In today’s intensely competitive manufacturing environment we all strive to improve productivity and profitability. Machine tools set the pace with faster spindle speeds and feed rates, multi-function machining, and sophisticated control systems. However, maximizing the potential of these machines requires equally capable bar feeders and other accessories.
As LNS Director of Technology, Damien Wenisch, explains, “Once considered simply a mechanical device for loading bar stock, bar feeders now include a variety of advanced technologies that provide enhanced bar support, precisely synchronized bar loading, faster, easier changeovers and more. Our newest models incorporate design strategies that increase rigidity, make servicing even easier and provide greater value per dollar of investment. Much of this advancement stems from our close working relationships with machine tool OEMs around the world, and through our facilities in North America, Europe and Asia, where we continuously enhance our bar feeders to meet the needs of new machine tools.”
As important as constantly furthering bar feeding technology is, we see the next phase going beyond mechanical, structural, electronic and other advancements. That’s why we’re working diligently to make bar feeders work more intelligently than ever before. For example, our Ethernet-based data communications system, e-Connect, enables machine tools and our bar feeders to exchange data in real time. Using these data, the machine tool and bar feeder work together to perform a variety of tasks.
One example is the Part Library function that stores up to 500 parts programs. Through the e-Connect system, the LNS bar feeder automatically detects the part program currently in use by the turning center and loads the correct setup data for that part from the Part Library. After each part is machined, the production scheduling program checks the remaining parts to be produced and determines if there is adequate bar stock available for the next scheduled part to be made. If not, the system scans the production list for another part that could be made from the remaining material.
This live data transfer takes just seconds, while the reduction in operator time and material waste, plus the ability to perform lights-out production adds up to enormous cost savings. The best news is that the full potential for improving productivity with Ethernet-based data communications is yet to come – and not just for bar feeding.
Several years ago LNS began acquiring and developing additional machine tool peripherals aimed at making the entire manufacturing process more efficient and profitable. Today these products address bar loading and bar stock support, automatic workholding, high pressure coolant delivery, unloading machined parts, removing chips of all kinds, filtering and re-circulating coolant, and removing tramp oil and oil mist to provide a healthier and safer working environment.
Each of these LNS products has the potential to become smarter and more integrated within the manufacturing process, and some already are. The Blaze Air vacuum unloading system, for example, interfaces with e-Connect, the machine tool control and an LNS bar feeder to make removing finished parts quicker and easier. Our new PowerStream VP high-pressure coolant system already incorporates an intelligent design that allows users to program variable pressure outlets to deliver up to 2000 PSI of filtered coolant precisely where needed, and to instantly shut off coolant flow when not required. Soon it will also interface via e-Connect with the machine tool controller to automatically provide optimum coolant spray in response to changing requirements or machining variables.
Smarter technologies like these not only improve productivity, they also have the potential to save energy and are kinder to the environment. The variable high-pressure system, for example, saves energy and coolant by using only the amount of coolant necessary and then automatically shuts off when not needed. LNS oil mist collectors reduce heating and air conditioning costs in addition to removing oil mist and smoke. Additionally, LNS filtering chip conveyors, high-pressure coolant systems and tramp oil removal systems greatly reduce coolant consumption.
Any manufacturing process is only as efficient as its weakest component. That’s why the goal at LNS is to provide intelligent, reliable machine tool accessories that can be seamlessly integrated to make the entire process as productive, efficient and profitable as possible. Modern manufacturers are working harder and smarter to meet the challenges of today’s competitive marketplace. We believe their machine tool accessories should do the same.