LESER Update December 2021

Continuing the Fourth Industrial Revolution with the Digital Twin

Computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) are merging the design and production processes at LESER into a single workflow.  

Over the past decade or so, the German term “Industrie 4.0” has become a synonym for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is in full swing at LESER where the focus of digitalization is on transforming manufacturing processes. But the changes the digital transformation brings about have repercussions far beyond the way the shop floor is organized: For successful digitalization it is essential to integrate all design, production and planning systems.
This is why LESER has begun to implement computerbased programming of its complex, automated CNC-controlled machining equipment within the scope of the “LESER is digital” program. This includes full 3D modelling of each component or product as a “digital twin”. These activities are enabled by Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM).

Digital manufacturing with CAM

CAM machine programming based on a realistic 3D simulation of the manufacturing process, including models of the machine, the product, the tool and all relevant fixtures, is gradually replacing traditional manual machine tool programming. Digital modeling of the machine, its traveling paths, the clamping system, the individual tool situation, along with the use of 3D part information from the design process will soon allow engineers to even perform a collision analysis. This means they can determine in advance where the manufacturing process requires optimization. When manufacturing processes are planned and optimized in a digital environment, all employees must rethink the way they work: Routines and workflows established over decades have to be redefined – a major change process for everybody. At the same time, digitalization opens up new perspectives and opportunities. The technology experts at LESER are eager to accept this challenge.

Customer benefits resulting from digitized production

  • Accelerated product development
  • Improved planning and design of new manufacturing technologies
  • Shorter delivery times enabled by standardized, automated machine programming
  • Faster implementation of customer-specific designs

Digital design with CAD

Using 3D models of safety valves has been standard practice at LESER for years: As early as 1998, LESER created its first 3D model of a cast housing for its Type 526 safety valve. At that time, specifications for individual characteristics that were required for the many different variants of the valve were provided in a table on the 2D drawing; for example, customer-specific flanges, facings, or water drain holes. In the future, a unique CAD model will be generated for every single variant of a component which can then be used by the digital manufacturing software. To make physical components based on the digital models, the CAM software needs to be able to identify the geometry information generated by the CAD software so it can calculate the tool path for the machine tools.
This explains why the “CAD for CAM” project is such a long-term undertaking at the Technical Department. The project was launched in January 2020 and will be completed during the coming fiscal year. Its goal is to define principles for every single machinable component at LESER which can then be integrated into a unique CAD model.
This concept is being implemented in the new manufacturing cell (page 24) for large valves in the DN 250-400 / 10-16 inch range for the first time.
The Technical Department is generating around 700 new CAD models for valve bodies, double-flanged bends and change-over valve bodies for the manufacturing process of XXL-sized safety valves. These models will be the first ones used for digital manufacturing by the new manufacturing cell. In the future it will be possible to generate separate CAD models of all needed 3D variants in the system using variant data tables, and manage this information using SAP. A team of engineers is currently testing the required SAP modules called “Engineering Control Center” and “Model Processor”. Until the “Model Processor” tool for the CAD software Creo is rolled out in the spring of 2022, the CAD models for all components will be created manually. 

3D models are great for many applications

When an entire manufacturing process is modeled virtually, there are other users who can benefit from the 3D data, as well. This is why LESER defined a wider scope for the project from the beginning. Once the “CAD for CAM” project is completed, there will be additional applications on the agenda: The idea is to enable fully digital design of larger, more complex equipment. In the future, LESER plans to provide 3D models as “installation dummies” for Augmented Reality applications. This means that LESER will deliver digital silhouettes of safety valve bodies for system designers to incorporate in their plant models. The designers only need precise external dimensions but no digital modeling of what is inside the safety valve.
LESER can also use its design software to generate 2D or 3D models for web applications. These product models, including inside views, illustrate the composition and operation of safety valves for use in product management or marketing.

"Industrie 4.0"

In Germany, the term “Industrie 4.0” denotes the concept of comprehensive digitalization of industrial production. Integrating machinery in computercontrolled networks optimizes the entire value chain, rather than just an individual production step. The Fourth Industrial Revolution continues the sequence of revolutionary changes of industrial processes, from the introduction of steam engine-powered machines to mass production using assembly lines to the introduction of computerized machine controllers. 
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