How interface a tool presetter with CNC machines

Using a tool presetter to measure tool assemblies normally always adds an additional requirement to provide some means of transfer of the measurement data to the respective numerically controlled machine.

This is critically tied also to ensuring that the presetter provides precise and accurate data and that there is an established relationship between the measured data on the tool presetter and the values required for the offsets on the machine tool. Small spindle and gauge line variations between the machine tools can be managed and controlled if this situation and the individual requirements are known.

High risks can be exposed if the tool measurements either sent or entered into the numerical control are not correct and exact? The drawbacks can be critical! The possibility of the collision of a tool during processing that causes a tool failure, damage to the part/fixture, machine or spindle issues or even for the machine to totally alarm out. This of course ultimately could lead to an entire sequence of production being compromised or significantly held up whilst rectification takes place. Such situations obviously should be avoided as they can significantly affect production and indeed mean that unexpected costs are incurred by the company.

In this article we will demonstrate the possibilities for the interfacing of the tool presetter with the machine tools, to provide great advantages in terms of time, cost and process security.

Choosing a suitable technology for transferring the measurements made with the presetter, in addition to making your production processes faster and leaner, can also help to minimize errors due to human intervention (typing, editing, inserting, transcription errors, e.t.c).

Thanks also to the recent technological push and innovation to increase automation in of production processes and data, extensively promoted recently in the name of ‘Industry 4.0’, the tools to transfer tooling and other data are now more readily available to everyone. Using a simple computer network, required nowadays to carry out any operation within a company, the optimum system can be designed and installed to place tool  presetters and production centers in communication.

These developments now allow several different means of sending data from the presetter to machining centers: one of the most common and readily available is the creation of files via post-processor.

In its simplest term the files generated by the post-processor are basic text files that contain a compatible ‘part program’, including the measured tool data, which can be used on board the numerical control for the loading and updating of the tool offset data required by NC. This method of data export and its import to the NC has existed for many years but thanks to computer networks it is now possible to transfer files directly from the presetter to the numerical control.

Most Elbo Controlli NIKKEN presetters feature our integrated GUPP software module which, thanks to a vast library of the most commonly used post processors (Heidenhain, Fanuc, Siemens, e.t.c), allows the operator to quickly edit and create a custom post processor or perform the necessary changes to meet the requirements of an individual machine.

The disadvantage associated with the use of post-processor files is that the execution of the program that applies the changes to the tool data is not strictly linked to the operation of loading the tools into the carousel and pockets of the machining center: it is therefore the responsibility of the operator perform both operations from in a coordinated manner (choose and use the pocket/location which matches the presented tool data).

Another way to interface the presetter with machine tools is the use of RFID memory chips. These are applied and fitted into each individual tool holder and are capable of carrying and communicating the entire tool geometry data and more (whatever is required by the machine tool controller).

Over time, the Balluff company has established itself as the market leader for this technology: Elbo Controlli NIKKEN presetters can be supplied and equipped with Balluff electronics including even a retrofit intervention for presetters that are already in use.

However, the use of this type of device requires that the machine tool has been designed by the manufacturer for the integration of the electronics necessary for reading/writing the RFID tags. In addition there are costs to be considered over time for the procurement and installation of RFID tags (one for each tool holder) on the tool holder itself which can negatively affect the choice and selection of this technology.

In the much shouted about Industry 4.0 era Elbo Controlli NIKKEN offers its own solution for interfacing machine tool presetters: Out TiD Solution!

By identifying the tools with a simple Data Matrix code and equipping the machine tools with the necessary electronics (barcode scanner and touchscreen panel/PC) it is possible to improve both the performance and the robustness of your production process.

With TiD it is sufficient:

  1. Identify the tool at the presetter by scanning its code;
  2. Perform a new measurement and update the tool data within the TiD system;
  3. When loading into the machine, scan the tool code (the NC values are then set and loaded automatically).

The strengths of the TID system are:

  • Reduction of the time to load into the machine the tool data.
  • Elimination of human error.
  • Negligible maintenance and ongoing costs (compared to RFID for example).
  • Possibility of retrofitting the most common numerical controls (Heidenhain, Fanuc, Siemens, e.t.c).

So here we have presented a careful and considered evaluation of the best technology for interfacing the tool presetter with machine tools - The basis of a modern and efficient production process.

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