Modern Machine Shop

SEP 2018

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MMS SEPTEMBER 2018 70 CONTROL TECHNOLOGY of interaction, but the full promise is effective machine operation without any special expert knowledge of the particular machine. An early proponent of the technology is machine tool builder Makino. Company CEO Don Lane says it fits his company's culture of customer enablement. "We believe it can help every customer operate even better," he says. Makino will demonstrate the technology in its booth at IMTS, allowing booth visitors to exper- iment with the interface, while iT SpeeX also offers a demo in the show's Emerging Technology Center for Digital Transformation. Makino's Mark Waymouth, who serves as the company's project manager championing Athena, picks up on the analogy of the smartphone, noting, "I didn't use my phone's GPS on local drives until it began drawing in traffic information, but now that it does, I rely on GPS all the time." In the same way, the possibilities of Athena will continue to advance as the ease of access to information increasingly allows that information to be drawn together. Just like with smartphones, greater value for Athena will be found as new uses are developed for it, perhaps through users realiz- ing possibilities its inventors have not seen. For example, what might come when enterprise resource planning (ERP) data become readily and intuitively available through Athena alongside all the machine and job information? I said "intuitively." That point, the different feel of controlling a machine tool with this inter- face, is another important aspect of this system. Indeed, it is a vital aspect, yet one that is hard to appreciate without experiencing the system. After about 15 minutes of using it, I started to learn; I became acclimated to this feeling. I set- tled into the relaxed tone of voice to which the voice recognition best responds, and suddenly the machine and the interface were obeying me. The machine simply did what I wanted it to do, and Athena told me or showed me what I wanted to know. That was a markedly different experience from hunting for buttons on the CNC panel to take these steps. To be sure, an operator who is expert with a particular CNC interface could hit buttons on that interface to get these results faster than I could get there with Athena. But that proficiency might not translate to another control. By contrast, operators adept at conversing with Athena could be deployed as needed to any CNC machine, with- out concern for the control model. Overall equip- ment effectiveness (OEE) can increase, because the users of that equipment will be more effec- tive. "We will be able to get more value out of the people who know machining," Mr. Waymouth says. "It shouldn't be about knowing where the buttons are located." | iT SpeeX | | Makino Inc. | 513-573-7200 | One of the more interesting experiences of trying Athena myself was noting just how the feel of operating a machine tool changes. It is not hard to imagine how this mode of control could become accepted and comfortable.

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