Tool Presetting: In-Machine, Offline or Both?

March 8, 2018 11:48 am


I hear it a lot, “Do I really need an offline presetter if I have in-machine lasers?” My answer is typically a resounding “Yes!” There are strong arguments for offline presetters on their own, but in-machine and offline measuring systems can often overcome common challenges efficiently together. Let’s examine how these different kinds of systems factor into bottom-line areas of an operation.

Adjustment & Cutting Time
Adjustments that could take up to 15 minutes when made in-machine can be made offline in less than one minute using a presetter. But tool-changeover time is impacted even more when both approaches are used. One aerospace customer recently reported how having offline presetters makes their in-machine lasers more efficient. By measuring their tools offline first, key setup data can be pre-loaded into the machine’s tool table via RFID. From there, the laser acts as a quick, single-touch final check before starting production.

Measuring Accuracy
Presetters are simply better at measuring than machine tools, which often fail to measure and store real values for runout and/or length. Couple this with expected inaccuracies resulting from laser refraction from diamond and other impregnated cutting tools, and scenarios still arise with in-machine measuring that will still require test cuts, “wasted” machine time and scrap parts. It’s when the precision and functional advantages of an offline presetter supports lasers that machinists most improve their ability to produce a good part on the first try.

Equipment Cost
It’s a popular misconception that in-machine lasers are standard or included options that come with machine tools straight from the factory. Closer investigation will reveal that you’re still buying the lasers, typically at a cost of around $13,000 per machine. So when you look at the variety of presetters that are available today, there may be a cost-effective option available that can be used to better monetize and more efficiently operate not just one, but multiple machine centers shop-wide.

Return on Investment (ROI)
The best answer to the infamous question “How can we make more chips?” is really a simple one. It’s by doing more set-up operations outside of the machine while the spindle is still running and earning revenue! By setting up tools outside the machine, a shop can increase production without purchasing another machining center and ultimately won’t increase production any more than what could be accomplished at a fraction of the cost by investing in one or more presetters. Most of our customers report that their presetter pays for itself within 30 days of implementation, which is a degree of return on investment that you simply won’t achieve when opting for in-machine technology alone.

Here’s the bottom line: I’ve said openly before that if you absolutely have to pick only one, I would recommend going with an offline presetter(s) every time. But for customers who are apt to use both lasers and presetters – and we’re seeing more and more customers go this route – the cooperation between the two systems often makes for superior operations when compared to using one or the other.

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Article From: Doug Sumner, Product Manager of Tooling Measuring Systems, BIG KAISER Precision Tooling, Inc.

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