Transmitting CNC codes to their two profile burning machines was becoming more and more of a headache for metal component manufacturers and fabricators Nichol McKay.
Dust, from the intensive cutting and welding which takes place in the same workshop, was constantly clogging the cables, sockets and connecters feeding code to the gas profiling centres, causing regular breakdowns.
The problem was compounded by moisture and fumes also affecting the cables and computer keyboards. Senior engineer Tim Paterson says the wiring system frequently used to break down during the night when no engineers were available to clean it. “We’d often lose the rest of the night shift on both machines. Even when it broke down during the day it meant an engineer had to stop what they were doing and repair it.
“Since we’ve had the solution in place, it’s saved us a lot of man hours carrying out repairs, and prevented many, many hours of downtime.”
That solution came in the form of a wireless barcode system to transmit the CNC codes from the server in the offices, to the two Messer Cortina machines.
Nichol McKay, which is based at Prestwick Airport in Scotland, manufactures components used in a wide range of products for a number of industries, including power generation, fork lift truck chassis, agricultural machinery, and earth moving equipment. Their CNC cutting machines are driven by the market leading sheet metal software Radan, including two Amada and two Trumpf punches, an LVD press brake, four Trumpf lasers and the two profile burning centres. “Without the CNC programming that Radan produces for us, we just wouldn’t be able to carry out any of the work we do,” says Tim Paterson. “We’ve used Radan, from Planit Software, for around ten years, and it’s absolutely essential to our business.”
During that time the CNC codes were fed to all the machines by cable from the server, as part of Planit’s Manufacturing Control Solutions. He says using MCS reduced the time needed to load programs by providing automatic upload, download and drip feeding of NC code files directly from the server to any of those machine tools. “Data is transferred at the highest possible speed without the risk of corruption.” MCS is a customisable software and hardware based solution, and because the system is totally independent, it was able to communicate effectively with Nichol McKay’s Amada, Trumpf, LVD and Messer Corina machines.
However, while the cable-based ethernet system was ideal for sending postprocessed code to the punches, lasers and press brake, the CNC code sent to the Messer Cortinas began to experience disruption. With the ever increasing work in the flame profiling and welding shed, the dusty and moist atmosphere affected the computer keyboards and cable connections, causing the growing number of breakdowns. “It was becoming so unreliable that we spoke to Planit to see if there was a way round the problem, and they came up with the wireless solution.”
The wires linking the profile cutters to the server were all removed, and a wireless box was fitted inside the control of both machines. A wireless router was mounted in the shed, which now handles all communication between server and machine.
In addition, because the computer keyboards were also affected by the atmosphere in the shed, they were replaced with a barcode system. “We print out the Radan setup sheet, which has the part numbers and barcodes on it. The barcode is the file name for the CNC program. Previously, the operators had to go across to the terminal, manually type in and search for the part numbers, which also meant there was the chance of errors. Now, rather than the operator having to type in the part number, he has a barcode reader at his machine that tells him which program to use.”
The flame cutters are used to manufacture the majority of Nichol McKay’s heavier products in 15mm to 70mm steel, such as bases for mobile power generators, fork lift truck chassis, and components for earth-moving equipment.
“With Planit’s wireless DNC system there are no wires, no mess, no downtime caused by breakdown, and no errors. It not only provides the solution to our problem, it also gives us peace of mind,” says Tim Paterson.