Renishaw and Hartford Combine to Deliver Intelligent ‘Smart Factory’ Solutions

In the face of global skills shortages and rapidly emerging Industry 4.0 trends, Taiwanese CNC machine manufacturer Hartford undertook to develop an innovative, easier-to-use human machine interface (HMI) for its CNC machines. At the same time the company strove to ensure process measurement and inspection at its CNC machine manufacturing operations could keep pace with ever-improving product quality goals.

Established in 1965, Hartford is Taiwan’s largest exporter of CNC machining centers, having exported 46,000 machines to 65 countries, and recognized as one of the CNC machining industry’s leading global brands with a reputation for technological advancement. Hartford’s comprehensive range of machine tools is used extensively by major manufacturers including Airbus, Boeing, Ferrari, Ford, Foxconn, LG, Pratt & Witney, Samsung, Siemens and Volkswagen.

Developments in Industry 4.0 technology and world shortages in skilled labor have meant that forward-thinking CNC machine manufacturers are placing greater emphasis on automation, connectivity, data transparency and ease-of-use. However, achieving Industry 4.0’s goals of ‘Intelligent Manufacturing’ and the ‘Smart Factory’ still relies on accurate and effective process control systems. They need to be easy-to-use and provide sufficient immediate data to enable self-correction and adaptation to any sources of process variation.

Achieving The Goal of ‘Intelligent Manufacturing’

For Hartford, maintaining the very high quality of its product in the face of rapid technological and economic change and fierce international competition is a key consideration. At its manufacturing facility in Taiwan, the company produces a complete range of medium to large-sized three-axis and five-axis CNC machines for use in major industry sectors including aerospace, automotive, electronics and energy. Its product range comprises vertical machining centers, precision boring machines and gantry-type machines.

With more than 95% of Hartford’s cast components being manufactured and machined in-house, a continuous and progressive approach towards quality inspection is essential for achieving the precision required for a wide range of machine components, including machine heads, spindles and automatic tool changers.

Helping customers cope with the widespread shortages of skilled labor presents Hartford with a further vital challenge to address, as Mr Bruce Lin, Manager of Hartford’s R&D Intelligent Technology Department explained: “Our customers are needing to process work pieces of increasing complexity, however a lack of skilled labor means they are having to insist on machining centers that are even simpler to use.”

Intelligent HMI with Renishaw App

Hartford has invested significant resources into the research and development of intelligent CNC controllers in recent years and developed Hartrol Plus, an intelligent controller as simple to use as a smartphone and follows key design principles promoted by Industry 4.0 ideals and helps address skills shortages. It provides machine operators with all the information they need to make the right decisions and visualizes data to assist operators make informed decisions and solve problems more quickly.

Renishaw’s ‘Set and Inspect’ on-machine app has been integrated with Hartford’s new controller, enabling users to exploit advances in automated measurement and data collection, making machine tool operation and human-machine interactions simpler and more intuitive. ‘Set and Inspect‘ is a highly visual graphical user interface (GUI) which leads the operator through every step of on-machine probing processes including work-piece set-up, tool setting and other measurement tasks. Operators no longer need to commit machine code instructions to memory, reducing data entry errors and programming times, as well as increasing processing efficiency by as much as 20%.

Precision Measurement for High Quality CNC Manufacturing

Precise assembly and positioning of machine tools is also critically important, with five-axis machine tools needing to be positioned with a deviation of less than ±6 µm. A Renishaw XL-80 laser interferometer is used to measure machine position and both linear and angular errors. The XL-80 generates an extremely stable laser beam with a wavelength that conforms to international standards. Linear measurement accuracy of ±0.5 ppm can be guaranteed, due to a precision stabilized laser source and accurate environmental compensation. Hartford uses the Renishaw QC20-W ballbar measurement system to perform cross-validation at different operating speeds to ensure that X- and Y-axes of the machine tool are correctly matched, and errors are kept down to less then 5 µm.

Every Hartford CNC machine not only undergoes 100% laser verification and ballbar testing before dispatch, it can also use the customer’s own workpiece for processing verification, with Renishaw OMP40, OMP60 and RMP60 machine tool measurement probes used to measure the precision of the processed work piece.

AxiSet™ Check-Up for Rotation Center Compensation

Hartford uses Renishaw’s AxiSet Check-Up to analyse the performance of machine rotary axes. Compatible with common 5-axis and multi-axis machines, it provides CNC machine users with a fast and accurate way to check the location of rotary axis pivot points and automatically compensate if necessary.

Importantly, AxiSet Check-Up does not rely on operator experience, as the operator simply calls up the relevant program to complete the test process in just a few minutes. Data is automatically recorded into parameters for use in analysis, further guaranteeing the standardization of every machine tool produced.

Mr Lin said, “We also recommend that users use AxiSet Check-Up to test the machines’ rotary axes after they are installed, as factory conditions may differ significantly from Hartford’s manufacturing conditions, in terms of foundations and how level surfaces are. Shipping and installation can also cause precision errors, so AxiSet Check-Up’s automatic compensation allows machine tools to maintain high levels of precision and quality.”

He continued, “All machine tools can suffer from wear and drift after a certain period of usage, with the level of precision of their positioning declining over time and causing a correspondingly poor level of machining precision. We therefore recommend that users perform scheduled checks on machine tools using AxiSet Check-Up every 6 to 12 months, in order to ensure that the level of machining precision remains consistent and productivity remains high.”

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