Best Practices for CNC Preventative Maintenance

Maintaining your CNC machines

When you consider all the work a Computer Numerical Control or CNC machine accomplishes in a working day, it’s pretty amazing. It’s also extremely complex and in many cases, can create a lot of work cleaning, setting up, and maintaining the device. It’s important to keep the CNC machines working because failures or shut-downs cost a lot of money and take up a lot of production time to correct. For these reasons, CNC cleaning and maintenance are critical.

Stay on schedule

Machine shops, production floors, and manufacturers understand the importance of keeping a CNC machine operating at peak efficiency. They devote a lot of time and resources to keeping the CNC machines tuned-up, tuned-in, and turning out workpieces without interruptions. Scheduled maintenance is one part of a three-part approach to keeping CNC machines running reliably. There are two other components to a solid maintenance routine and those are time and tools.

Break it down into manageable steps

Maintenance of CNC machines can be a little daunting if you’re not adequately prepared. Every CNC machine comes with an instruction manual with clear directions on how to clean and maintain the machine. What’s important here is that the machine technician has an adequate amount of time to accomplish the tasks as well as the right equipment to do the job.

If a CNC machine doesn’t have an instruction manual readily available, most CNC manufacturers have them available online or by request. Taking the maintenance instructions and breaking them down into individual activities will make the maintenance routine easier to accomplish and more thorough. It’s easy to forget a step or bypass an activity and a checklist of requirements ensures closer adherence to the process.

3 kinds of maintenance:

When we speak of maintenance on CNC machines, there are three time-frames to consider. Those time frames are daily, weekly, and long-term maintenance routines. By nature, CNC machines require a great deal of care because they produce important workpieces using complex computer programs, specialized tools, and extremely precise cuts. If anything gets out of whack, it becomes a big problem in a very short period. Let’s examine each type of maintenance interval more closely:

1 | Daily CNC Maintenance

These are the activities that take place throughout each production day. CNC machines build up a lot of debris and that debris is usually covered in liquid lubricant, making the whole thing nothing but a big, sloppy mess. Liquids invade cracks and crevices much faster than dust or dirt and can cause significant damage to electrical, electronic, and mechanical components. Proper clearing of cuttings, cleaning, and inspection of the equipment must take place without fail or the machine itself will fail with disastrous consequences. Cutting corners or omitting a step in the maintenance requirements can not take place and the use of a maintenance checklist will help alleviate mistakes.

2 | Weekly CNC Maintenance

Repair technicians working with CNC machines will tell you the most difficult part of the maintenance routine can be the weekly cleaning and maintenance activities. It’s not that this routine is more difficult or time-consuming being completed on a weekly and not a daily basis. The problem is often about the time of the week when the tasks are started. In most cases, weekly maintenance is performed at the end of the day on Friday or first thing in the morning on a Monday morning. This is not the best time to keep attention focused on completing maintenance tasks. For production floors and manufacturing environments that run on two or three shifts each day, this is not as much of an issue. But for a lot of smaller mom-and-pop shops and custom machining businesses, maintenance is more challenging and performed less consistently

3| Long-term CNC Maintenance

Updates to computer programs and applications as well as improvements to tooling and mechanical functionality occur over time. Interrupting production cycles to incorporate these changes isn’t possible due to the extended amount of time some updates and upgrades can require for installation. Scheduling time to perform this type of maintenance is critical to keeping efficiency as high as possible while reducing the opportunity for breakdowns or malfunctions. In many cases, technicians trained by the manufacturer must be scheduled to be available for the changes to be implemented. In any case, it’s always advisable to make necessary and recommended upgrades to avoid voiding any warranty or functionality issues.

Diligence, Determination, Details

Taking care of CNC machines takes time, a desire to do it right, and a watchful eye. The cost of CNC machines is so high that maintaining them is critically important. By design, CNC machines are intended to increase profits by reducing production costs and manufacturing time. Only by performing their functions do CNC machines pay for themselves and their upkeep.

As much as any other device or piece of equipment involved in manufacturing, a CNC machine is often the heart of a production floor and the entire operation can revolve around the CNC machine doing its job flawlessly, efficiently, and on-demand. The ability to perform CNC preventative maintenance and keep CNC equipment functioning is one of the most in-demand careers in manufacturing today.

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