Equipment and ToolingMachining

Bird’s Eye View: If you’re not monitoring the condition of your CNC equipment, you’re machining in the dark

birds eye view_RYM_ADAM

What’s your production efficiency? Do you know how many hours your spindles turned last month or the last time your operator made an offset? Is the darned machine even turned on? If you don’t have some form of machine monitoring in place, even a manual one, you don’t have a clue.

Monitoring systems keep an eye on most any CNC machine tool, from that tired-looking horizontal lathe to the brand-spanking-new 5-axis horizontal machining center that just hit the loading dock. And depending on the vintage of the machine control, you can know everything from the cause of that loud crash you just heard to why the operator has been standing in inspection for the past half hour.

Despite these benefits, many shops would rather avoid the technical headache of putting their machine controllers “on the net,” preferring instead to learn what’s going on in the shop through the information entered on employee time cards or the often-questionable data collected from shop floor data collection systems.

No Red Light

In the case of basic monitoring, the only thing to fear is fear itself. According to Timothy Zott, president of Remote Machining LLC, Southfield, Mich., implementing a basic monitoring system is simple and affordable, with hardware starting at around $1,000.

Zott can teach an old light stack new tricks. By interfacing directly to the machine’s “Christmas tree,” his firm’s Remote Light Stack device converts the signals from those red, yellow and green lights into easy-to-understand text messages, e-mails or status displays on a Web page. “It gives you a power of notification that you didn’t have before,” Zott said.

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