Anti-Stress Aids for CNC Machinists
I’ve spent many years (more than 25) on CNC machines: as a CNC machinist, set up guy, and CNC programmer doing first-pieces setups and program prove out. I know exactly how stressful, and what a delicate balance it is to set up the CNC machine while avoiding the consequences of even a very small mistake – broken tools, scrap parts, an angry boss and sometimes, unhappy customers.
Having the best CNC machine with the best CNC software isn’t enough to guarantee a job well done. The human factor is still extremely important. The skills, the experience, the motivation, and the ability of the operator to stay focused in front of the machine all greatly influence whether the process will be successful. Having used many different CNC machines in Italy (my country of origin) and in the United States, I have a personal wish list of “most desirable” CNC control features that help me to stay focused, in the zone and stress-free.
My Anti-Stress Wish List
- An easy way to stop the program, move the machine, look at the part, maybe change an insert, and go back to the program and keep executing it, even if I halted the CNC machine while running a canned cycle.
- An easy way to add or subtract a fixed number to a tool offset, without having to write down the number every time. Avoiding simple mistakes like omitting a zero and subtracting .01 instead of .001, and scrapping an otherwise good part.
- An easy way to recover the ATC or the APC when something happens and the machine is stopped during a tool or pallet change. For example, when you call the wrong tool and by instinct hit the emergency button in the middle of the tool change.
- An easy way to fine-tune the indexing of a lathe turret in order to avoid damage to the tool and CNC machine cover when the turret rotates and the tool is sticking out too much.
These are just a few features, and I’m sure most experienced CNC machinists have a personal wish list too. Recently I joined the Application Engineering group at Okuma America and I’ve had the opportunity to use the THINC®-OSP CNC control for the first time. How exciting to learn it includes some very useful features that were on my list.
Stress-Free CNC Control Features (No Yoga Required)
- The Mid-Auto function lets me stop the program execution. I press the “Mid-Auto Manual” button, I can do whatever I want with the CNC machine, and then go back into automatic mode, and by simply pressing ‘Sequence Restart’, the execution of the program will resume from where it was interrupted.
- The CONST.ADD and CONST.SUB buttons in the tool offset page let me increment or decrement an offset by a specific amount that I can pre-set to suit my needs.
- The ATC or APC button on the CNC control panel lets me see the exact status of these two functions. I can step forward or backward through the ATC/APC sequence and, thanks to clear messages shown on the screen, I can easily recover any ATC/APC interruption.
- The parameter NC turret pulse handle lets me rotate the turret with the pulse handle, like a regular rotary axis. Therefore, I can easily check if the tool stick-out is OK without guessing.
Having just started with the THINC-OSP P200 I still have a lot to discover, especially with the new P300. But already I can see that my wishes are coming true.
What’s on your CNC control wish list? Comment below or contact us, and let’s talk about how we can take a lot of stress out of your life.
Germano Zerbini is Applications Engineer, Okuma America Corporation