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Implementing and Expanding Use of Presetters

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

Presetters measure tool offsets after a tool is fitted into its holder. Presetters provide more accuracy. The devices also can be a gateway for shops to adopt Industry 4.0 in their operations. As a result, should shops be looking at whether to bring in presetters or whether to step up their use of the technology?

Haimer Microset machines have a release-by-touch function that lets machinists move the optical carrier with one hand, without having to hold down a button. (Provided by Haimer USA)

The answer depends, in part, on what equipment a shop already has. One key is a tool crib.

A tool crib helps manage inventory, keeping “stock of all the tools, inserts and cutters,” said Patrick Cratty, technical sales specialist at BIG Daishowa Inc. (formerly BIG Kaiser Precision Tooling Inc.), Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Presetters measure tools, “verifying nothing is wrong with it,” and make sure “there’s no issue with the toolholder,” he said.

Cratty said a customer should consider different levels of presetter sophistication based on whether their shop has a tool crib. If it does, he added, a CNC presetter might be a better choice to increase the efficiency of the tool crib personnel. While the presetter is running its automatic tool inspection program, the tool crib attendant can work on other tasks.

He said if a shop doesn’t have a tool crib, a more entry-level presetter supporting specific machining cells may be a better call. Either way, Cratty said, both presetters are capable of measuring the offsets as well as verifying the cutting tool is in good working order.

Shops also need to take inventory of their needs in deciding whether to go with presetters.

“Understanding your presetter requirements start with overall measuring range and your tooling types,” said Andrew Esposito, national sales manager of Koma Precision, East Windsor, Conn.

With the Speroni Essentia, a shop can measure tools easily and independently of the operator, achieving full machining productivity, the company says. (Provided by BIG Daishowa)

“Once size of unit and spindle types are identified, you can move onto advanced options that presetters can offer,” he added. “Having a game plan for the presetter and how you use it is key. We help a lot of manufacturing facilities understand presetting basics along with more advanced benefits they can utilize down the road.

“Future-proofing your purchase is key and allows a shop to grow into the benefits of off-line presetting,” he continued. “Once a purchasing decision is made, the facility needs to make the commitment to using the presetter. Changing standard work for the shop and developing the needed processes to integrate the presetter into the work environment are key to success.”

Ease of Operation

At the same time, operators need to consider the ease of operation for shop personnel.

“Many of the top presetters will focus their selling point on accuracy. While this is important in selecting a new presetter, repeatability and ease of use are equally important,” said Robert Horsley, product specialist with Haimer USA, Villa Park, Illinois. “Being accurate once is great, but being accurate all day with repeated use is very important.

“Also, when investing in a presetter, something that needs to be kept in mind is the ease of use for the operators,” he continued. “If the software is understandable, it is more likely for the operators to use the presetter correctly and regularly. Also, ease of use is important when training new operators.”

Companies that market presetters are aware that different shops have different needs.

“Starting with a more entry-level type presetter is a good recommendation to help a shop introduce presetting into their environment,” said Cody Mitchell, sales territory manager for Zoller Inc., Ann Arbor, Mich. “Entry-type presetters are economical but still can bring a lot of value to reduce spindle down time due to tooling setups. A shop might only allocate the presetter for a small number of CNC machines.”

What are the issues shops need to consider?

“Getting the information from the presetter to the various machines is a big part of automation,” said Horsley of Haimer. “Removing manual input not only is part of automation, but it also removes simple mistakes that can lead to crashes and machine downtime. Utilizing post processors, QR codes or RFID chips are the most effective way to reach automation.”

BIG Daishowa says the Magis Simple Vision control delivers all required measuring features and functions in a user-friendly, clean and trouble-free user interface with ergonomic solutions. (Provided by BIG Daishowa)

“Simple is key to starting out on presetting,” said Esposito of Koma Precision. “Most shops get a presetter set up and start printing with a label with the tool offset data, and entering by hand on the machine.

“Taking the next step involves some sort of data automation,” he said. “The simplest way is generating a tool offset file to move tool lengths/diameters to the CNC control. More advanced methods include RFID chips and QR code data systems.”

For shops that already have a presetter, “Are they using a tool library? The next potential upgrade is going to a higher level of software,” said Cratty of BIG Daishowa.

According to Horsley, “Getting the information from the presetter to the various machines is a big part of automation. Removing manual input not only is part of automation, but it also removes simple mistakes that can lead to crashes and machine downtime. Utilizing post processors, QR codes or RFID chips are the most effective way to reach automation.”

Moving Up to the Next Level

Matt Brothers, Industry 4.0 Tech Center manager for Zoller, provided this advice: “The best way to move up to the next level is to use machines for in-process gaging, cutting tool verification, and wear analysis. They can also connect and capture data into Tool Management Solutions software to monitor via tool life and enable data transfer and automation.”

At the same time, sellers of presetters typically deal with misconceptions about the machines.

Cratty said some misconceptions begin with the term, “presetter.” The machines “originally were to just measure gage lengths,” he said. “Presetters have become this full tool-inspection device. They can check everything. They are now a CMM for tools.”

Taking time away from chip cutting is “the most common comment we hear regarding presetters,” said Esposito. “Not cutting chips can be a tough sell for some manufacturing facilities. A quick explanation of presetter economics is normally needed, and outlining additional spindle run time via presetting shows the great benefit of a tool presetter. At the end of the day, generating more output is what all machine shops are after.”

All Haimer Microset presetters are made with cast iron bases (in both X and Z axes), allowing them to go on the shop floor next to machine tools. (Provided by Haimer USA)

Horsley provides this perspective: “Many would argue that their machine tool already comes with a laser. While using the laser in the machine tool is good to double check that the tool is set up properly or to monitor wear, it was never intended to be used for the entire presetting process.

“When a machinist touches off the tools manually in the machine or uses the machine tool laser to preset for the next job, this requires the machine tool to stop running,” Horsley added. “This is not what the machine tool was designed to do, and by presetting manually by touching off or with the machine tool laser, it turns the machine tool into the world’s most expensive presetter. That means more time where the machine tool is not making parts, and more money is wasted. Presetting outside the machine tool allows the machine tools to be running while the tool assemblies are being set up as backups or for the next job.”

Zoller’s Mitchell said his company is often told by smaller shops they have a few CNCs and don’t need a presetter. “A smaller number of machine spindles means they have to keep those spindles running as much as possible.”

Paving the Way to Industry 4.0

Marketers of presetters also say the machines can help shops adapt to Industry 4.0 technology with interconnected machines sharing data.

Cratty said presetters have “moved more into transmitting” information. “You’re taking the burden from the operator of having to punch numbers in.” A tool management system can be installed in a presetter, he said. That permits “keeping track of tools, their locations within the shop and the inventory of consumables.”

“Big data is making its way into all forms of our world, including the machining environment,” said Esposito. “We are seeing more organizations using data to help them make better decisions to improve their machining processes.” He said presetters provide “data points to some low-hanging fruit, such as increasing spindle run time and tool life management.”

“Industry 4.0 is all about using gathered data to automate changes on the fly that optimize the machining process,” said Horsley. “The future smart factory will require technologies that can receive and transit such data.” He said Haimer’s presetters are capable of doing that. Haimer’s machines have “features that allow the machinist to keep the machine tool running.”

Brothers from Zoller has a similar analysis. “Presetters are a vital component and a step to achieve Industry 4.0,” he said. “One of the key components is a complete package.”

According to Brothers, presetters can be an important part of an Industry 4.0 package. Because machines at a shop “are all working from the same database, the state of the tool and its measurements are all traceable,” he said. “In those cases, the tool assemblies are prepared, measured and inspected in that central location, then transferred by an autonomous cart or hand-walked over to the proper machining cell.”

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