Does anyone use RFID to identify their tools?
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  1. #1
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    Default Does anyone use RFID to identify their tools?

    This is going to be a little long winded but the question is the subject line if you don't want to read all this.

    I started my company in the usual way with the purchase of our first Cincinnati VMC in '95, setting them up and running them like anyone else would I would imagine. In '04 we purchased a Toyoda FH550S HMC with a 120 tool magazine. Setting tool lengths is more a little more complicated on a HMC using 123 blocks as you can imagine. We could have opted for a tool probe but our goal was as much spindle up time as possible and because we could load tools in the magazine with the machine running we opted for a tool presetter for a solution to our tool offset problem. We located it next to our Toyoda and were happy.

    There are some features to our Toyoda we were glad to be able to take advantage of. The first is an 8 digit tool code. This allows us to create a tool library with unique tool numbers for every tool we have like T24192984 which is a 3 flute carbide end mill with a .03 radius in a standard length holder as an example if you can figure our code out. We can put redundant tools in our magazine and it will automatically switch to the second when the life of the tool is up or the tool is broken when using the touch sensor.

    Fast forward to 2016 and we purchased 3 new Okuma M560-V VMC's to replace older machines. One very nice feature is that we could use the same tool numbering scheme we used for our Toyoda which actually allows us to use the same tool library and tape prove programs on our Okumas before running them on the Toyoda. We always program our 4th axis work from a known location, center and the face of the rotary table. That allows bolting our fixturing on in a pre-described way so there is no setup other than the fixtures, program and the tools that are more than likely already in the machine.

    Shortly after taking delivery of our new Okuma's one of our customers forced us to take a job I no-quoted at least 6 times. How do you say no to one of your larger customers when they don't take no for an answer? It was a hydraulic manifold and by the time we were done required ninety something tools to complete the 6 setups. There are a couple of pictures of one attached. The bigger threaded holes have a 2-1/2" thread for reference. My options were to tear down our Toyoda for an extended time to accommodate the numerous specialty tools or run them on the Okuma's that I really didn't have any work scheduled for yet because of needing to purchase new tooling and develop a POST for the Okuma control. So here we go, using the Okuma's.

    You can use 33 tools in an M560-V if you leave one in the spindle. Hardly the ninety something I needed for the whole part so some tool swapping would be necessary. Our customer required first article parts and then scheduled deliveries of 50 total. I had about 6 hours of actual spindle time per part spread over 6 setups. I purchased about 150 tool holders for the 3 machines. Some of the tools were going to be common for every setup and some would need to be changed. We also used some existing tool holders.

    The first thing we did was 5 first article parts all the way through on one machine. I was furiously programming as my machinist was learning the machine and running the parts. At the end we had all the required tools setup with the offsets for all of them in the first machine. To continue the process we saved the offsets to a file and loaded them in the other 2 machines. A big advantage to using a presetter is the offset will work in any machine you put it in. We were swapping these tools between machines on a regular basis in order to keep the process running sometimes mid program when 2 machines needed the same tool at the same time. How many redundant Rosen Broaches does one shop need for a one time project? There were 8 different sizes required to begin with.

    That was the only time I've done anything like that and I'm glad the project is behind us. There is the possibility of follow on parts but we will more than likely move the job to our Toyoda if that occurs. What it really did is sold me on the advantage of using a presetter for all our machines. There are tools we use that there is no advantage to tearing down such as wheel cutters or taps that get moved from one machine to another. What we do now is our machinists take the tool back to the presetter to check the offset. Seems dumb to keep doing the same thing over and over so storing the tool data on a chip on the tool seems useful. We have 6 of the Okuma mills now and plan to add 3 more.

    So the question is does anyone use RFID to identify their tools? Are there any recommendations for tool management software and hardware?
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    Neat part .................To answer your question "No" in a mine repair shop and I wish that I had rfid to track tools.

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    The rfid I am familiar with requires a tiny "pill" to be inserted. How do you insert the chip in an end mill or the holder? Can it be bonded to the surface? Would a bar code system work better?

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    One of our engineers helped a large aerospace company in the Seattle area deploy an RFID tag based tool ID system. It ran on an 840D Sinumerik control and the PLC software was straight forward working directly with the tool management system and an off machine toolsetter.

    Alternately you could laser mark your tools with a 2D bar code (like a QR code). There are some very good readers that can even precisely measure distances between the 2D bar codes such that you can also use them to ID fixtures and offsets.

    You need to find a CNC integrator familliar with the control on your machine.

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    We used to use Balluff RFID tags embedded in Schunk Tribos toolholders. When they set up a new drill, they programmed the chip with offsets, diameter, type, etc. When it loaded a drill, an RFID reader would pop out on a pneumatic cylinder and read the tag. The machine ensured that it was the correct type of drill and diameter and read the offset. After running test coupons, the operator could, if necessary, adjust the countersink offset. When you went to unload the tool, the RFID reader would pop out again and write some information back to the chip. It kept track of how many holes/inches had been drilled so you could get rid of tools after a certain life. I assume it also wrote back the corrected countersink offset if necessary.

    This was on a Fanuc 30i. As Motion Guru said, it also works with an 840d. The presetter was, IIRC, a parlec unit.

    The ability to track tool life and write it back to the chip is handy. It might be especially so for you, sharing tools between 3 machines.
    Last edited by DanielG; 10-12-2018 at 12:56 AM. Reason: added Fanuc info

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    Quote Originally Posted by moonlight machine View Post
    The rfid I am familiar with requires a tiny "pill" to be inserted. How do you insert the chip in an end mill or the holder? Can it be bonded to the surface? Would a bar code system work better?
    There's a small hole drilled in the side, like a balancing hole. RFID tag goes in, followed by epoxy. This obviously has to be done before the toolholder is balanced.


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