DIY Productivity Enhancers for CNC Machines
Suppose your CNC machine tool builder gave you a square and a triangle cut program and every part you made had to be either cut with those programs or outsourced. Would you work within these constraints or would it be worth your time to learn to write programs in-house? Cutting every part using a square or a triangle would seem normal after you got used to it, but you might not notice how crippled your productivity becomes. And outsourcing things you couldn’t do might even be cost-effective, because your production is so inhibited. But still, this may not be your best option.
You Can Do More Than You Think
There are more than just part programs on your control that can be easily edited! Are you taking advantage of them? First you need to understand, the Windows®-based, open architecture platform used in all of Okuma’s OSP-P CNC controls makes it possible to easily install PC applications that streamline functionalities. For example, you can: provide handy access to tooling lists/setup spreadsheets (right at the CNC machine location), set up how-to videos that assist operators in operations, automatically duplicate tool offsets, or create easy-to-use interfaces for probing and gaging. The functions you can create are limited only to your imagination. And you probably have a lot more of the skill set to create apps for your control than you think. Programming — whether it’s a part program or a Windows program — is simply identifying a problem (such as a productivity leak), visualizing the solution, and creating the tool to solve it.
Programmers Not Required
For example, one customer saw a problem in their process where operators were making mistakes flipping a part. One of our AE’s, (interestingly, not a software engineer) saw this problem and wrote a simple app to correct this common error. Thinking like an app programmer is just like writing a part program; you have to keep scope in mind. You can’t cut outside your part or add metal back, so the first question is not how to fix the operator, it’s what can happen on the screen so the CNC machine addresses the problem itself. If someone walks up and talks to the operator, they can forget what side the part was on but if you “Alt+Tab” from Firefox to Notepad, Firefox doesn’t forget what page it was on. The useful advantage is perfect memory. The human who is flipping the part has no electronic memory telling them whether a part has been flipped. Our non-programmer AE wrote an app that can integrate with the cut program and track cycle progress on screen. “Has part flipped?” “Is part finished?” “Click here when flipped.” Those were really all it took to solve the operator error. If you want some ideas for apps you can easily create, check out Chris Davala’s blog post “10 Tricks You Can Teach Your CNC Control” or Chris Robson’s on “Turn Your Challenges Into Touchdowns.”
Grab Some Free Apps
There are certainly alternatives to writing your own apps. You can always look for free apps already written to address your needs. We have a few you can download for free on our THINC Apps page. Take a look, you can put these to use today. You can also reach out to the THINC Developers Group, which develops applications to help manufacturers improve productivity through the use of the THINC control. But if it doesn’t exist, and in less than a day you could create a custom app that saves several seconds per cycle, or eliminates repeated operator error, wouldn’t it be worth it?
Have you created some apps that increase your productivity? Please comment below and share your experiences.
Tony Slagle is Software Engineer, Electrical Engineering, Okuma America Corporation