A look into the future
iXpanel - i4.0 ready
INDEX now supplies the newly developed iXpanel® operating system. It allows easy setup and control of the INDEX machines as usual. In addition, even in its standard version, iXpanel® offers extensive added user assistance through complete integration into network structures. Drawings, setup sheets, user manuals, circuit and hydraulic diagrams, etc. are available directly on the machine without additional hardware. iXpanel ® unfolds its full strength with an additional industrial PC installed in the control cabinet. This allows the user to run 3D simulations coupled with the machine in real time or even create complex programs using a CAM system. There are (almost) no limits to data communication.
iXpanel® creates the conditions for the use of INDUSTRY 4.0: The new INDEX operating system focuses on the one hand on the optimal control of the machine for the effective machining of workpieces with maximum productivity. On the other hand, iXpanel® provides a direct connection between the machine control and the operations department within the company. The operator receives exactly the information that best supports him in his current work.
Prerequisite for iXpanel® is integration with the network, which INDEX implements with the new control generation based on the Siemens Sinumerik 840D sl. Another fundamental component is the touch-sensitive wide-screen monitor in which INDEX has included numerous non-safety-relevant rotary and tip switches from the machine control panel. This created space for the 18.5" monitor with a resolution that makes it suitable even for demanding 3D simulations.
The touch-screen has a separate controller. For this mini-computer with an 8 GB memory card and USB port, INDEX developed its own software, which lays the functional foundation for the iXpanel® concept. By using the integration with the corporate network, it provides the machine operator with useful information for his current activities.
Industry 4.0 included
The practical orientation of the system prepared for Industry 4.0 is already reflected in the start page. After starting up the machine, the familiar control screen appears with the information of axis positions, etc. On the right side, where hardware keys used to be, there is now a vertical, differently colored control strip that contains the ABC keyboard, number pad, cursor keys, and some other touch buttons. One of them is the so-called “i4.0-ready” button that is used to launch “iXpanel® Industry 4.0”.
By touching this button, the control strip on the right edge of the screen changes to an activity-driven display. It contains the preselectable areas of Production, Setup, Programming, Maintenance, General, and Diagnostics, which are associated with additional function keys labeled with intuitive icons. They enable operators, setup engineers or maintenance personnel to obtain additional information directly on the screen at the machine.
The iXpanel® software developed by INDEX allows the user to open a second view on the screen. Pushing a special button on the touch-monitor, the user can toggle between the “normal” control view and this “second page” at any time. For example, if the user selects the icon for the workpiece name in iXpanel® Industry 4.0 mode, it will be displayed on the second screen page, and the user can then navigate to it repeatedly by pressing a button. Other buttons can be used, for example, to retrieve and view job or quality requirements and to open them at any time as needed.
The same approach applies to other activities, for example, for accessing setup sheets and tooling setup information, operating and programming instructions or circuit and hydraulic diagrams, etc. Full-page display of PDF formats in combination with extensive and intuitive navigation and zoom functions on the touch-screen enable safe transfer of all information. iXpanel® offers even an editor, which allows the machine operator or programmer to add his own notes to the workpiece job.
All the above-mentioned functions are included in the standard version of iXpanel®. But many more possibilities open up with an optionally available industrial PC, the so-called VPC Box, installed in the control cabinet. It can be connected with the operating panel via an Ethernet interface and also uses the second page of the control screen. The industrial PC allows the operator to run Virtual Machine (VM) developed by INDEX directly on the machine control panel. This “VM on Board” has advanced capabilities and can be used, for example, coupled with the real machine via the virtual NC core. This enables 3D simulation and collision monitoring in a completely new dimension.
INDEX offers different operating modes for “VM on Board”. “CrashStop” allows the advance simulation of workpiece programs on the machine. In case of a virtually detected collision, the function triggers a timely machine stop to prevent the real collision. Using “RealTime”, the machine program can be simulated on the operating panel simultaneously, thereby enabling real-time analysis of the machining sequence in difficult-to-access work area situations. In addition, “VM on Board” can be used to create and test new NC programs directly on the machine during production.
iXpanel® offers also useful assistance for machine programming via INDEX's proprietary VPro ProgrammingStudio that can be used not only as part of “VM on Board”, but also directly on the machine control. The VPC Box even allows the use of the NX-CAM system with an INDEX postprocessor directly on the machine under the “CAM on Board” button. Of course, other CAM systems and customer-specific applications can be used as well. INDEX allows the user's IT department direct access to the VPC Box industrial PC in the control cabinet for this purpose.