Tooling & Accessories
Seamlessly Integrate Machines & Tooling
for Improved Productivity
Data exchange between machines and tooling enables manufacturers to accomplish several goals. Whether it’s moving toward “lights out” operations, adopting more “lean” manufacturing practices, or improving accuracy and cycle times, seamless integrations between various technologies produce a synergistic effect with improvements in productivity that exceed the sum benefit of the individual technologies. Outlined below are steps describing how to implement a tool management system that produces across-the-board gains in productivity.
1. Select Cutting Tools and Toolholders
Selecting the proper cutting tools and toolholders is critical to obtain the optimal performance from your equipment. Many factors should be considered. Among them are differences in the cutting tools’ use and wear, number of edges, cost, and availability. Toolholders vary in accuracy, torque, cost, ease of set-up, and design as a dedicated or multifunction unit. The number of products and variations between brands can make selecting and sourcing cutting tools and toolholders into overwhelming and time-consuming tasks. An experienced tooling specialist can help you make those decisions. After the cutting tools and toolholders are selected for the machine(s) and job(s) in your shop, it is beneficial to capture and retain their specifications and intended uses for tool management purposes.
2. Enable the Toolholders to Record and Share Data
Seamless communication between toolholder and machine is key to building integrated systems. An accepted way to accomplish this step is to use the toolholder as the transporter of data. Many manufacturers are beginning to implant Balluff RFID read/write chips in every toolholder used in their shops. Data tracking and error proofing are two of the largest benefits to be realized when using RFID chips. RFID- based automatic tool identification and tracking can provide significant cost savings by minimizing expensive spindle and tool crashes. They generally provide more reliable results than either manual or bar code- based tool identification systems. In addition, the information gathered as a result of implementing RFID- based tool identification provides a foundation for automated tool room and re-order systems. With the capture of cutting tool wear and use information, replacement tooling can be ordered prior to breakages, reducing downtime. Accurate information about wear and use allows better management of replacement tooling re-orders, supporting “just in time” operations and reducing unnecessary overstocking of expensive tooling.
3. Preset the Tools Offline to Save Spindle Time
Capturing and utilizing information about the characteristics, condition, and location of all tools is integral to lights out operations. While many manufacturers utilize on-machine lasers or toolsetting probes to measure the length and diameter of tools as part of the machining process, these procedures present limitations. In addition to consuming spindle time, on-machine tool measuring systems do not indicate if the tool is new or reground, and cannot track the available tool life of an individual assembly. On-machine measuring procedures also present limitations with respect to physical placement of the probe within the work envelope. An alternative is to use an offline presetter. Since the measurement takes place outside the machine, how and where to install the probing system are no longer obstacles. To accomplish this step of the process, presetters like those available from Parlec, Elbo Controlli, and Zoller can measure and identify each tool assembly. Optional tool data management and exchange systems collect the data collected during the measurement of the toolholder assemblies and “write” it to the RFID chips embedded in the toolholder itself. Most of the advanced tool data management systems offer the added flexibility of use as a stand alone system or use as a network that interfaces directly with many different machine controls, monitoring software, and even tooling inventory systems.
4. Upload to the Machine
With the offline preparations done, the next step is to share tool information with the machine. There are essentially two choices: send the information over a network, or capture the information directly at the machine. Many manufacturers will add a read/write station, including a monitor and a Balluff wand, adjacent to the machine’s toolchanger load station. Balluff readers are used to read the tool data from the chip and then transfer the information directly to the machine control. This step allows the machine control to document which tool is in which pocket and how that tool is set-up. It enables the sharing of vital baseline offset information which will be updated during future operations. Prior to the tool assembly being loaded into the tool changer, the chip is scanned, and all pertinent data is sent to the machine’s control. When a tool assembly is unloaded from the tool changer, it once again goes into the read/write station where new data, including the number of parts just run, is “written” on the Balluff chip located on the side of the holder. This step of the process ensures that the information maintained relevant to each tool is current and facilitates tool replacement when usage reaches a pre-determined limit of wear.
5. Monitor Tools in Real Time
With the ability to update tool information directly to the machine control, the next leap forward in data conversation is to monitor the tools while in action and automatically update the cutting process based on the tools’ current attributes. Caron Engineering’s Tool Monitoring / Adaptive Control (TMAC) product is an example of a system that performs this function and works extensively with Okuma and other machine tool builders, including Tsugami, to provide seamless integration of TMAC with the machine control. TMAC provides valuable information about the cutting process by effectively measuring tool wear in real time. Its benefits include reducing the high costs associated with replacement of tools, lost production, and rejected parts. TMAC operates on the principle that the horsepower required to cut a part increases as the tool’s cutting edges deteriorate. The “Adaptive” control feature of TMAC reduces cycle time and optimizes cutting conditions to improve tool life. Adaptive Control reduces cycle time by optimizing feed rates, reducing feed rates in hard spots, and increasing them in soft areas or voids. Tool life is extended when a tool continuously cuts at its optimum horsepower. This feature optimizes cycle times and still provides limits to protect the machine and tool.
6. Manage Tools
With the direct interface to the machine control, TMAC provides real-time information to the machine about the condition of the tools in use. If a tool breaks, the system automatically notifies the control which, thanks to the information stored on the Balluff chips, knows exactly where to go in the carousel (or other form of tool magazine or pre-call station) to retrieve a redundant tool. The real time monitoring also tracks tool wear and provides notification when a tool needs to be replaced. The notification can be sent via web, e-mail, or visual alert at the machine.
7. Ready, Set, Go
The technology described here requires an upfront investment of time and money but can simplify your operators’ and production supervisor‘s jobs and yield significant improvements in productivity. Lights out operations and migration towards “lean” manufacturing are supported as well. To discuss new developments in tooling, accessories, and peripherals, and how they may improve your operations, be sure to contact your account manager or the tooling specialists at your local Morris Group, Inc. distributor.