A research team at Huddersfield University’s Centre for Precision Technologies has developed a software system claimed to improve the accuracy of CNC machine tools by a factor of 10 to one.
The Engineering Control and Machine Performance Research Group (ECMPG), led by Alan Myers, recently purchased a five-axis milling machine to further develop the software, in collaboration with companies such as Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
Costing nearly £200,000 and weighing 6.5 tonnes, the Geiss five-axis milling machine will allow further research with the software, intended to measure the volumetric accuracy (all the geometric errors in the X, Y and Z directions) of a particular machine tool.
The software intercepts encoder feedback, adjusts the signals by the required amount then passes them on to the CNC.
‘Currently the Volumetric Compensation Software (VCS) we have created is able to reduce errors by up to 97 per cent,’ said Myers. ‘We are at the cutting edge of research into volumetric accuracy, and plans are underway to market our software system, with its own control box, against the vast majority of CNC milling machines already on shop floors across the world.
‘Previously, the cost of similar types of system was in excess of £20,000 because of the specialist hardware required. We know that, given the tight margins many machine tools are operating within, companies simply cannot afford to outlay half the cost of a new machine to increase their accuracy and productivity. We’re confident that our new control box will retail for less than £1,000.’
The custom-built Geiss machine tool is configured with a high-specification steel beam able to mill steel and cast iron, as well as aluminium and plastic parts needed for the manufacture of student projects and other research.