CNH Industrial Belgium optimises twenty-year-old machine with ToolScope 

CNH Industrial in Antwerp, a manufacturer of tractor parts (mainly rear axles and drive systems), has updated a twenty-year-old machine tool with the help of ToolScope. This monitoring and control system from CERATIZIT gives CNH Industrial a clearer view of the machining process, and the machine data helps the company to shorten cycle times, lengthen tool life and achieve a reliable manufacturing process.

CNH is one of the first users of ToolScope in the Netherlands and Belgium. The manufacturer of parts for tractors made by New Holland, Case IH and Steyr was looking for a way to achieve higher utilisation of the existing machine park and thus meet increasing demand. Baptiste Muller, process engineer at CNH, says that the age of the machine park is the biggest challenge in the optimisation process: “To shorten cycle times, there are essentially two things you can do: either invest in new machines or optimise existing processes. We chose the latter because, although some of the machines are already twenty years old, they are still high-quality machines. But it is not so easy to optimise these machines with their outdated control systems and limited computing power, especially on a limited budget,” says Muller.

Muller went searching and finally found ToolScope from Ceratizit: “Our factory in India has already been using ToolScope for some time and has achieved promising results in preventing tool breakages and increasing tool life. We also looked at other solutions of course, but not all of these were compatible with our older machines. To try out ToolScope in our factory, we started by optimising one single machine.”

Baptiste Muller (l) and Stefaan Grimonprez in front of the twenty-year-old machine tool that was modernised using ToolScope.

Industry 4.0 installed in a flash

The ToolScope monitoring and assistance system continuously records signals from the machine that are generated during the production process. This data is visualised and used to monitor and regulate the machine control system. The status of the tool and of the machine is visualised with a patented method for statistical process control. “With ToolScope, it is possible to integrate Industry 4.0 into an existing machine park. As we demonstrated at CNH Industrial, this works even with a twenty-year-old PLC,” says Stefaan Grimonprez, technical consultant at Ceratizit.

Although ToolScope ‘runs’ on external hardware, the system communicates with the machine control system 100 times per second. Can the decades-old control system manage this level of communication? “The computing power of the machine software is already at 80% capacity during normal operation, and therefore it is necessary to collect and process the process data externally to avoid overloading. This is the advantage of ToolScope, it operates independently of the machine control system, which means that the system can work very well with older machines.” A further advantage of the external hardware is the new interface, which allows CNH Industrial to export data more easily. 

Process optimisation with clear data

With ToolScope process monitoring, wear detection for tools and adaptive feed regulation, CNH Industrial has reduced cycle times by 3%.

ToolScope consists of a large number of applications with unique possibilities. This makes it possible for users to adapt ToolScope to their own needs and to add new functions over time as required. CNH uses three applications: process monitoring, wear detection for tools and adaptive feed regulation. 

The process monitoring gives CNH Industrial a comprehensive overview of the entire manufacturing process. “We use this machine around the clock to produce gearboxes and gearbox housings. With ToolScope, we can make all process data clearly visible in one graphic, which means that we can see very precisely where the process is deviating from an optimal process. If, for example, a load peak in the torque of the spindle occurs at a particular point in time, then we know that we can optimise the program at this point. In this way, we can optimise the process continuously”, says Muller. CNH uses the machine equipped with ToolScope to machine cast parts weighing between 300 kg and 450 kg, around 10% of which becomes swarf. Therefore, with small improvements the company can achieve great progress over time. 

In addition to providing insight into the process data, the process monitoring also reacts automatically to any deviations in the machining. In this way, the system detects tool breakages, missing workpieces or tools and other incorrect processes, for example, and in such cases immediately stops the machine. This permits reliable, unmanned production without the risk of damage to tools, workpieces and machines.

Optimal utilisation of tool life

With the wear detection for tools, CNH Industrial has found a solution that makes the most of a tool. The function determines when a tool reaches the end of its life on the basis of the process force to which the tool is exposed, rather than using fixed service lives. A fixed service life does not take into account any fluctuations in machining conditions, such as varying material quality or embedded sand, which often appears in cast parts. The available tool life can be utilised much better in this way. The result: lower tool costs and higher machine availability.

ToolScope is an external system with separate hardware. As a result, the system has hardly any effect on the computing power of the existing machine control system.

Automatic feed

For Muller, the adaptive feed regulation is the most interesting function. “We process cast parts, and they vary a lot. For example, the cast parts are much harder in winter than in summer, which reduces the life of some tools by 25% with the same process parameters. On top of that, cast parts are not uniform in size, which means that more material has to be machined in some cases than in others. Despite these challenges, we can achieve shorter cycle times thanks to the adaptive feed regulation”. The adaptive feed regulation measures the process forces and automatically adapts the feed accordingly. This leads to a faster and more stable manufacturing process and at the same time protects the tool from critical process forces.

3% shorter cycle time

CNH Industrial has been using ToolScope for six months and has successfully shortened the cycle time by 3%. The aim is to achieve 4%. Muller: “ToolScope is a fantastic tool for a process engineer. It is a complex system with a great number of possibilities. Of course, the system works as soon as it is installed and is easy for the operator to use right from the start. But if you want to make the most of the system, you have to fine-tune many parameters, and that is a time-consuming and ongoing process. Companies considering digitalisation must be prepared to invest time in analysing data and playing with parameters. Digitalisation and optimisation involve more than just connecting a system. It is a continuous learning process.

Muller has used ToolScope to optimise the machining process of the twenty most important and most frequently used tools. For some milling tools, it was possible to reduce the machining time by 10% to 15%. For drilling, the machining time was shortened by 8%. A considerable improvement. The reason the average reduction in cycle time is currently 3% is that the machining of large gearboxes and gearbox housings requires as many as 100 to 130 tools. Moreover, CNH demands “reliability”, because production must not grind to a halt. “It will be a challenge to make those last few per cent, but it will be worth it in the end. And what’s particularly practical is that you can transfer the parameters you collected during the first experiment to other equipment. Then the return on investment suddenly becomes very interesting”, says Muller. Because of the good initial results, CNH Industrial intends to equip further machines with ToolScope in the future. 

The workpieces must comply with tolerances of one per cent.

Example of an assembled drive system.

CNH Industrial Belgium produces gearboxes and gearbox housings for tractors made by New Holland, Case IH and Steyr.