Improve efficiency and reduce costly errors in machine tool with RFID

When you think of making machine tool more efficient and competitive, does RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) come to mind as an efficiency or improvement method? The fact is RFID has been used to improve machining over 15 years. Yet many times when companies are looking for methods to improve efficiency and automate the machining process, RFID is not known nor on the list. When it comes to machining in any company, you can’t deny that this is where production and through-put are critical. This is where the raw materials are turned into two things, basically parts and chips. A saying I’ve hear is “if you aren’t making chips, you’re not making money”. I have no doubt that there is a lot of truth in that. But sometimes the view I also hear is “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”. The truth in that saying is to make sure improvements in this part of a company affect the bottom line positively.

RFID is a technology that can improve machining in three ways, it:
• provides reliable information,
• reduces setup time and,
• prevents costly errors.

How does it do this you may ask? Well an RFID tag is placed directly in the tool holder. This serves one critical purpose, it allows the tool holder to carry both the tool and the tools information like a pedigree. There are three steps information goes through. First, critical data about the tool itself is determined like offsets and the tools pocket number in the tool chain for example. A Presetter is critical to this step. Data like tool measurements and statistics are determined and many times stored by the Presetter (see http://www.zoller-usa.com/ and http://www.parlec.com/ for more Presetter information). This data is transferred to the RFID tag mounted in the tool holder by the Presetter. Second, the data is carried with the tool to the machine it will be used in on the RFID tag in the tool holder. Third, the data can then be transferred quickly (within milliseconds, not minutes) and without errors directly into the memory of the CNC machines controller using an RFID reader mounted in the CNC machine. Updated data from the CNC can also be written back to the RFID tag and transferred back to the Presetter in the opposite manner.

RFID can be a major way to reduce errors and improve the reliable transfer of information by simply eliminating the human as the means of data transfer. A study showed that as many as 1 in every 300 key strokes by humans results in an error. What if that error results in a crashed spindle? Balluff has done ROI (return on investment) studies that show that the use of RFID can save $100K’s to even over $1M dollars a year in lost production and tool savings (www.balluff.com/toolid) by eliminating errors and reducing setup time, many times paying back the investment in less then a year. So when considering your next efficiency project in machining, include all your options and consider RFID in the equation also.

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One Response

  1. RFID is really useful technology which provides cost effective service RFID Smart Cards, RFID Tags, RFID Readers are some of its very essential and useful tools.

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