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PC-based control integrates all functions of machine tools on a single platform

Flexibility, high speeds with perfect machining results, energy efficiency, transparency and connectivity – the demands on modern machine tool systems are constantly increasing. With PC-based control, Beckhoff offers the optimal tool to meet these challenges effectively. Regardless of whether machining, eroding, surface finishing or laser processing is concerned, the scalable and powerful Beckhoff portfolio of hardware and software makes tailor-made control solutions possible: from pure sequential control to high-performance CNC. The backbone of the system are the Industrial PCs, which are always equipped with state-of-the-art components. Their excellent real-time properties deliver robust computing performance, even for highly complex multi-axis positioning algorithms. At the same time, the PC controller has the necessary openness for seamless connection to control systems and thus meets a decisive criterion for the realization of a networked production of the 21st century. EtherCAT ensures ultra-fast communication to the connected field devices and highly accurate synchronization of motion and technological process, which provides for a significant competitive advantage when using laser technology, among other things. TwinCAT automation software ultimately combines PLC, NC and CNC functions in one system, coupled with integrated engineering, whether it be a single machine or a complex manufacturing system.

In the past, Beckhoff has established itself as a solution provider for a wide range of applications, be it in mechanical engineering or mold making, in aerospace, medical technology or additive manufacturing, and uses its extensive technology know-how in cross-vendor initiatives. As a VDW member, Beckhoff was involved from the outset in the specification of the new OPC-40501-1 connectivity standard, which was developed as part of the umati project. Beckhoff thus once again underlines its comprehensive competences as an innovative partner of the machine tool industry.

Beckhoff membership in associations:

  • German Machine Tool Builders’ Association (VDW)
  • Mechanical Engineering Industry (VDMA)
  • OPC Foundation

At a glance: your benefits in machine tools with PC-based control

Increase the productivity of your machine tool with the technology highlights from Beckhoff

Productivity and efficiency are still the main criteria for the development of successful machine concepts. With PC-based control, a modular automation toolkit is available to the machine manufacturer that is precisely scalable in terms of performance. TwinCAT maps all required technologies such as PLC, CNC, analytics and connectivity in a common software environment. This reduces interfaces and the associated integration costs. CNC functions developed by the customer can be developed with the help of the standard editors, integrated into the real-time stack of the CNC kernel as a TcCOM module and provided with effective protection against third-party access. Optionally, the entire engineering can also be relocated to the cloud. This supports distributed development teams and reduces the software diversity in the machine manufacturer's IT. Predictive maintenance and continuous process optimization are factors that ensure productivity in operation. TwinCAT Analytics offers the right tools for this. Relevant data can be added by configuring a cycle-synchronous analysis chain. This can run either “on premises” or “in the cloud.”

Beckhoff's extensive portfolio of Drive Technology is highly scalable and offers solutions for every motion task. Whether rotary or linear, central or decentralized: state-of-the-art control algorithms precisely implement the CNC position specification, ensure precise and fast workpiece machining and reduce non-productive times through fast tool and workpiece handling. Flexibility in the connection of actuators and sensors are the trademarks of Beckhoff's complete I/O construction kit. All common fieldbuses and signal forms are supported in the protection classes IP 20 to IP 67. Particularly suitable for series use are the EJ plug-in modules, which significantly reduce the wiring work.

However, the productivity of a machine is also determined by the way it is operated. Beckhoff offers an extensive range of different Control Panels that can be adapted to the individual needs of the customer. There are no limits here, from the customer-specific key assignment to the realization of a panel design that is manufactured entirely according to customer requirements. As a supplement on the software side, TwinCAT HMI offers current web technologies as a basis for modern user interfaces.

Example configuration for a compact metalworking machine
Example configuration for a compact metalworking machine
Example configuration for a complex metalworking machine
Example configuration for a complex metalworking machine

Beckhoff CNC systems for more efficient machine tools: precisely scalable

Beckhoff offers modular and scalable control solutions in all performance categories for machine tools. The Industrial PC platform extends from the compact Embedded PC with integrated I/O level to the high-end Industrial PCs with multi-core and many-core technology. A large selection of Control Panels guarantees modern multi-touch operating convenience on the machine. The EtherCAT fieldbus system offers over 100 signal types in different modular designs for the entire spectrum of sensors and actuators. The drive technology product portfolio extends from the compact servo terminals to the powerful EtherCAT servo drives and the highly dynamic servomotors with One Cable Technology. The heart of the Beckhoff CNC solution is TwinCAT, the universal engineering and control platform, with comprehensive CNC, PLC and safety functionality.

With its open control solution in software and hardware, which is scalable and modular in terms of performance, complexity and costs, Beckhoff meets the high requirements for machine tool concepts in line with the market. As if from a construction kit, the user can assemble a control solution to suit the machine type and dimension it in accordance with any performance requirements. A gradual system conversion and the extension of machines and automation systems are thus easy to implement.

With TwinCAT, machine tool manufacturers get a universal software solution for engineering and control. Extensive software function modules and libraries for industry-specific requirements facilitate the engineering and implementation of machine functions.
With TwinCAT, machine tool manufacturers get a universal software solution for engineering and control. Extensive software function modules and libraries for industry-specific requirements facilitate the engineering and implementation of machine functions.

TwinCAT: the universal software platform for machine tools

TwinCAT automation software consists of runtime systems for the real-time execution of PLC, HMI, CNC and robotics applications and is at the same time the development environment for programming, diagnostics and configuration. All main IEC 61131-3 PLC programming languages are available for real-time applications. Existing interfaces allow C/C++ and MATLAB®/Simulink® modules to be operated in the TwinCAT real-time environment. The object-oriented extensions of the IEC 61131-3 standard enable the modularization of the programming code, the encapsulation of machine functions on the software side and thus the better structuring, reusability and extendibility of the application programs. Open interfaces and the use of the latest technological standards open up a wide range of options for the user, such as integration into existing visualization, control and database systems or cloud communication.

TwinCAT is the automation system optimized for machine tool construction, with which all control, HMI and IoT applications can be implemented consistently from compact to complex applications in one system. Extensive, universal software functionality for typical requirements in machine tool construction facilitates the engineering and implementation of machine functions.

Beckhoff technology highlights for machine tools

On the basis of the scalable and open PC Control platform from Beckhoff, machine manufacturers can develop attractively priced control solutions, because only the performance required for the application in question needs to be purchased.
On the basis of the scalable and open PC Control platform from Beckhoff, machine manufacturers can develop attractively priced control solutions, because only the performance required for the application in question needs to be purchased.

PC-based control increases the productivity of your machine tool

Beckhoff provides performance-based and cost-optimized control technology for customized solutions in the machine tool industry, based on many years of extensive expertise in the machine tool sector. PC-based control facilitates productivity and efficiency optimization of machine tools. Based on standard components, the hardware and software platform integrate all automation and CNC tasks. It is scalable for all performance classes and therefore suitable for all machine types. It enables implementation of cost-effective control solutions, because only the actual performance level required for the respective application has to be paid for. Since all control functions are mapped in software, additional machine functions can easily be retrofitted and functionalities for smart production can easily be integrated.

Beckhoff meets the industrial requirements for PC-based control through consistent in-house development and production of its Industrial PCs, the EtherCAT real-time fieldbus system, servo drive technology and TwinCAT automation software. The long-term availability of hardware, the industrial design, real-time qualification, high degree of diagnostics and scalability form the foundation of Beckhoff's PC-based control technology. Ongoing technological developments in all areas are continuously incorporated into the development process and ensure organic performance increases for the future.

At the same time, PC-based control optimizes all key production parameters of the machine tool. Short cycle times allow fast machining as well as fast tool and workpiece changes, thus increasing the productivity of the machine. State-of-the-art control algorithms significantly improve the precision of workpiece machining and increase the process quality. Increased availability and investment protection are further factors that directly benefit the competitiveness of machine manufacturers and end customers.

Reliable protection of customer process knowledge via the TwinCAT TcCOM modules
Reliable protection of customer process knowledge via the TwinCAT TcCOM modules

Integrate your own process knowledge simply and securely

With TwinCAT 3, a modular automation toolkit is available that can easily be functionally extended by customers. The TcCOM concept is similar to the well-known Microsoft COM technology, but adapted to use in a real-time context. With TcCOM, customer-specific software modules can be securely and flexibly integrated into the TwinCAT system and connected directly to Beckhoff components.

The TcCOM modules can offer and use their own methods, defined in interfaces. Thus, a customer-specific method such as a special axis transformation, which is implemented in another module that is realized for example in C++ or MATLAB®/Simulink®, can be called directly from a standard module such as the CNC. The software created by the user can be protected with industrially compatible hardware dongles and licensed for the machine.

TcCOM thus offers an open interface through which customers can integrate their own process knowledge into the standard controller in the form of special, self-developed functionalities. This has the great advantage that the core competencies remain completely in the customer's hands. Modifications and adaptations can be realized quickly and conveniently. The configuration is done in the TwinCAT Engineering; the TwinCAT Runtime validates the licenses in real-time. This allows the software or customer-side know-how to be protected effectively and reliably.

The EtherCAT real-time fieldbus takes over the entire process communication and is I/O, safety and drive bus system in one.
The EtherCAT real-time fieldbus takes over the entire process communication and is I/O, safety and drive bus system in one.

EtherCAT for maximum speed and accuracy

The EtherCAT technology was launched by Beckhoff in 2003 and made available as an open automation technology standard. With maximum data transfer rate, outstanding synchronization accuracy, flexible topology selection, extensive diagnostics and simple configuration, EtherCAT is also ideal for use in machine tools. The outstanding properties of EtherCAT fundamentally contribute to short cycle times in machine tools while increasing the accuracy of the machining process.

The EtherCAT real-time fieldbus takes over the entire process communication and is I/O, safety and drive bus system in one. Due to its widespread use around the world, a large number of EtherCAT-compatible devices, sensors and actuators are available on the market, ensuring a high level of investment security. The signals from conventional fieldbus systems such as CANopen, IO-Link and PROFINET can easily be integrated into the EtherCAT network via corresponding master and slave modules.

I/O response times of less than 100 μs are enabled by the fast and high-precision Beckhoff control solution eXtreme Fast Control (XFC), which is based on EtherCAT and optimized I/O modules that record signals or trigger actions with high temporal accuracy. This technology is used in machine tools wherever switching signals have to be processed highly deterministically in synchronization with the machining process. TwinCAT NC and CNC have special functions for processing these signals.

With TwinSAFE, machine manufacturers have the possibility to realize a wide variety of architectures in different designs: from the stand-alone controller to the distributed controller with the pre-processing of data directly through I/O terminals to the system-integrated software controller for highly complex safety applications.
With TwinSAFE, machine manufacturers have the possibility to realize a wide variety of architectures in different designs: from the stand-alone controller to the distributed controller with the pre-processing of data directly through I/O terminals to the system-integrated software controller for highly complex safety applications.

TwinSAFE: the open and scalable safety technology

With TwinSAFE, Beckhoff provides an integrated, certified safety solution that is scalable in software and hardware for the safety requirements of a machine tool. Due to their modularity and versatility, the TwinSAFE components fit seamlessly into the Beckhoff control system. The I/O components are available in Bus Terminal, EtherCAT Terminal, EtherCAT plug-in module and EtherCAT Box module form factors and can be used for applications up to SIL 3 according to EN 61508:2010 and Cat 4, PLe according to EN ISO 13849-1:2016-06.

In the field of drive technology, too, solutions without safety functionality for machine tools are hardly conceivable anymore. Beckhoff therefore started integrating TwinSAFE motion functions into its drive systems at an early stage – in both standard and compact drive technology.

The possibility to transmit the safety-relevant signals over a standard bus system gives rise to substantial advantages in terms of planning, installation, operation, maintenance, diagnostics and costs. The safety application is configured and programmed in the TwinCAT software and then transferred via the fieldbus to a TwinSAFE logic component. It forms the core of the TwinSAFE system. All safety devices in the machine tool communicate with the Logic component.

Beckhoff product highlights for machine tools

The all-in-one CNC: from entry-level to high performance
The all-in-one CNC: from entry-level to high performance

The universal software CNC – from the entry-level to the high-performance solution

TwinCAT NC I is the low-cost entry-level solution for interpolated path movements and robotics that replaces conventional axis assemblies. Powerful software libraries for various robot kinematics supplement TwinCAT NC I for various assembly and handling tasks. All well known fieldbus systems and programming standards in the CNC world, such as DIN 66025, are supported.

With TwinCAT CNC, Beckhoff offers comprehensive, powerful and scalable CNC functionality as a pure software solution. TwinCAT CNC covers the complete range of classic CNC path control, including high-end systems for complex motion and kinematics requirements. A maximum of 256 axes can be controlled with up to 32 interpolating axes per channel with extensive coordinate and kinematic transformations.

The required axis and spindle functions, interpolation and feed functions, tool and auxiliary functions as well as cycle programming with specific extensions are available for various machining technologies (milling, turning, grinding, eroding, forming, cutting, as well as additive manufacturing and special machines).

 The visualizations created are platform-independent and responsive on the client side.
The visualizations created are platform-independent and responsive on the client side.

TwinCAT HMI - the quick way to an individual machine tool interface

TwinCAT HMI consistently relies on widely used IT standards such as HTML5, JavaScript and CSS. The integration of a full graphical editor with an extensive toolbox into the familiar TwinCAT engineering environment makes it possible to create extensive visualization pages with little effort.

Customer-specific functions that are not part of the visualization toolbox can be implemented via the above-mentioned IT standards or higher-level programming languages. The visualizations created are independent of the client's platform and responsive. The powerful basic architecture makes numerous application scenarios possible: from the local panel solution to multi-client, multi-server and multi-runtime concepts.

Ready-made, industry-specific operating and programming interfaces are available for use in machine tool manufacturing.

With TwinCAT HMI and the extensive product range of Control Panels and Panel PCs, Beckhoff offers a scalable range of hardware and software for flexible operating concepts:

  • simple, open, HTML5-based
  • platform-independence
  • Visual Studio® integration
  • parameterization instead of programming

PC-based control integrates cloud communication and data analysis.
PC-based control integrates cloud communication and data analysis.

Cloud-based automation for predictive maintenance on the machine tool

Beckhoff has developed the TwinCAT IoT software library for communication between the machine controller and cloud-based services. It supports the standardized protocols OPC UA, AMQP and MQTT for communication with popular cloud systems such as Microsoft Azure™ and Amazon Web Services, as well as private cloud systems in the company's own network. Built-in security mechanisms prevent the misuse of data through unauthorized access and protect the company's intellectual property.

TwinCAT Analytics is used to record and evaluate the process data in synchronization with the machine cycle and can be used among other things for Condition Monitoring, predictive maintenance and machine optimization. In this way, all necessary information can be derived from the stored data with the appropriate analysis tools in order to optimize the machine with regard to energy consumption or to the process sequence. Post-mortem analyses, diagnosis of sporadic errors, early detection of quality losses and detection of production bottlenecks increase plant reliability and availability.

Data analysis may also provide the manufacturer with extensive knowledge of the operating behavior of its machine, which can be used in future design and manufacturing processes with the aim of reducing costs and obtaining an ideal machine design.

The extremely compact and flexibly mountable multi-core Industrial PC C6015 with Microsoft Azure™ certification and integrated umati interface is ideally suited as a powerful IoT edge device - for new installations as well as for retrofitting IoT capability.
The extremely compact and flexibly mountable multi-core Industrial PC C6015 with Microsoft Azure™ certification and integrated umati interface is ideally suited as a powerful IoT edge device - for new installations as well as for retrofitting IoT capability.

TwinCAT OPC UA and umati for safe and seamless integration of machines, plants and IT systems

As a communication solution, OPC UA is an indispensable part of the modern manufacturing industry. Platform and vendor neutrality, built-in security and an extendable information model are just some of the properties that have contributed to the rapid international adoption of this IEC standard. The properties of OPC UA are becoming increasingly important, especially against the background of Industrie 4.0 or IIoT.

Beckhoff, a pioneer in open technologies from the outset, is supporting this development with a strong commitment to OPC standardization. A good example of this is the company's active participation in the umati consortium. Under the leadership of the VDW (German Machine Tool Builders' Association), the consortium has set itself the goal of establishing an information model based on OPC for the machine tool industry. This has been available since September 2020 in the form of the OPC-40501-1. This first release focuses on the standardized connection of machine tools to MES and ERP systems. The corresponding description file can be loaded into the TwinCAT OPC UA server and conveniently supplied with data from the controller. Information about the machine status, the tools used or upcoming events are available to the user via a defined interface.

However, TwinCAT OPC UA can also be operated as an OPC client and can therefore process information from other OPC servers. In the umati context, this means that a TwinCAT-based edge device can receive information from external controllers via a umati or fieldbus interface, supplement additional sensor signals if necessary, e.g. via the high-precision ELM modules, and then make it available to the outside world as a umati server – an application scenario that also makes even older existing machines umati-capable. Aggregation solutions, in which information of several machines is to be pre-processed, are also simple to implement in this way.

With a broad portfolio of Industrial PCs, Embedded PCs, Control Panels and Panel PCs that are precisely scalable in terms of performance, Beckhoff covers the complete range of requirements in machine tool manufacturing.
With a broad portfolio of Industrial PCs, Embedded PCs, Control Panels and Panel PCs that are precisely scalable in terms of performance, Beckhoff covers the complete range of requirements in machine tool manufacturing.

Highly scalable, high-performance Industrial PCs cover exactly the defined performance requirements

With a broad portfolio of Industrial PCs, Embedded PCs, Control Panels and Panel PCs that are precisely scalable in terms of performance, Beckhoff covers the complete range of requirements in machine tool manufacturing. The performance of the Beckhoff Industrial PCs ranges from the ultra-compact Industrial PC, which offers up to four cores in a housing measuring 82 x 82 x 40 mm, to the Embedded PC from the CX series, with integrated I/O level and up to 12 cores, to the many-core machine controller, which integrates up to 36 cores. Added to this is the variety of designs and housing: from the Panel PC for installation in the control cabinet or for mounting arm installation to the Embedded PC on the DIN rail or the control cabinet Industrial PC. A wide range of housing designs, various connection methods and a wide range of interfaces round off the range of Beckhoff Industrial PCs.

With the performance of modern processors, Beckhoff not only integrates more and more functionalities into the automation platform, but can also offer this performance in increasingly compact designs. This allows control cabinets to be smaller in size; the footprint of the machine tool is reduced and valuable production space is saved. The scalable and powerful Beckhoff Industrial PCs are universally suitable for all machine tool types and performance requirements: from compact to complex, from the HSC milling machine to the high-performance series machine, an IPC platform is available that is precisely dimensioned in terms of space requirements, performance and price for every application.

For operation and monitoring, Beckhoff offers a wide range of multi-touch panels that offer modern operating convenience on the machine tool.
For operation and monitoring, Beckhoff offers a wide range of multi-touch panels that offer modern operating convenience on the machine tool.
A push-button extension that has been optimized for CNC applications is available for simple and convenient machine operation.
A push-button extension that has been optimized for CNC applications is available for simple and convenient machine operation.
Customer-specific adaptations conforming to machine tool and CNC standards, such as key extensions and specific operating elements, enable ergonomic designs that are tailored precisely to the specific application, promoting optimized and intuitive machine operation.
Customer-specific adaptations conforming to machine tool and CNC standards, such as key extensions and specific operating elements, enable ergonomic designs that are tailored precisely to the specific application, promoting optimized and intuitive machine operation.
Customized Control Panels give the machine an easily recognizable visual appearance through an individualized housing design. This can include a company logo, a customer-specific membrane keyboard, and on up to customized housing construction and color schemes according to the customer‘s branding standards.
Customized Control Panels give the machine an easily recognizable visual appearance through an individualized housing design. This can include a company logo, a customer-specific membrane keyboard, and on up to customized housing construction and color schemes according to the customer‘s branding standards.

Beckhoff Control Panel: versatile and attractive

The Beckhoff panel generation with industrially-compatible multi-touch display offers the right solution for every application in machine tool construction. The wide model variety ranges from different display sizes and formats to custom models. For single-touch users, the new panel generation also offers excellent value for money and a smart alternative to other systems.

Highlights:

  • display sizes from 7-inch to 24-inch (16:9, 5:4, 4:3)
  • landscape and portrait mode
  • multi-touch (PCT): e.g., for 5-finger or 2-hand touch operation
  • high touch-point density for safe operation
  • high-quality aluminum housing, milled from a solid block
  • metal perimeter protection for the display front
  • built-in or mounting arm models
  • Control Panel with CP-Link 4 or DVI/USB-Extended technology
  • Panel PCs with CPUs from Intel® Atom™ to Core™ i7
  • optional electromechanical push-button extension

Control Panels in an industry-specific design

For operation and monitoring, Beckhoff offers a wide range of multi-touch panels that offer modern operating convenience on the machine tool. Control Panels have been developed for universal application as operating units for the machine tool industry. They correspond to the transline concept that is currently popular in the automotive industry. A push-button extension that has been optimized for CNC applications is available for simple and convenient machine operation. The Control Panels are available with either a built-in housing or a mounting arm housing and can be adapted to customer requirements in terms of design, equipment and functionality.

Customer-specific Control Panel solutions for increased operating convenience

The customer-specific panel design from Beckhoff is based on the extensive range of standard Control Panels. Customer-specific adaptations, e.g. through push-button extensions and specific operating elements, in accordance with the machine tool and CNC requirements, enable an ergonomic design that is precisely tailored to the application and thus optimal and intuitive machine operation.

The Control Panel shapes the unmistakable visual appearance of the machine through individual housing design, from the company logo and the customer-specific membrane keyboard to the individual housing design and color, in accordance with the customer's CD. Different interfaces from the Control Panel to the PC also allow a free choice of connectivity and thus increase the individual flexibility in production.

Over 100 signal types and 1000 different Bus Terminals cover the entire spectrum of sensors and actuators.
Over 100 signal types and 1000 different Bus Terminals cover the entire spectrum of sensors and actuators.

Highly scalable and modular: the Beckhoff I/O construction kit for machine tools

The “fieldbus-neutral” Bus Terminals and high-performance EtherCAT Terminals are available for over 100 different signal types, with varying channel density from 1 to 16 channels. Beckhoff supports all common fieldbus systems, including EtherCAT, PROFINET, EtherNet/IP and CANopen. This provides the user with the optimum flexibility and openness to implement any I/O architecture for machine tools. When changing the fieldbus, only the fieldbus connection has to be replaced; peripheral systems can easily be connected and machines integrated into existing production environments. Safety technology is seamlessly integrated into the terminal segment via the TwinSAFE I/O modules, whereby safe signals can be mixed with standard signals as required.

Other advantages are offered by the One Cable Technology for the field level: EtherCAT P combines communication and power supply for the connected consumers in a standard Ethernet cable and enables power forwarding directly via the devices. Cascadable and maximally scalable, flexible topologies can be realized with EtherCAT P. Material, assembly and connection costs are reduced and commissioning is simplified.

With the EtherCAT plug-in modules (EJ modules), Beckhoff offers the optimal solution for large-volume production in machine tool construction. Based on the proven EtherCAT I/O system, the EJ modules are plugged directly into printed circuit boards. Complex, manual, individual wiring is replaced by pre-assembled cable harnesses, which increases production speed and efficiency, especially in large-volume machine construction with medium and high quantities.

The scalable Beckhoff drive technology is suitable for all application areas in machine tool manufacturing: from the compact dental milling machine to the high-performance HSC series machine.
The scalable Beckhoff drive technology is suitable for all application areas in machine tool manufacturing: from the compact dental milling machine to the high-performance HSC series machine.

Beckhoff drive technology for the complete range of applications: from compact to extremely powerful

In combination with the Motion Control solutions of the TwinCAT automation software, the Beckhoff drive technology represents a complete drive system for machine tools. Modular and precisely scalable, it offers the right solution for every application area and performance requirement: from the ultra-compact servo terminal for "small drive technology" to the AX8000 and AX5000 EtherCAT servo drives for applications in the mid to upper performance class. The integrated control technology of the AX series supports fast and highly dynamic positioning tasks. The extensive range of linear and rotary servomotors is optimally tailored to the servo drives and is suitable for multi-axis positioning tasks with high dynamics and accuracy.

The AM8000 motor series is characterized by the One Cable Technology: it combines power and feedback signals in a standard motor cable, thus reducing material and commissioning costs and making machine tools more compact and lighter. Additional encoder signals (EnDAT 2.2) can be connected via an optional multi-feedback card. The EtherCAT servo terminals represent an inexpensive and compact alternative for applications where only low forces are involved. Solutions up to 8 A are available in the I/O system as well as the option to connect stepper, servo, DC or AC motors in IP 20 or IP 67.