Surfing the Internet of Things and Machining - dummies

Surfing the Internet of Things and Machining

By Kip Hanson

What does the Internet of Things (IoT) have to do with machining? Simple. All these advanced technologies have an impact on the way you manufacture things, never mind the fact that smart cars, smartphones, smart refrigerators, and smart kiosks at the shopping mall place increasing demands on the folks who make these devices — that is, manufacturers.

To manufacturers, the IoT has an extra letter: IIoT. It means the Industrial Internet of Things. What’s the big diff? Actually, not all that much. Both rely on sensors embedded in network-capable devices everywhere. Both provide massive amounts of data that is useful for trend spotting and analytics. Both secretly report to an evil computer network that … sorry, just kidding. Really, the IoT and IIoT are basically the same thing, offering the promise of increased efficiency, reduced costs, and greater product reliability, except that the latter is concerned only with industrial processes. Think self-driving forklifts instead of self-driving cars.

For example, most machine tools are way smarter than the Internet-capable security camera you installed in the foyer last weekend. They’re able to monitor spindle temperature, vibration, cutting forces, motor loads, and a bunch of other electromechanical and physical characteristics that affect how the machine functions, then report back to a dark techno-overlord sitting thousands of miles away.

Not really, but they can supply a remote software system with important information that will in turn analyze and display what’s going on to whoever wants to know. This might be the CNC programmer, who can adjust the toolpaths for more efficient machining. It could be a maintenance person, who needs to know if there’s a problem with a bearing or slide. It could be the company accountant, who wants to know what job was worked on and why it was less than profitable. Or it could the shop manager, who needs to be alerted when the machine is idle so she can go holler at someone to get back to work.