective here is to further expand the ecosystem around the platform.

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About the CHIRON Group

The CHIRON Group, headquartered in Tuttlingen, is a global company specializing in CNC vertical milling and mill-turn machining centers, as well as turnkey manufacturing solutions. The Group has a global presence, with production and development sites, sales and service subsidiaries, and sales agencies worldwide. With a workforce of 2100 employees, it generated €443 million in revenue in 2019. Around two thirds of machines and solutions that are sold are exported. Key customer sectors are the automotive, mechanical engineering, medicine and precision engineering, aerospace industries and tool production.

The CHIRON Group is proprietor of the brands CHIRON, STAMA and FACTORY5, associated with new machines, as well as the retrofit brand CMS. The key feature of all the brands is precise, productive and flexible machining. CHIRON has a reputation for optimum dynamics. STAMA focuses on stability and heavy machining. FACTORY5 machining centers are ideally suited for high-speed machining of microtechnical components. CMS provides completely overhauled machines from the Group, including related services. With products and solutions for additive manufacturing, the CHIRON Group supplements its core competencies.

Editorial contact:

Melanie Buschle

Kreuzstraße 75, 78532 Tuttlingen
T: (0 74 61) 940-3255
E-Mail: melanie.buschle@chiron-group.com