Home > Purdue’s College of Engineering adopts NUM’s CNC and 3D simulation software

Purdue’s College of Engineering adopts NUM’s CNC and 3D simulation software

article image Steven Schilling (left), Managing Director of NUM Corporation, and Professor Yung C. Shin of Purdue University in front of the university’s historic Heavilon Hall clock

Purdue University has adopted NUM’s open architecture CNC systems and 3D simulation software at their prestigious College of Engineering.

By equipping one of its key educational laboratories with NUM's open-architecture CNC systems and 3D simulation software, the College of Engineering aims to provide students with hands-on CNC programming experience as well as introduce them to advanced CNC machine tool operation and control techniques.

A leading academic research institution in the USA, Purdue University is home to one of the nation’s largest engineering faculties. As part of the expansion of the College of Engineering, Purdue University is upgrading the mechanical engineering laboratory at the university’s main campus where students are taught the basics of CNC control and programming, and also introduced to machine-based manufacturing processes and techniques.

The laboratory is currently equipped with several 2-axis CNC demonstrator machines based on NUM 760 and 10xx series CNC systems, together with a NUM 2D simulator.

Professor Yung C. Shin, who oversees all CNC-related education and research activities at the School of Mechanical Engineering, recalled that they chose NUM’s CNC systems back in the 1990s when they set up the mechanical engineering lab after evaluating several options in the market. NUM’s CNC systems were selected primarily because of their open architecture and the company’s enthusiastic support.

He explains that the open architecture of NUM’s CNC enables the lab to clearly demonstrate the exchange of data between the PLC, CNC and drive electronics, and simplifies integration with other lab equipment. Additionally, since many of the CNC machines used in their manufacturing research labs are based on NUM CNC systems, there is a high commonality of coding.

NUM has functioned as a CNC partner to the School of Mechanical Engineering for about 24 years. Pointing out the importance of such long-term support for educational establishments, Steven Schilling, General Manager of NUM Corporation in Naperville, Illinois comments that the Purdue staff always has access to NUM’s technical support people and receives engineering help whenever they need to reconfigure or reprogram CNC systems for new projects. He noted that the close cooperation between the company and the University ensures that Purdue’s laboratory CNC equipment is always updated with the latest features and tools to aid students in developing new machining technologies.

The latest upgrade to the mechanical engineering laboratory’s CNC equipment involves the installation of two Flexium 68 CNC systems configured for milling applications, each with an NCK (Numerical Control Kernel), PLC, HMI and 3D simulator hardware and software, plus additional simulator dongles for four PCs. Flexium 68 provides a very versatile foundation for educational and research applications, while the NCK, as standard, accommodates up to five axes/spindles on a single channel, with full interpolation on four axes. Students and post-graduate researchers can use Flexium to investigate CNC techniques to a very detailed level.

The laboratory has also installed two desktop consoles for human-machine interaction, ensuring improved ergonomics. Each console is equipped with a NUM FS152i operator panel and an MP04 machine panel, fitted with CAN interfaces. The consoles can be used for simulation or for controlling the laboratory’s CNC demonstrator machines.

NUM has also supplied all the motors, drives, power supplies and associated hardware for two additional 2-axis demonstrator machines, both combining latest-generation bi-axis NUMDrive C servo drives with BPH brushless servo motors. One of these machines is used to facilitate research into applications involving very fast or precise kinematics.

The CNC system’s inherent open architecture has multiple advantages: Application-specific HMIs can be easily created or modified using industry-standard editors and languages such as HTML, JavaScript, Visual Basic, Delphi, C or C++, while the PLC can be programmed using any IEC 61131-3 compliant object-oriented graphical or textual language. Students needing low-level control of the NCK can use dynamic operators in the code, while techniques such as real-time compensation can be developed using embedded loop control macros in the servo drives.

The mechanical engineering lab at Purdue University has also adopted Flexium 3D graphical simulation software to improve work flexibility significantly. The lab now has six separate simulator stations – two on desktop consoles and four on standalone PCs – each capable of true 3D workpiece simulation in standalone mode, without needing access to a CNC system. Six networked PCs will also allow students to perform simulation at different locations.

Students are now able to simulate and optimise any ISO-code part program that they have written, with full visualisation of the tool centre point path and workpiece material removal, backed by automatic checking for collisions between machine components, the tool and the workpiece. The simulation software currently supports 3-5 axis turning and 3-axis milling/drilling, as well as water jet and plasma contour cutting, and can be transferred between applications very easily.

The new CNC facilities at Purdue University will be made available to students in the fall, enabling a greater number of students to gain hands-on experience of CNC programming and visualisation.

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