Tool Life Management – Eliminating The “Break” In Your Production

By Mike Wolf, Application Engineer

Are operators changing inserts and tools too often or not often enough? These common practices can result in unnecessary, expensive downtime. How can you keep production running when a tool breaks? Obtaining a variety of backup tools can be of some help; however, the fact remains that the tool maintenance process must shut down the machine in order for the necessary tasks to be performed. The solution is here: TOOL LIFE MANAGEMENT.

Okuma’s TOOL LIFE MANAGEMENT, a standard feature on both machining center and lathe controls, is an implemented process that enables users to gather predictable and accurate life information regarding a specific tool. Eliminating the guesswork can eliminate the “break” in productivity.

TOOL LIFE MANAGEMENT allows you to do just that. The machine continues to run while a tool is being switched so there is no downtime and no productivity break. Not only will your machine keep running, the frequent scrapping of parts and/or damaging of tool holders will now be expunged. This state-of-the-art process assists both the inexperienced and experienced in an easy-to-follow process. The benefits are tremendous for new operators who may not have the familiarity to know when an insert tool needs to be changed yet.

Let’s take a look at how this process works. For a lathe, under the TOOL LIFE MANAGEMENT page (found within the Tool Data Mode), we assign tools to groups by setting a group number for the tool in the GRP column. If we have two or more identical tools assigned to the same group, the machine will automatically use the second tool when the first tool is out of tool life. We then signify to control three offset numbers we want to use for each tool, specifying an offset number in the “OG1, OG2, or OG3” column. Within this program, we do not adopt turret station numbers, rather we program the tools’ group numbers. For example, TG=01. When running these numbers, the machine looks for a tool in a group whose life is not expired. When found, the unexpired tool is then used. The tool’s offset number is then programmed, such as, OG=01. In the example shown, to use Tool Number 1, we program “TG=01 OG=01”. Note: a tool can be the only tool in a group. When a tool is no longer usable, without any spare tools available, an alarm is given and the machine stops.

Once we determine the maximum number of parts or cutting minutes tools can safely run, we set that number into the “SET” column. As each part is completed, a command in the program causes the count to be incremented and the number in the “ACTUAL” column is then increased. When the ACTUAL number equals the SET number, the tool is flagged as NG (No Good). The machine will stop and an alarm will occur.

Long Runs and Long Cycle Times

If you’re doing short run parts, these options are not really needed in your shop. But they’re extremely useful for automotive shops doing long runs and aerospace applications dealing with long cycle times.

The primary benefits of the TOOL LIFE MANAGEMENT process include the overall increase in predictable machine efficiency and the reduction in tooling costs. For further information regarding TOOL LIFE MANAGEMENT, contact us today!


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