The great news for every job shop and captive department is that communication between the machine and the plant network is faster today than ever before.
In bygone days, if I mentioned communication between the machine shop and the company network to any operator, set-up, maintenance, even a programming or IT guy, their eyes would glaze over.
It seemed there was a technology barrier between the two sides of the physical walls separating the shop from the office. This was true whether I was at a ten-person shop doing tool and die work or a 100-employee captive shop inside a big corporate OEM facility.
But those were the old days. They’re gone forever thanks to new technology being rolled out by CNC builders for both their machine customers and end users. Best of all, this technology has upsides for your shop, regardless of its size.
Here’s why. Whether you’re running 3-axis programs on a dedicated mill or lathe, or you’re running more complex programs on a work cell with robotic articulation and materials handling stations, the operator and company network personnel can now talk in a more effective and productive manner, with complete security built into the process.
And they can do it in a matter of seconds . . . that’s right, a matter of seconds.
With the program in hand, whether on a USB, compact flash drive or other device, or if the program is sent via Ethernet cable to the machine control, the operator can load it and test it.
Changes needed can be programmed on the fly with the proper security code entry, then cut and pasted into a file and sent as a complete file back to the network for storage.
In this manner, the same program can be utilized by other machines in the shop without compromise or the additional programming of all the machines.
It gets better.
You no longer need the highest level of CNC on the market to do such work. It’s possible to achieve this transition on more advanced mid-range controls, equipped with a graphical user interface (GUI), compact flash, USB and Ethernet cable ports.
As the host server can read the IP address from control and vice versa, the shared file name can be accessed from another machine, loaded to the control and engaged, simply by pushing the ACTIVATE button.
A program, whether new or modified, can often be set up and running in five minutes, with changes sent back to the server, when necessary, in five seconds. When changes are needed to a program the file is simply overwritten and replaced.
We’ve all seen the message on our computer screens, saying an older version of this name exists, do you want to replace it? You can do that, or you can assign a -1, -2 sequence to the files for subsequent and quick identification.
You can now send an entire folder up to the network, with all part programs, iterations, subs, tool info and other data relevant to the part or part family, in a single operation.
Since the CNC can carry various levels of password protection, your shop can have a variety of access allowed, making it practical and safe for operator, maintenance, programmer and IT personnel alike.
I know what you’re thinking, to quote Dirty Harry. Seeing is believing, right? Then come to IMTS 2012 and see for yourself. Bring the team from your various departments and let them experience just how fast modern technology can help you communicate between machines and the company network. You will like what you see. I guarantee it.
See you at IMTS! Please visit me and bring your questions!
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