What to do when things go wrong
There are two ways to stop a CNC machine, use the shut-down protocol, or hit the Emergency Stop button. When an emergency presents itself, it’s the big red button on the control panel that needs activation. This should stop all machine functions and activity instantly. If it doesn’t, the Emergency Stop system should be tested. We recommend not waiting to find out if the system works correctly. When problems occur, it shouldn’t be in the middle of a disaster, it should be when conditions are under control and test results won’t affect production, workpieces, or people.
Accidents happen! Make sure you can trust your Emergency stop
CNC machines are just like all other mechanical devices; they are subject to failures. Sometimes it’s the machine, sometimes it’s a tool on the machine, and sometimes it’s operator error or a computer foul-up, but regardless of the cause, it’s imperative to stop everything before more damage occurs. That’s the job of the Emergency Stop. When activated, an emergency stop routine begins instantaneously.
Anticipating E-stop errors
It may seem a little trite to say, but it’s always a good idea to test an emergency system before you need it. When the stuff is hitting the fan, there’s no time to find out if the E-stop function works or not. Testing the “kill switch” before it’s needed makes sense and might help save more than just a little time and money. Listed below are some general steps CNC machine operators can take to ensure their machines are ready to meet the need if or when it arises:
- Check the conveyor is connected to the power supply.
- Inspect power cords for wear or damage.
- Inspect power supplies to ensure proper functionality.
- Cycle all emergency stop buttons and contacts to make sure they are functioning properly.
- Inspect conveyor, bar feeder, gantry, and high-pressure unit(s).
- Check electrical circuit panel for worn, damaged, or blown fuses.
- Inspect over travels for nearby axes,
- Inspect interlocking safety mechanisms in access doors and on electrical cabinets.
- Check control monitors and LED outputs for dimming or burn out.
- Inspect the E-string wiring thoroughly and test for voltage.
If in doubt, check it out
The best way to avoid problems with Emergency Stop functions is to expect problems. Smart machine operators and floor supervisors understand at one time or another, CNC machines will have to be stopped due to emergencies. Preventative maintenance protocols that include checking and testing Emergency Stop system functionality and responsiveness are an important part of the best practices for CNC operation and maintenance. Not to mention saving time, reducing costs, and even saving lives.
Safety first means being prepared
The power and complexity of CNC machines make them a formidable device to work with. When things go wrong, stopping all that power and complexity is paramount because of the damage that can quickly occur. Time spent guaranteeing you can stop a CNC machine in the middle of its performance isn’t time wasted; it’s time well-invested. Reviewing the manufacturer’s operating manuals and setting up a regularly-scheduled testing routine will ensure the Emergency Stop does its job as promised.