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Smarter Presetting: Using Post-Processor and RFID Technology

Roland Bruhn
By Roland Bruhn Haimer USA

Tool presetting machines are a wise investment for machine shops that want to increase their machine utilization. Idle machine tools are often indicators of inefficient machining operations, and stopping a machine tool for any reason is synonymous to losing profits. This is where tool presetting machines prove to be invaluable. Not only are there immediate improvements in machine utilization by moving your tool presetting offline, but setup times are faster, tool life improves and scrap is reduced, thanks to the highly-accurate modern presetting technology.

Faster access to high-quality data is a huge asset. And furthermore, being able to transfer data digitally increases the value of your tool presetter even more so. To fully understand how, consider manual data transfer. Common mistakes can range from labels falling off to writing down the wrong information or omitting important data altogether. When it comes to entering in the data at the machine tool controller, the chances for error only increase.

Illegible handwriting can easily be misinterpreted and typos or other input errors can further increase the likelihood of problems. In an effort to speed up this process while simultaneously increasing data integrity, technology that allows data to transfer seamlessly from the presetter to the machine tool is often implemented. This kind of data transfer is possible through Post-Processor and Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.

Post-Processor Technology—Automate and Save Time

Postprocessors send measured tool data directly to the machine controller from the presetting machine. The machine tool operator does not need to type tool offset data into his control, a task which, as earlier noted, is subject to human error. In addition to preventing mistakes, the data transfers in seconds, which can be up to 60 times faster than typing data manually.

RFID technology is often used for machining safety reasons. Each tool is identified by the data embedded on its own data carrier, aka the data chip. The data embedded on that chip will not just contain dimensional tool characteristics, but also a multitude of operational instructions for the machine tool itself. After a tool has been measured by a presetter, the data, which includes the magazine location in the CNC machine tool, is transferred to the RFID chip, using a read/write head at the presetter. The data will remain on that chip until it is overwritten with new data, deleted, or reformatted.

When the tool is then inserted into the RFID-equipped machine tool magazine load station, the RFID read head will access the tool’s data chip, and then load the tool into the correct magazine tool pocket. This will ensure that the tool cannot be used for any other operation than the one pre-programmed for that specific tool and pocket location. At the same time, the machine control will also know how many cutting cycles the tool can be used before its lifetime has expired, upon which, the magazine will no longer release the tool for machining operations. Its lifetime has by then expired. All this presents a unique advantage over Post-Processor technology, where human error can still occur during the loading of a tool or the excessive overuse of it.

Because RFID chips store historical tool data, it is incredibly easy to track and analyze tool history. With time, growing this database can help you isolate inefficiencies and weaknesses in the machining process. Regardless of the communication method, a well-organized and staffed tool crib with tool presetters connected to shop-floor machine tools will ensure profitability for small and large machine shops alike. That is the only way tool presetting is going to be done in the future. While Post-Processor and RFID technology only represent a small part of the manufacturing equation, this technology is bringing manufacturers ever closer to achieving Industry 4.0, and in so, saving shops a lot of money.

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