In the past, setting up machines for untended operations often followed this scenario: Load the bar feeder, set the program, go home and pray nothing goes wrong.
Entire weekends might have meant lost production as the result of a single tool break, bar jam, low lube or coolant level, air compressor stall, spindle speed slowdown or simply a power spike. This scenario is far too familiar to many manufacturers in this industry.
To improve these circumstances, about 15 years ago, some machine tool and fabricating equipment companies began to institute call centers to flag shop management when an alarm goes off, but those systems were often hit-or-miss, depending on the quality of the personnel and the chances of reaching the contact at the designated phone number. In fact, one laser manufacturer had this system running, but the success rate was far less than optimal.
However, now there’s technology available that can call, text or e-mail shop management with alarm alerts on untended machines. With the
@Event software embedded on the Siemens 840D CNC, alarm alerts can be sent to a phone, fax, e-mail or a mobile phone via call or text messaging, communicating what alarm has tripped. The alert comes automatically, because the software is encrypted directly on the CNC. There is no human intervention needed, except by the shop owner or production supervisor.
On a higher-level CNC, this feature is available as part of the production software embedded in the controller. The savings from only one occurrence will more than pay for the upgrade. Many popular CNC brands currently have some type of e-mail client server such as Outlook Express, but the @Event system is a step up, because the software is fully automated to send messages to selectable locations in different modes for an array of messages. The e-mail or text message, for example, can contain one or more alarm messages, with details provided as attachments.
One e-mail or text can be set for each alarm or sent periodically with all the alarm messages that have been generated during a specified period of time.
With this technology, the scenario can now look like this: The bar feeder is loaded, the machine is set up for a predetermined alarm tag or sequence of alarms (since the machine can periodically alert shop management to various parameter checks), the program is set, and the operator can go home to enjoy the weekend. There’s no chance of a shutdown that isn’t flagged, depending on the way the machine is programmed.
Since the alarm is set off by the fault code on the machine, there’s no human intervention whatsoever, and the messages are completely automated. This is a relatively simple system to set up and, with the purchase of a pre-paid SIM card, the machine becomes another kid who calls only when he gets into trouble.
These systems keep productivity in motion all weekend or any time a shop can reasonably run untended. Especially for the shops that have more machines than operators, this can be an instant journey into the world of remote alarm sequencing, formerly the realm of only the biggest shops and captive production departments in automotive, aerospace and other dedicated production operations.
This is one more area where CNC can provide a “controlling interest” for your shop’s operation