Bridging the Skills Gap – Part 7: Workpiece Probing and Tool Setting
Many manufacturers are experiencing a shortage of skilled labor and are looking to automation to bridge that gap and expand their business. We often hear the term “lights out,” but not every business is ready to take automation that far. Instead, they are looking for a way to go from having one operator dedicated to only one machine to having that same operator running four or more machines. To bridge that gap, it is necessary to reduce setup time and reduce the amount of manual processes it takes to get the machine running and cutting parts. Tool setting and workpiece probing can be a part of this productivity improvement.
Measuring and testing technology providers such as Blum recognize the need for providing the tools to get the machines set up quicker. Blum tool setting can eliminate the need to manually touch-off every single tool on the machine by Integrating the automatic tool setter programming into the customer’s part programs. This allows the customer to easily and accurately measure tool lengths and check for tool breakage.
The tool setter programs also incorporate the machine’s tool life management system. This means that if a tool is broken or has exceeded its wear limit, it automatically gets flagged in the tool life management system and the next tool in the group is selected or the operator is notified that the tool needs to be replaced.
Workpiece probing is a valuable tool in helping to reduce setup times while increasing overall process capability and part quality. Especially in job shop applications, where there might be multiple vices/fixturing on the table, the ability to quickly and accurately locate the fixturing and workpieces within the machine’s work coordinates system can reduce setup times by as much as 85% and reduce rework or scrap rates.
Bob Blunk, Southeast Regional Sales Manager for Blum LMT, Inc., has experienced the need for affordable automation firsthand. “I have a customer in North Carolina who wants to buy more machines, but they can’t do that because they can’t find more operators. The solution to this problem is to make the operators they already have more efficient through the use of automation,” Mr. Blunk explains. Using automation, such as tool setting and workpiece probing, will enable this customer to increase productivity and expand his business.
Blum ensures each customer maximizes productivity by including free, on-site training as part of the installation. This training not only covers basics on how to use the product, but also includes training for the operators/programmers on how best to apply the technology to their specific manufacturing processes. This allows the customer to begin using the technology and improve productivity right away.
As a member of Partners in THINC, Blum also recognizes the advantages of the THINC®-OSP’s open-architecture and its API. Through this, Blum is able to offer a “software only” interface for all of its products. This eliminates the cost and design time needed to add probing or tool setting interfaces to an Okuma machine tool that has a THINC-OSP control. With the power of THINC, a process that could take weeks is now reduced to two or three days (including one day of training).
If you would like to learn more about Blum and its products, please visit them on the web.