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Siemens MediaService September 2017
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Tracing gears
Modern manufacturing technologies are smoothing the way to the digital factory and optimizing production

Bocholt / Muelheim, Germany.  At its Bocholt and Mülheim locations, Siemens specialists are applying digital manufacturing technologies. One example of this is the introduction of closed-loop control – exploiting the precise recording and analysis of machine data to optimize the production of components for offshore wind energy plants. In addition, the traceability of products and processes is enabling steady improvement in design, individual process stages or the selection of materials. Both technologies are key components and steps on the way to the digital factory. 
Anyone who has seen the massive plants used in offshore wind farms can imagine how complex and expensive maintenance works at sea are. For this reason, the production of components such as drives and gears calls for great precision, so that they can operate smoothly for as long as possible. This is not as easy as it sounds, though, as Carsten Schuh from Corporate Technology at Siemens knows: “Following a heat treatment, a component’s dimensions can change. The steel that’s supplied may be more or less easy to machine, depending on the batch, so the parameters for manufacturing are always different.” Schuh works with other production engineers across Siemens. To satisfy the requirements in offshore component manufacturing, for example, he and his team rely on closed-loop control. This is where machine data is recorded and analyzed, in order to adjust the current production process – just as happens with closed-loop feedback.

Associating data
In this specific example, a group led by Claudio Laloni in Corporate Technology has developed an integrated optical 3D measurement device to record changes in shape very quickly and accurately. Using the resulting data, systematic changes in dimensions due to heat treatment can be planned in and taken into account before the actual machining. “The combination of precise measurements and adapted machining gives us a higher component quality and shorter processing time,” says Schuh. Together with other procedures, such as the systematic correlation of machining results, material data and process data, this allows the engineers to obtain additional information that can be used to adapt the gear wheel machining specifically to the quality of the raw materials. 

Modules for a digital factory
However, it is not just closed-loop control that plays a decisive role in production quality: traceability – the ability to track process stages – is also extremely important. This is why as part of the “Smart Trace and Track” pilot project in the Muelheim plant, selected steam turbine components were fitted with special transmitters, or smart tags. These make it possible both to locate the components precisely, and to network them with the production processes and plants. It allows employees to have a complete overview at all times of the key information on the components supplied, which they can access in real time. 

Closed-loop Control

Digital Factory

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