Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a system for fully automated monitoring of ball screw drives in machine tools. A camera integrated directly into the nut of the drive generates images that an artificial intelligence continuously monitors for signs of wear, helping to reduce machine downtime.

In mechanical engineering, maintaining and replacing defective components timely in machine tools is an important part of the manufacturing process. In the case of ball screw drives, such as those used in lathes to precisely guide the production of cylindrical components, wear has until now been determined manually.

“Maintenance is therefore associated with installation work, which means the machine comes to a standstill,” says Professor Jürgen Fleischer from the Institute for Production Technology (wbk) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). “Our approach, on the other hand, integrates an intelligent camera system directly into the drive, which enables a user to continuously monitor the spindle status. If there is a need for action, the system informs the user automatically.”

The new system combines a camera with light source attached to the nut of the drive and an artificial intelligence (AI) that evaluates the image data. As the nut moves on the spindle, it takes individual pictures of each spindle section, enabling the analysis of the entire spindle surface.

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Source: “Artificial intelligence for machine tools maintenance”, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

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