Data consistency in the CAx process chain

Data consistency speeds up the development of the right product

Computer-assisted process chain planning and design via software systems are more important than ever in the age of Industry 4.0. In recent years, there has been a shift in computer-assisted planning of process chains (CAx) from fixed to flexible manufacturing process chains. In accordance with the principle of “mass-customization”, manufacturing process chains must adapt dynamically to inputs and disturbances in order to achieve the expected outcome. The fundamental requirement for continuous, flexible CAx process chains is data consistency.

A repair process chain must adapt to the specific details of the damage sustained by the part which is to be repaired for example. This is the point at which the traditional approaches pursued by the CAx programming are stretched to their limits: manual adaptation of manufacturing process chains to particular products, cases of damage and disturbances is a costly operation and the development of specialist software for certain products or product families quickly breaks the budget of most companies.

Additive manufacturing methods such as laser deposition welding are the obvious choice for the repair of turbo-machines used in aerospace or for energy generation. This involves first removing the worn and defective areas of the turbine blades and then reconstructing it so that it corresponds with the original nominal geometry.

Within the framework of the “Adaptive production for resource efficiency in energy and mobility – AdaM” innovation cluster, the Fraunhofer IPT has collaborated with over 20 project partners to develop a continuous part and process data chain for adaptive machining.

A digital image of the actual part including the manufacturing information, which is also required, was first generated in a product data model. The production process can be simulated in a virtual model on the basis of this data during the work station phase in order to acquire information about the contact conditions of the milling tool. This shortens the ramp-up period and reduces the need for costly preliminary tests on the actual part.

The Fraunhofer IPT uses a “CAx-Framework” which was specially developed by engineers at that institute for planning and simulation. With the appropriate software modules, the framework links various manufacturing processes to continuous, computer-assisted process chains (CAx process chains). The workflow-based programming method deployed, enables the user to design process chains in a flexible and user-friendly way. The laser deposition welding and milling processes, for example, can be linked to form a continuous CAx process chain on the basis of the CAx-Framework. This ensures data consistency throughout the entire product lifecycle. The data are made available to the appropriate employees via a product lifecycle management system (PLM).