CNCs mix it up
As the economy grinds to a halt, engineers at job shops and machine builders are making the most of it. At the Eastec 2001 manufacturing exhibition in May, many said they are using the lull created by the recent downswing in orders to invest in technology that will boost productivity, capability, and quality. Consequently, the demand for simple CNC (Computer Numerical Control) systems is heating up with major CNC suppliers expanding product lines into the low end, and lesser CNC suppliers offering much more capable systems.
Traditional DRO (Digital Readout) suppliers such as Chicago-based Fagor Automation and Anilam Inc. (Miramar, FL) have significantly shaped the low-cost, high-volume arena by cost effectively retrofitting small manual machines with low-cost DROs controls. But premier CNC suppliers GE Fanuc (Charlottesville, VA) and Siemens (Elk Grove, IL) have gradually expanded their product lines down into the low end. Not coincidentally, Fagor and Anilam have counter-attacked with CNCs targeted at higher performance applications.
GE Fanuc displayed its new Series 0i-MA CNC with 256K part-program storage, and 32-bit processor that controls up to 4 axes. It offers many of the features found in high-end CNCs, but at a more competitive price. While the 0i-M CNC is packaged with servo motors specifically selected for knee-mill and small milling machines, its low cost also makes it suitable for specialty machines including wood routers and plasma machines.
GE Fanuc, www.ge-fanuc.com.
Not to be outdone, Siemens announced special pricing ($3,199) on its Sinumerik 802C CNC for analog drives until the end of 2001. 802C is part of the Sinumerik 802 family, recently expanded by the addition of the 802D for digital drives. The family also includes the 802S for stepper-motor driven machines, found at the lowest end of the range, that are typically used in training machines or simple turning and milling applications.
For years shops have chosen Anilam controls on smaller milling machines, for their easy machinist's language programming format. Now the same format is available for larger production machines with the recently released 6000 line of CNC controls for digital ac servo milling applications. Available in 3- and 4-axis plus spindle versions, the controller uses dual processors. A 32-bit DSP floating-point processor running at 60 MHz does the motion control, while the PC uses a 586 DX 133 processor.
Fagor Automation showed its 8055 CNC with integrated hard-disk drive and built-in SERCOS interface modules in its CPU. The controller uses reprogrammable flash memory instead of EPROMS in an effort to make software transmission and upgrades faster and easier.
Fagor Automation, www.fagor-automation.com.