TRUE CNC TOOL MANAGEMENT: FROM SET-UP TO FINAL FINISH PASS
There once was a time when a tool was needed to redo a section, that it might have taken several minutes to recall the program, find the right tool number, identify the proper path and redirect the operation. Not anymore.
In the old days (meaning about ten years ago), tool management was a challenge for even the most talented operators and programmers. That’s because the sophistication of the internal CNC power had outdistanced the graphical capability of the information displays.
When a tool was needed to redo a section, it might have taken several minutes to recall the program, find the right tool number, identify the proper path and redirect the operation. Over the course of even a relatively short run, this was a time problem and a frustrating situation for even the best operators.
Tool management is much easier now, owing to the significant advancements made in the operator interface on the higher level CNC. The optimum conditions for tool management should include all the following and be accessible on a single screen:
• An intuitive program, so all tools would have an icon representation for quick identification.
• A well-arranged, easily viewable single screen presentation of the tool data with readable tool names, not simply numbers, so a particular job could be identified.
• Tool life tracking, with meaningful information on the proper changeover time.
• Simple load/unload functions for tool magazine allocation and sufficient memory to allow all of the tools on the most sophisticated machines to be monitored from a single file. End of tool life messaging should be automatic, as well.
A real helper for turning tools would also be having both the primary and secondary cutting edges indicated with quick access to full data records. In this way, process stability can be greatly enhanced with a quick viewing of a single screen, instead of switching from screen to screen.
There should also be a function onboard the CNC to allow a single button push to route a tool to the proper magazine location, plus an alert for manually placing a missing tool into a location during the cycle for uninterrupted machining. Otherwise, having automatic swap-out for a worn tool.
Whether you’re using the scratch method or a tool measurement system during set-up to determine the tool geometry, having that geometry automatically stored in the CNC tool offset memory is another desirable function.
If you think you can’t have all these features on a single screen on your machine, ask your supplier why not. The highest-powered CNC gets you nowhere unless the operator can quickly and easily set up the part, shape a blank without extensive, additional programming and then manage the tools used in a most efficient manner.
We often get asked if the workpiece can be set-up easily, regardless of the program’s length or detail. The answer is yes, because today’s sophisticated CNC should allow you to simply trace an edge, corner or bore hole and then have the control determine the proper clamping position, including the workpiece’s basic rotation, even on sloping surfaces.
A workpiece can be face-milled or face-turned simply by setting the relevant parameters in set-up mode. Then select cycle start and you’re cutting. The operator can also use this type of feature for one-touch boring of chuck jaws. Best of all, every feature mentioned above should now be available to you in an affordably priced CNC.
About the Author: Randy Pearson is the sales support manager for U.S. dealers and OEMs of Siemens Industry, Inc., Drives Technologies, Motion Control — Machine Tool Business, 390 Kent Avenue, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007, www.siemenscnc.com. A veteran of the machine tool industry, his interest is the training aspect on CNC machine tools, which he conducts through seminars and classes at votech schools and shops, and at Siemens training facilities. For questions or comments on this column, contact Randy at 847-640-1595 or firstname.lastname@example.org.