Morton, IL--It took just one week to erase 12 years worth of skepticism with respect to adaptive control on machine tools. According to VP of manufacturing for Morton Machining and Mfg. Co. Mike Shoemaker, he has never seen an adaptive control device that worked, until OptiMil(reg).
When Morton won several large-volume jobs with its biggest customer last fall, the company needed to boost productivity. So Shoemaker agreed to test the CNC milling/drilling optimization device from Jerusalem-based OMAT Control Technologies. Result: a 17% increase in productivity.
OptiMil monitors metal-cutting conditions and adjusts the feed rate, in real time, to its highest possible level. The real-time control allows for optimization of the machining process. "With OptiMil, not only did we get faster machining, we also decreased tool breakage. We used to destroy a drill every month. The first six months after installing OptiMil, we only burned up one, and it was repairable," adds Shoemaker.
OptiMil is currently being used on a Mitsubishi MV70E twin pallet changer to produce non-internal engine parts used in motor graders, back hoes, bulldozers and marine engines. The MV70E is busy 18 hours a day, on a two-shift operation for machining 15 to 18 different parts. A second OptiMil device is installed on a Mitsubishi MH80D twin pallet changer that will be used for drilling and boring close-tolerance holes.
OptiMil's operation is entirely automatic after a very basic one-time setup. The user may either key parameters such as tool, material, or other cutting conditions into OptiMil. Or alternatively let the device learn the job by cutting a sample. OptiMil stores up to 96 job setups. "We let the system learn the cutting job from the first piece," explains Shoemaker. Setup information, stored automatically in a database, is easily accessed to cut repeat parts.
Shoemaker finds the device helpful in handling last-minute engineering changes. "There's a wide range of engineering changes that could come through requiring programming modifications," he explains. "You need to be able to adjust tool paths quickly. We get many last-minute calls. For example, we might need to make 250 parts with bigger holes, or the material specs may suddenly change form ductile iron to gray. If we didn't have adaptive controls, we'd have to have a programmer come out here to make changes."
Before OptiMil, variation in materials or tool conditions required operator intervention to adjust the CNC. OptiMil's fully automatic control of cutting parameters enhances the level of automation of CNC machines. Instead of spending time attempting to adjust the cutting process, this frees machine operators to perform other tasks such as tool and workpiece replacements. Consequently, OptiMil enables a number of machines to be supervised by one operator, resulting in enormous operations cost savings.
Shoemaker also uses OptiMil's spindle overload protection feature, which automatically turns on an alarm and immediately stops the feed, retracts the part, and shuts down the machine when a problem is detected. "The alarm feature is very user-friendly," says Shoemaker."You program it the way you want to use it. When an overload situation occurs, OptiMil protects the tool, workpiece, and spindle by stopping or slowing the cutting process."
OptiMil provides statistical reports on overall cutting times and tool conditions. It records performance data for each tool used during cutting. Data includes cutting time, tool wear, and percentage time savings that can be displayed on the screen at any stage in between operations. Shoemaker says the installation phase is as simple as the product is to use. "It was very easy to get started right away. You basically edit a couple of things in the program, and you're ready to go. It was a quick start up."