Automation and artificial intelligence may seem like bad words to some machinists. But as the manufacturing labor gap grows, bringing new technology to your modern machine shop is a great way to increase employee productivity.
Members of the NTMA Tech Team—Kevin Beach of R&D Manco, Marlow Knabach of DMG Mori, and Gisbert Ledvon of Heidenhain—recently participated in a panel discussion on driving employee productivity with technology. You can watch the full conversation on our website, but we’re highlighting some of their ideas right here.
3 Innovative Technologies Increasing Productivity in Modern Machine Shops
Technology shouldn’t be viewed as replacing employees but rather enhancing their performance. Recent developments in automation and technology enable small shops to save time and achieve more without hiring additional employees or buying new equipment.
Here are three technologies that can improve productivity in your shop:
1. Digital twins
You’ve probably heard the buzz about digital twins in the last few years. If you have yet to build a robust digital twin of your shop, you could be missing out on several benefits. But let’s back up; what exactly is a digital twin?
A digital twin is a highly detailed model of the tangible assets in your shop, like your machines, files, tools, and inventory. Modern machine shops can leverage digital twins for accurate simulation, predictions, and planning, all with the outcome of improved productivity. For example, a digital twin can simplify your quoting process by giving you critical insight into exactly how long a part will take to machine.
Digital twins can also help machinists optimize tool paths to reduce tool collisions or maximize their machine’s work envelopes by simulating machining before it happens. Both of these examples streamline production and reduce human inefficiencies.
2. Camera systems and vision technology
Consider how much your phone camera has evolved over the last decade. That same technology can increase productivity in your modern machine shop. Vision technology measures parts and verifies that they’re in the right position. It’s incredibly useful for optimizing setups and tool positions.
Vision technology can store images of your perfect tooling setup and use high-powered cameras to compare future setups and identify discrepancies, improving accuracy and efficiency. These camera systems are powerful enough to store your entire tool inventory, even if you have tens of thousands of potential tool positions.
Systems like ToolConnect automatically transfer tool presetter data to your CNC machines.
When a modern machine shop handles tool presetting manually, workers might enter incorrect information or lose valuable time to slow input.
ToolConnect allows operators to distill tool setting information into a barcode that can be scanned. The software then guides the user through the correct tool loading steps and automatically updates the correct tool offset information.
Machinists save time during tool setups and production runs, and the risk of human error is minimized.