In the past, a common setup scenario for unattended operations included the following sequence: Load the bar feeder, set the program, go home and pray nothing goes wrong. About 15 years ago, some machine tool and fabricating equipment companies began to institute call centers to flag shop owners of an alarm, but those systems were often hit-or-miss, depending on the quality of the personnel and the chances of reaching the owner at the designated phone number. A single tool break, bar jam, low lube or coolant level, air compressor stall, spindle speed slowdown or even a power spike could mean an entire weekend of lost production.
Today, alerts for tripped alarms on unattended machines can be sent by phone via call or SMS text message, email or fax. The alert is sent automatically by software programmed directly on the CNC. No human intervention is needed, except by the shop owner or production supervisor to designate the method of communication and to receive the alert.
So the scenario changes to a more effective process: Load the bar feeder, set up the machine for a predetermined alarm tag or sequence of alarms (the machine can now send periodic alerts for various parameter checks), set the program, go home and enjoy the weekend. Any shutdown will be flagged. Since the alarm is set off of the fault code on the machine, no human intervention is needed, and the messages are completely automated.
The system is relatively simple to set up, and it keeps a shop’s productivity in motion, all weekend or any time it can reasonably run unattended.
This was formerly the realm of only the biggest shops and captive production departments in automotive, aerospace and other dedicated production operations. Now even the smallest shops can have an effective alert system in place. It is especially useful for those with more machines than operators.
On a high-level CNC, this feature is available as part of the production software embedded in the controller. The savings from just one occurrence will more than pay for the upgrade. Most popular CNC brands currently have some type of email client server such as Outlook Express, but this system is the next step up. The software is fully automated to send an array of messages to selectable locations in different modes. The email or text message, for example, can contain one or more alarm messages, with details provided as attachments. One email or text can be sent for each alarm or sent periodically with all the alarm messages that have been generated during a specified period of time.
This is one more area where CNC can provide a “controlling interest” for a shop’s operation, 24/7.