Revolutionising high-value machining
FourJaw had a vision to revolutionise high-value machining. The brief: to interface with and extract data from a series of complicated machines, before securely sending the data to the cloud for detailed analysis. Sound difficult? Yep.
Who would you call? Razor, that’s who.
FourJaw is a soon-to-be spin-out company from the AMRC, using technology leveraged from years of research into the monitoring of machining processes. Their platform uses findings from a research project that identified how to derive deep insights and understanding of machining processes from the data hidden within the machine controller.
The machine controller is the brains of the machine, actuating motors to achieve complex machining geometries.
The machine could be a 10 meter long automated lathe, a 5-axis milling machine, or anything in-between. What all of these machines have in common is that they are controlled using Computer Numerical Control, or as it is more commonly referred to - CNC.
In all but a few cases, the data in these CNC control units is unused, wasted and lost. It is complex and hard to understand in its raw form and takes a lot of time and depth of knowledge to deciper. Incredibly, the research project at the AMRC worked out how to understand this data and provide actionable insights.
The next challenge fell to the team at Razor: How to extract the data from the control units automatically into insights. This required some serious thought, a lot of creative thinking and software engineering skill - with a bit of bravery thrown in.
First, we got a good handle on the big picture and then we immersed ourselves in the details. We explored the technologies and identified where we may have challenges.
Focusing in on a subset of control units - the most popular ones - adapters were created that could be installed in the factory and talk to the CNC controllers in their native language/protocols. The adapters extracted the data, sometimes from memory locations, pushed it in a secure way to the cloud and processed it ready for consumption. These adapters were a hybrid mix of C# and C++ for a balance of performance and maintainability.
The entire process was agile (yes proper agile with a little ‘a’ and everything). Understanding and direction changed regularly - we were in totally uncharted waters with the problems being faced.
During development, iterations of the adapters were installed at Factory of the Future on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) with live data streaming through and being processed in real-time (we did say that we were being agile, right?).
You don't get much better than the work delivered enabling a brand new business being formed and the first customer created. FourJaw is now in production and receiving some incredible feedback.
This is the first product of its kind and we are astonishingly proud of being a part of its journey and being instrumental in bringing it to market.
“We approached Razor with a difficult brief: to interface with and extract data from a series of complicated machines, before securely sending the data into a database in the cloud platform (which they had already set up) for detailed analysis. The Razor team were extremely knowledgeable and reacted flexibly to our requirements while maintaining excellent communication with our technical team throughout. The result absolutely delivered on the brief and we look forward to working with the team again in the future!’