INFORMATION TECHNOLOGYAlthough today’s forging industry is the result of more than a century of process developments, forging presses are delivering better results thanks to the capabilities of HMIs to improveproduction uptime and process control. A Human-Machine Interface (HMI) is a user interface or dashboard thatconnects a person to a machine, in particular to a forgingsystem. HMIs are software applications that graphicallypresent information to operators about the state of variousprocesses in a format that looks like the actual machine ordisplay panel. The information can be accessed locally (atthe machine) or remotely (within the plant or at an offsitelocation) via PC, laptop, or smartphone.
For forging, next level HMIs are aiding operatorsnot only to see how equipment is functioning but also toanticipate how it should be performing. This is accomplished with dynamic animated models and schematics,live trending, and diagrams.
“Cutting-edge HMIs are visual learning tools for forging operators to observe the normal machine operation, toexpedite troubleshooting when something goes wrong,”said Bill Goodwin, vice president of sales and engineering, Erie Press Systems.
“Even less-experienced personnel can look at awell-designed HMI screen, watch the press run, andthen learn how it functions. Operators can monitor livepress positional and force data as the machine transitionsthrough the production cycle. When something is out ofsequence or stops abruptly mid-cycle, they can quicklytroubleshoot because the HMI provides a graphical window into the machine control system and its processes,identifying problem areas,” Goodwin added.
Erie Press, founded in 1895, offers a line of standardmechanical forging presses as well as individually engineered hydraulic presses for most any forging application (closed die, open die, and ring preforming), alongwith metal forming, cold extrusion, isothermal forging,carbon extrusion, composite presses, and stretch formingmachines.
Erie Press was acquired by Park Ohio 2019 and now
it’s part of the largest forging equipment supplier in North
America, Ajax-CECO-Erie Press.
Traditional limitations — With massive presses apply-
ing many tons of force to shape workpieces, for automo-
tive, aerospace, mining, and rail, main-
taining production uptime and minimizing
unexpected repairs and maintenance is crit-
ical. However, manufacturers with forging
equipment have long had to rely on expe-
rienced operators using manual gauges to
take a momentary snapshot of individual
While useful, this was not comprehensive: if problems or defects were notdiscovered in routine maintenance, theywould remain undiagnosed until a pressor production line broke down, resultingin unplanned costs as well as losses inproduction.
“With manual gauges, if a pump started
to fail, the operator might not notice until
the machine was unable to complete a cy-
cle,” Goodwin said.
Often, less-experienced operators couldnot recognize if forging equipment was operating as it should do. Complicating matters,if problems occurred, they frequently wastedvaluable time trying to track down experienced operators or technical documentation.
“At times, a forging machine would stop and no oneknew what was wrong with it, why it stopped, or where [inthe production cycle] the error occurred,” said Goodwin.HMIs in forging — Forging presses with the most advanced HMI capabilities help operators to see and monitor what is happening with enough insight to successfullytroubleshoot and get the equipment back online promptly,when required.
Although HMIs are becoming more common, there aredifferences in capabilities between basic and advanced,next-level options. The simplest HMIs are visual terminals where information can be entered and data viewed,but no new information is stored.
Advanced HMIs make it possible to save/retrieve data,initiate custom searches, and display historical trends. Farfrom rudimentary, up-to-date technical documents (PDFs)and the schematics of each component on the machineare searchable, and can be displayed quickly, as needed.
However, the most distinguishing capability of HMIs is
how the software applications ease operator understand-
ing and control of the forging press, along with any neces-
In fact, true next-level HMIs provide dynamicallyanimated schematics that allow the operator to watch theforging equipment while it’s running. Operators can “drilldown” quickly from a top-level, animated schematic toreview the performance of specific components, such asvalves and pumps, as well as to locate information on partnumbers and wiring schemes.
Goodwin said that Erie Press HMIs start with a digital
Solid Works model of the press, import it into HMI soft-
ware, and then “break it apart” and dynamically animate
it, while displaying critical operational statistics.
In the case of an animated hydraulic schematic, for example, the hydraulic pressure source from multiple pumpsis displayed in one location for instant verification. The operator can monitor the current state of a press displayed ina text box, as well as fields indicating the pressure in the
NEXT-LEVEL HMIs BOOSTFORGING UPTIME, CONTROL
Graphic Human Machine Interface (HMI) capability allowsoperators to see how a forging press is functioning, andspeeds local/remote diagnostics and troubleshooting.
An Erie Press high-speed, closed-die press with a servo-accumulator drive. [Ajax-CECO]