Hybrid Machine Tools Won’t Need CNC Advances, Siemens Says

Today’s CNC is ready for these machines. Standard control technology is sufficient to oversee additive and subtractive together.


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Hybrid machine tools, which combine additive and subtractive processes in the same machine, might prove to be the most effective way for many manufacturers to apply additive manufacturing. The adoption and development of these machines therefore might advance quickly. But if so, CNC technology will not have to race to keep up. Randy Pearson, international business development manager for control technology provider Siemens, points out that existing and standard CNCs have been implemented on hybrids. This level of technology is up to the task of controlling the multi-process machines, he says.

Indeed, more challenging unions have already been achieved. Siemens has demonstrated a machine tool and robot under the coordinated control of a single CNC. Part of the challenge in this is that the robot and machine tool obey different command languages. Uniting metalcutting with metal layering does not feature this challenge, because the additive process uses just a modified set of codes within the language of the machine tool. Seen in this light, additive is a natural function for the machine tool to take on, and the control is ready for this addition.

Pearson says, “Whether the parameters involve laser gases, powdered metal deposition and inert atmosphere vacuum, or five-axis rotation of a milling head or rotary table, the function of the control remains nearly identical. In this way, a single control can run two varying technologies for fabrication and chipcutting, either on a single channel or on a two-channel unit.” And as previous successes have shown, he adds, those two technologies could even be used in tandem with a robot.