Key Process Parameters to Monitor the Health of a CNC Machine
By Space Coast Daily // March 16, 2020
CNC machining is a commonly used term in the world of manufacturing. It refers to machines that are used in the major manufacturing processes of tools and products in major industrial settings.
Not only in industries, but CNC Machines are also highly used in smaller settings, such as shop floors and workshops.
CNC Machines are the primary operators of any mechanical process, mostly production. Because these are the main operators, the major function of almost all departments within any manufacturing industry can fall on the shoulders of CNC.
It’s crucial to ensure CNC’s maintenance and keep an eye on its performance. Any hired a person or installed machine, if left idle, can be a huge loss of resources. Your anticipated amount of production per hour will be ruined, and it will ultimately lead to a major loss in profits.
That is why we’re going to discuss the various aspects related to a CNC machine – what it is, how it works, its benefits, tips to maintain it and tips to improve it to save you time and money.
What is a CNC Machine and how does it work?
A CNC machine or a Computer Numerical Control machine uses a computer and relevant software that is linked to specific machines and controls their functions. The term ‘Computer Numeric Control’ comes from its older version of NC or Numeric Control.
Basically, CNC is linked to the machines and instructs them to manufacture custom machined parts accordingly. Whether it is the movement, the coolant function, or the speed, every aspect of the manufacturing machine is controlled by a CNC program using a computer language also known as “G-Code.”
Software programs such as CAD and CAM are often used to write the G-Code. CNC Programmers are responsible for writing and coding the programs, and CNC Operators operate the CNC Machining devices.
CNC Machining is the primary tool used to operate various manufacturing practices in today’s world. Initially, the CNC machines were expensive and could only be afforded by major industrial sectors.
But due to the increase in demand and needs within every sector, you can now find a CNC machine that fits within your budget and can be installed in any home shop. However, the price may vary according to the quality of the machine. Expensive CNC machinery provides high quality and great precision.
Various types of CNC machines include:
■ CNC Lathes: In CNC Lathe machinery, the main spindle rotates another tool that requires cutting, splitting, or grinding. Since these are used to create some essential parts of other machines, CNC Lathes are considered universal.
■ CNC Mills: CNC Mills are used to cut hard materials such as metal, plastic, and wood, and are principally termed as Machining Centers.
■ Water Jets and Lasers: As the name suggests, CNC Water Jets and Lasers are used to cut flat sheets with precision.
■ CNC Routers: CNC Routers fall under the category of CNC Mills but are characterized differently due to their gantry configuration, and are often used to cut wood.
■ 3D Printers: 3D Printers transform and create three-dimensional digital models to real-life models to the proper scale. The machine’s mechanism piles layers to create the final model.
Other types include EDMS or Electronic Discharge Machines, CNC Punches, CNC Wire Bending Machines, CNC Pattern Cutters, Foam Cutters, and CNC Food Makers, among many others.
Within CNC Machining, rapid prototyping is a crucial service that helps in manufacturing parts that are high in quality. It’s basically used to produce a scale model of any three-dimensional design that can be furthered as a concept to clients and investors.
According to https://prototechasia.com/en/metal-machining, hiring a professional rapid prototyping service can help in acquiring high-quality models within no time. Make sure that the service is competent in major industries such as food, automotive, and electronics, and offers competitive prices.
In the past, the NC did not involve a computer and was only responsible for the basic functioning of the operating machines, such as informing the direction and axis of the cutter movement, controlling the speed of the spindle and cutter, operating the type of cutter, and monitoring the operation of the coolant.
Since the machines were manually operated in the past, it took a lot of time and precision during production. With the invention of CNC, operating machines has become much more convenient, fast, and safe along with a massive increase in productivity. It also gives accurate results and has reduced man labor.
And since it is automated, the machines don’t need an operator to constantly monitor them. There are still a few instances in which manual machining operations take place such as prototyping, maintenance and repairs, and one-offs.
Before the NC and CNC were brought in as the main operating devices, manufacturing industries used hydraulic tracer systems. The hydraulics in this system were used to operate the cutting tools and templates.
Tips to boost maintenance and efficiency of a CNC Machine
Since CNC machines are operated on a daily basis within every industry, it’s important to ensure that they are maintained and function smoothly to avoid a backlog of production and maintain its quality.
Even though it sounds cliché, it’s true that time is money. And with adequate maintenance of your CNC Machinery, you are saving yourself money and making more in the process.
Here are a few tips to maintain any CNC Machine and increase its efficiency:
Prolonging the Life of the CNC Machine
Prolonging the life of your machine can help you save a lot of money in the future. By ensuring that your machine is operating smoothly, you won’t have to buy a new machine sooner than anticipated, and you’ll reduce repair costs. To prolong the machine’s life, firstly, you need to keep a close eye on its functioning by inspecting it regularly.
You should check all the holders, handles, and inserts within the machine and address any issue as soon as you spot it. Secondly, you can use a new coolant system or increase its concentration that will save the machine from overheating and any damages.
Thirdly, you can install a cryogenic machine that uses liquid nitrogen as a coolant and is highly used in the current industrial scenarios.
These factors will help your machine in increasing its lifespan and prevent any kind of disruption. Another alternative to prolong the life of your machine is by using harder insert grades within your tool holder.
A coating of aluminum oxide will not only increase the longevity of your tool holder but will also help in diminishing the cycle.
Installing an equipment monitoring system
An equipment monitoring system can, at all times, notify you about the performance of your CNC Machine. It’s important to go beyond the basic setup to know the actual problems that lie in your machine and contribute towards its slow functioning.
A high-quality equipment monitoring system will tell you about the underlying problems of the machine, the total time required to finish every step or process, and other information that’s crucial towards the repair, maintenance, and boosting the efficiency of all machines.
Make sure that the equipment monitoring system is connected to a common network that binds all the CNC Machinery together.
It is important for easy reach and effective communication. To make it more cost-effective, you can use tools such as Fanuc FOCAS, MTConnect, or OPC UA.
Also, installing an equipment management software will ensure that your inventory is in order and ultimately help you prevent overspending and help you save money by not overstocking.
Your business will also run smoother as you’ll be notified whenever the inventory faces understocking. Basically, these systems take care of your machines and overall productivity that will profit your business in every way.
Keep it all organized
Proper organization can keep all things in order and ensure smoother functioning. It is also applicable to the maintenance of CNC Machines.
Since it is an underrated tactic, not many organizations pay attention to it. At times, it is possible that the underlying problem with the malfunctioning of any CNC Machine may simply be a lack of organization. This can lead to a major loss of money and time.
Whether you’re using a CNC Machine in an industrial setting or on a shop floor, it’s important that you keep the tools organized and arranged. It will not only increase efficiency but will also keep you from losing the essential tools required to operate the machines.
You might still feel, “How can an organization contribute towards the increased efficiency of a CNC tool?” Well, it all comes down to simplifying your daily tasks.
If you are organized and keep your workplace clean, you can grab any required tool quickly without wasting time in searching for it. Any kind of tolerance specifications that are related to your process drawings are intricately handled with accurate documentation.
Not only will it help you but also the employees with lower skill levels who are trying to learn to operate the tool.
Other ways to ensure that your setting is organized is by following the labeling system, keeping your surroundings clean, conducting personnel training, and using tool draws. The key is organization, along with proper cleanliness and maintenance.
Ensure top-quality CNC Programming
For any CNC machine to work accurately, you need to ensure that the CNC program is well-written. Since writing and programming form the base of a CNC, you need to make sure that you get it right from the very first step.
Hiring a skilled programmer will ensure that the program is error-free and is written intricately to obtain accuracy and precision. While you’re at it, make sure that the programmer uses an incremental computing system.
This feature allows the recomputing of change data outputs. This can save time, but also produce some cumulative errors. In this case, you should ensure the use of absolute computing to increase accuracy.
Overall, it will ensure that the tiny errors that occur due to the difference between the system measurement and actual measurement are near to negligible.
Since a lot of manufacturers and shop-owners buy the CNC machines from well-known producers, manufacturers and shop-owners should check with the producers to get details about the program and the processing.
Hire a professional service to ensure adequate maintenance
Installing and using a CNC machine for the first time can leave you confused and make you question its efficiency. If you don’t know how to go about with a weekly or monthly maintenance of your machine, you can hire a professional service that will regularly check it for you.
This should include:
- Cleaning the machine: This step can be done without the help of a professional maintenance team. You can clean your machine on a daily basis by air blowing the dust on the surface. The buildup of debris on and within your machine system can stop the machine. Regular cleaning of dirt and debris will prevent it from entering the lubrication system, and hence ensure regular functioning. The cleaning routine should also include removing chips from the guide rail, removing material build-up, checking the industrial control box, checking the lead screw, and cleaning the spindles and filters.
- Lubrication is also required to keep the machine running regularly. This helps in eliminating premature wear and prevents the parts from sticking. Parts such as the tool holder, screws, spindles, guide rails, and bearings should be oiled and greased properly.
- Optimizing the computer program and system can prevent any errors and disruption of any function. This will also include cleaning the chassis and killing any virus if present.
If you are new to the world of CNC Machines, it might get a bit intimidating for you to check your machine’s performance and ensure its increased productivity at first.
A well-maintained CNC machine will not only boost productivity and increase efficiency, but it can also reduce a lot of costs and save time.
Not only will you benefit from an increase in production per hour, but you will also be saved from the hassle of hiring and paying more employees.
These tips will ensure that your machinery is running smoothly and that you benefit from it at all times. They will also make sure that the chips don’t start flying off a piece of metal before you can handle the situation.
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