New Siemens CNC: Nothing To LOL About

We're not going to make the case that moving away from plastic body panels caused the ultimate demise of Saturn. But if you take away the front and rear fascias, it is somewhat difficult to come up with cars that have a significant use of polymers for exterior body panels. Here are some notable ones.

If an alien was to come to Earth and observed people in industrialized countries, it would likely take note of an appendage that most adult males have attached to their belts and which females have in their handbags. The ubiquity of the cell phone is matched only by its functionality and the degree to which people have come to depend on it.

But this isn't about cell phones. Rather, it is about a new CNC control from Siemens Drive Technologies (, the Sinumerik 828D. And while it may not be the most important of its attributes, what is interesting is that Siemens engineers have recognized what they undoubtedly have on or near their person and have taken advantage of technology from another part of the vast Siemens electronics competency, specifically, the production of GSM modems. Consequently, this controller for compact-class machine tools features what is called the "Easy Message" function. And what that does is provide process monitoring information—workpiece machining status, tool condition, machine maintenance bulletins—via text messaging to a mobile phone, thereby providing the means to have untended machining operations as well as to reduce overall downtime by getting information quickly about the machine performance. An alarm or an event...then a text.

The Sinumerik 828D is designed to be a controller than can be used in any part of the world because it can be programmed via graphical, high-level language commands (a step-by-step approach that is readily accomplished by viewing the processes on a 10.4-in. TFT display) or via the ISO programming commonly performed by users of CNC systems in the U.S. and other parts of the world (i.e., G-codes). There are USB, compact flash, and Ethernet ports that allow high-speed data transfer or networking functions.

The controller is available in two versions, one that is specifically designed for turning (including machines with live tools) and one that is for milling. The rationale for this is to reduce the complexity that would otherwise exist with a universal-type control. That is, the software and all parameters are focused on what processes will be performed by the particular type of machine. So to the case of programming, there are specific packages of graphical workstep programming tools, ShopMill and ShopTurn, which facilitate programming, especially for low-volume part runs.

What's more, the control is available with two panel layouts, horizontal and vertical, to facilitate machine installation.

Although this is engineered for compact machines, it gives up nothing in precision as it offers 80-bit floating point nano precision. Said another way, this means that when the controller is performing interpolation across a surface, while some controllers will interpolate in steps of 1 nm, this controller—factoring in position, speed, and current for the encoder resolution—does it in steps of 0.001 nm.

For those doing mold/die work, there is the Advanced Surface capability, which optimizes the velocity profile and improves the overall geometric accuracy, all while reducing machining time. This is the kind of functionality normally found on higher-end controllers.

While the machine may have a cell-phone like capability, it is built in an industrial-strength manner. That is, there is a diecast magnesium control panel front and the full QWERTY keyboard has mechanical keys with foil protection. There is no battery, no fan, and no hard drive, all of which contribute to maintenance-free operation.