Auburn Hills, Mich. — You know all about the Alexa voice assistant for your house. Now machine tool maker Makino Inc. is on the cutting edge of voice activation for industrial machinery.
Makino now offers the voice-activated technology, called Athena, on its wire EDM machines — and is working to extend Athena into the company's milling machines and sinker EDMs, Andre Ey, vice president of die/mold technologies, said in an interview at Makino's suburban Detroit facility in Auburn Hills.
Makino, with headquarters for the Americas in Mason, Ohio, near Cincinnati, introduced the voice-controlled machine assistant at the IMTS show in September 2018.
Makino is the first manufacturer to adopt and provide Athena, company officials said. Athena was created from iTSPeeX, a manufacturing technology startup in Cincinnati. Ey said iTSPeeX's location near Mason made Makino a good early partner.
You can ask Athena questions, and Athena can prompt the operator. That makes voice-assist ideal for new operators — or from Makino's perspective, experienced machinists who are not well-versed with Makino equipment.
"We had one example at a beta site, that they had a brand-new operator that was used to an EDM wire machine, but not a Makino brand. So he had no prior training on the Makino brand. And within a couple of hours, he was able to operate the machine and cut a part," Ey said. "So he was trained by Athena, and using the voice commands to get the machine up and running. He did not know our control before. He was only familiar with a competitive brand control."
Normally, Ey said, machinists go through a three-day operational instruction on the Makino EDM.
He cited another case of a customer where a machine ran out of wire. "We had a secretary go down to the machine and ask Athena how to change a wire. And she did the wire change," Ey said.
Athena is platform neutral. That means it has the potential to become standard across a broad range of industrial machinery, iTSpeeX says on its website.