Maine-based Caron Engineering develops advanced CNC hardware and software solutions to improve performance, productivity and profitability. A global jet engine manufacturer approached the company to find a way to better manage the tools used by its CNC machines. Caron Engineering provided its Tool Monitoring Adaptive Control (TMAC) system to automatically adjust the CNC machine tool’s feed-rate percentage based on the cutting load.
The aerospace giant also needed a way to automatically load specific CNC tool data. Each time operators loaded a tool, they had to input all tool parameters via keyboard. The goal was to increase efficiency by reducing the time and errors associated with manual data collection and entry. In addition, the manufacturer wished to reduce tool breakage by achieving greater visibility to the useful tool life remaining in each.
Accordingly, Caron Engineering provided an automated tool identification and tracking system known as ToolConnect. It uses a compact Siemens Ident high frequency RFID system to read and write tool data.
Siemens SIMANTIC Ident MDS D421 RFID tags are embedded in the CNC tool holders. The tool presetter writes data to the RFID tag embedded in the tool holder. To transfer presetter data of a specific tool, an operator puts the tool’s holder in a tool pot at the CNC machine where it can be read by ToolConnect.
To read and write to the RFID tags, ToolConnect uses a subsystem from the Siemens SIMATIC Ident family of industrial identification solutions. Siemens SIMATIC RF250R high frequency RFID readers operating at 13.56 MHz are embedded into Caron Engineering’s custom read stations. They send and receive tool measurement data from the RFID tags. Siemens ANT8 Antenna (using the RF200 processor) communicate with ToolConnect software. ToolConnect can then automatically display all tool information for the operator.
Compliant with the ISO 15693 RFID standard, the Siemens SIMATIC Ident RFID subsystem enables ToolConnect to read and write to tags from any supplier. In this case, though, Siemens SIMATIC Ident MDS D421 tags provided the right mix of form factor and performance. These circular-shaped tags are made especially for when small sizes and exact positioning are required, such as the ToolConnect application for its aerospace customer. They are 10 mm in diameter and 4.5 mm thick.
Similarly, the compact foot print of the 8 mm Siemens SIMATIC ANT8 external radio antenna enables ToolConnect to span a wider range of tools, especially smaller ones. “The smallest antenna from other suppliers is 12 mm,” notes Rob Caron, founder and owner of Caron Engineering. “Being 30 percent smaller, the Siemens antenna expands the range of tools we can cover with our ToolConnect system.”
Caron Engineering developers and engineers also liked the small form factor. The SIMATIC RF250R high frequency RFID reader, for example, is the size of two packs of gum. It reads and transmits tag data rapidly across short distances to the ToolConnect system. Engineers found it easy to program and configure.
“The smaller reader size makes the engineering and manufacturing of ToolConnect easier, while the smaller antenna not only helps ToolConnect cover more tools, it also effectively expands our markets,” said Caron.
Tool data is displayed on an HMI screen, which provides user prompts and status information. The HMI displays the tool’s image, so the CNC operator can confirm the correct one is loaded.
Operator screens are customized to show information such as custom assembly number, measurement data (length, weight, diameter, radius), tool life data. As the Siemens SIMATIC Ident RFID subsystem uses open communications standards, it can interoperate with multiple CNC controllers such as the Siemens SINUMERIK, as well as those from Okuma, Fanuc, Heidenhain and Mitsubishi.
The combination of ToolConnect, TMAC and Siemens technology provided the aerospace manufacturer with many benefits. This included greatly improved CNC tool visibility, optimized tool usage and reduced risk of production disruption. In addition, it made a big difference in the amount of time needed for tool and CNC setup. Operator error has been eliminated as the tool goes into the presetter which is written automatically via the Siemens RFID.
Caron said the aerospace manufacturer has welcomed Siemens RFID capabilities as they’re now spared many tedious data-entry chores. After every tool use this could add up to a half hour or more per operator per shift.
“CNC operators can focus more on the quality of their output, while keeping production moving and not be worried about scrapping an expensive part due to data entry errors,” he said.
For more information on Caron Engineering, please click here.Have an Inquiry for Siemens about this article? Click Here >>