3 Tips for Inspecting CNC Tools the Right Way
The need to inspect a CNC tool is apparent even to the uninitiated. The tools on a CNC machine are what make the magic happen and if the tools aren’t in tip-top condition, the magic ain’t going to happen. The real question comes down to how to do the job of inspecting CNC tools in the best and most thorough way to avoid breakage, downtime, and wasted workpieces. That’s what we’re going to discuss in this article so that CNC machinists have a good method for ensuring machine tool integrity and longevity.
Look, Listen, Feel
The most obvious method of inspection is visual. Take a look and see what you think. If anything doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. This is also true with auditory indicators. When a CNC machine is running right, it hums right along like a bullet train running down the tracks. When something isn’t right, the sound can be a clear indication of trouble. And then there is touch. It seems a little weird to think that touching a CNC machine can tell you about problems with tools, but the truth is a vibratory echo from improperly balanced or incorrectly aligned tools can be felt quite readily.
Tool manufacturers provide specifications for the equipment they supply and that dimensional data can be important to proper tool inspection. A lot of CNC operators carry a digital micrometer with them to measure and check tool dimensions and accuracy. When in doubt, check the instruction manual for proper tool dimensions and sizes, particularly when it comes to the tool mounting points. Improper fit on a tool spindle can cause a lot of problems downstream. Tolerances are so tight on some tools that it takes a microscope to determine the tool’s condition.
Timing is Everything
A CNC machine can run anywhere from a few hours a day to 24/7/365. Tool usage will depend on the amount of wear and tear the tool experiences during its working life. Calibrating tools to perform accurately can become a full-time job in a high-production environment. Knowing a tool’s construction, application, and expected longevity helps to keep CNC machine tool inspection and machine tool maintenance more routine with fewer breakdowns. Tool inspection before, during, and after use is a critical part of proper machine management. Keeping records reflecting tool installation dates, maintenance points, and eventual disposal helps to determine if tools are performing at their peak productivity or not.
Be a Tool
Not to be casting aspersions on anyone in the CNC machine operating environment, but if you’re going to inspect the tool correctly, you need to do it like a machine – regularly, thoroughly, and without passion or emotion. It’s a hard reality but hoping, wishing, and wanting a tool to work properly just isn’t going to fly. Tool inspection requires a keen eye, a clear understanding of what is and what is not within specification, and a desire to accomplish the task as perfectly as possible every time. Otherwise, things slip through the cracks and that’s what we’re trying to avoid.