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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Your Way Lube System - Friend or Foe ?

Your CNC machine is equipped with an automatic oiler system. Great ! You won't have to think about oiling the machine and an alarm will tell you when the tank is dry. What a great device ? Right ?

Well, that is the design. Unfortunately, along with the "automatic" description of the system comes the "out of sight, out of mind" aspect of the system. Because many people know it is an automatic system, many people put it out of their minds and simply wait for the alarm to come up showing that the tank is empty and needs to be filled. But what if that alarm never comes on because the tank isn't empty ? Why wouldn't the tank be empty ?

As your machine gets older, the way lube system will require service just like any other mechanism. The main problem, which often gets overlooked, is that the "tank empty" alarm never comes on because the tank never drains and nobody ever notices it. Now your machine runs for months on end with no lubrication on the ways and when you finally notice a problem, it's too late. Here is the "Rest of the Story ..."

PROBLEM :  The machine's ways are not receiving any way lube oil.

  • Positioning / Repeatability Problems
  • Axis makes noise when moving
  • Axis Drive motor overload alarm coming when the axis is moving

  • Way Lube Pump burned out.
  • Way Lube Pump distribution flow set too low.
  • Way Lube Pump filter CLOGGED
  • Way Lube line BROKEN
  • Metering Units are CLOGGED

(1) Way Lube Pump Burned Out : If the way lube pump is burned out, obviously there will not be any lube getting into the system. These pumps are usually set using a timer system. There is basically two types of timer systems used :

  • The pump is on a cam and the way it works is that the pump is always running. One gear turns another which acts like a step-down system and the second gear raises a "primer" lever. When the lever reaches the top of the stroke, the "primer" lever is released and the oil is pushed into the lines. This whole cycle can take 5-20 minutes meaning that even though the pump is always running, the lines get lube only every 5-20 minutes.
  • How to Check It : Take a flashlight and look in the tank or remove the oil tank. Once looking inside, you can see the main gear that should be constantly moving. It may be at a very slow pace, but you will see it moving.
  • The pump is set to an electrical timer set in the controls PC (programmable controller) or an actual physical electrical timer in the cabinet. This type of timer only supplies power to start the pump for every cycle.
  • How to Check It : On some pumps there is no primer lever but a light comes on on the tank when the pump is activated. Make sure this light comes on every 5-20 minutes or some other sign comes on to show the pump is activated every 5-20 minutes.

(2) Way Lube Pump distribution flow set too low : As stated above, the way lube pump usually is set using a timer system. The flow amount that gets distributed into the lines during every cycle is usually set and adjusted at the pump with a manual setting mechanism. This type of adjusting mechanism is usually a knob that can be turned higher or lower to set more or less flow. Also, just look at the primer lever. During the mentioned 5-20 minute cycle, you should see the primer lever raise slowly and then start to drop after reaching the top of the cycle. Check the stroke of the lever - short stroke, less flow.
  • How to Check It : The normal pump usage is in an 8 hour shift, you should fill the tank every 2-3 days. Also, you should see way lube flowing onto the ways. Always remember, the more flow the better. Yes, it may contaminate the coolant but that is better than ruining the ways and thus the machine just to save a couple of bucks.

The photo above shows a way lube pump unit which includes a manual flow control device. Adjusting the white knob adjusts the amount of lube being distributed per one cycle of the lube pump. When this type of pump is working correctly, you can see the white knob rising slowly then retracting, pushing the lube into the lines. The amount of rise and fall, and therefore the amount of lube distributed, is determined by the flow adjustment.

(3) Way Lube Pump filter CLOGGED : The way lube tank usually has a filter between the tank itself and the oil line that starts the distribution. This filter is usually in the tank itself at the bottom of the primer lever or in-line right after the main distribution line leaves the tank. It will get clogged over time, especially if there is no filter at the oil fill hole or if someone takes off the filter when filling the tank.
  • How to Check It : Disconnect the main lube line where it exits the tank to feed the system or after the in-line filter if so equipped. When the cycle reaches the pump stage as outlined above, oil should flow through this connection. The flow should be strong at this point. If not, remove the oil tank and search out the filter or remove the in-line filter. They can often be cleaned with a cleaner but the best remedy is to replace it.
(4) Way Lube line BROKEN : Oftentimes a lube line in the system gets crimped or broken during machining or during service. These way lube systems are usually "pressurized" so to speak and if the pressure is released at one point, say at the broken line, the oil will flow all to that point, depriving all the other lines of fluid.
  • How to Check It : When the pump is in the pumping stage, the primer lever should fall slowly. This is due to the fact that it is pushing the oil into the system. If a line is broken, the primer lever will fall quickly as all oil is funneled to the broken line area only. On systems without a primer lever, the pump may have a pressure gauge on the pump. During the pumping cycle, the pressure should register for a couple of seconds as the oil is pumped into the lines. If the pressure is low or does not come up at all during the pumping cycle, a line in the system may be broken.
(5) Metering Units are CLOGGED : In order to create the "pressure" of the system needed for even distribution, each oil line leads to a "metering unit" where the flow is lowered and the oil is discharged. When the pump forces oil into the lines, they all fill and flow to the metering units where the flow is stopped. Each metering unit is set to discharge the desired amount or "drops" of oil and perform their individual duties. Since some areas require more lube, the metering units can be different for each line or area. Since these metering units have actual valve type components in their very small bodies, over time these units can be become clogged or the inner workings can become stuck.
  • How to Check It : This is a much harder area to check. The best remedy and prevention is to change these units every year as part of a yearly maintenance program. Because these units allow only drops to flow through, they are harder to see when troubleshooting. These metering units are usually located in "clumps" around the machine. Several lines lead to these central areas and lube lines are branched out from here to the various areas of the machine. Replacement metering valves should be obtained from the machine tool builder or dealer to insure that you are getting the correct replacement part. When changing these units, pay close attention to the flow arrow that is commonly marked on the units themselves. This arrow shows the direction of installation and flow. Check the original unit before removal and replace accordingly.

The photo above shows an example of some metering units. These individual fittings are usually located in one or two main terminal blocks that feed certain areas of the machine such as the axis and ball screws. As the system fills with pressure and lube, these fittings discharge the lube at their pre-set flow rate into their lube lines. Over time, like cholesterol in the arteries, these units become clogged and no longer allow lube to exit and thus deny vital areas of the machine the way lube they require. As part of a yearly maintenance program, metering units in the machine should be replaced as a precautionary measure.

Due diligence and a little tracking will 
insure your Happy ( and ACCURATE ) Chip Making
 for years to come !!

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cutter Compensation - A Programmers Best Friend

In this Making Chips post ... we would like to touch on some of the points regarding cutter compensation ... when turning ... angles and radii ... on Fanuc based CNC controls.

Many programmers shy away from cutter compensation ... primarily because they have never taken the time to fully understand both it's power nor how to use it properly. But the reality is that cutter comp is one of a programmers best friends. The most common reason goes something like this "It's just as easy to have the CAD/CAM system compensate for the TNR ( tool nose radius ) and out put the hard numbers." That is true ... but life on the shop floor makes this a bad practice. A couple of reasons why :

  1. The "numbers" in the G code don't match the "numbers" on the part ... because they are taking into account the TNR. If manual edits need to be made ... even simple edits ... this makes it much harder because the part dimensions don't match the G code numbers.
  2. Say after cutting ... the conditions warrant either a bigger or smaller TNR for better cutting conditions. If cutter comp is used ... it's a simple offset change. If not ... it's a trudge back to the CAD/CAM guy or system to re-post and make a new G code program for the revised tool and it's TNR.
  3. In milling ... let's say I broke my last perfect .250R end mill ... but I have a re-ground one that is .245R.. Again, if cutter comp is used ... it's a simple offset change. If not ... it's another trudge back to the CAD/CAM guy or system to re-post and make a new G code program for the revised tool radius.

But here we are going to stick with turning here ... and here are a couple of simple rules for when to use and when not to use cutter compensation.

  • Whenever angles or radii are involved ... you must use TNR compensation or the angles and radii will be off. Because the programmed point of the cutting tool, an imaginary sharp point, does not coincide with the actual point of the cutting tool which always has some corner radius. For this reason, when machining close tolerance angle or radius cuts, inaccurate workpieces will be produced. The amount of error is proportional to the amount of the tool nose radius.
  • Only worry about using it for finishing ... It's really not worth the effort to use it roughing ... the amount you leave for finish allowance will probably "hide" the mismatch due to the TNR.
  • You must start cutter comp with a "start up block". This block is usually the move as you approach the part ... the move distance must be greater than the radius in the TNR offset. So if your tool has a radius of .032 ... make a move at least .035 ... preferably more. 
  • Make sure that your TNR is less than any radius on the part ... don't try to jam an .032 tool into a .020 radius ... alarms will greet you somewhere along the way.
  • We'll cover some additional thoughts at the end of the post.

The Details :
The CNC control has the capability to automatically compensate for the tool nose radius thru the CUTTER COMPENSATION codes of G41 and G42. G41 is called cutter compensation left. The left side is explained as the side of the workpiece the cutting tool is on when viewed in the direction of cutter movement or the cutter is moving on the left side of the programmed path. Once commanded, G41 or G42 are modal commands and remain active until the G40 or cancel condition is obtained.

In Fanuc controls, in addition to commanding G41 or G42 direction, the programmer must also tell the control two other aspects of the cutting tool which are : (a) the amount of the tool nose radius and (b) the imaginary tool tip location. Both these values are entered in the tools geometry or wear offset table. In the offset table, the R value is the amount of the tools nose radius. If the program called T0101 in the tool command, in offset table #1, under the R column, the nose radius of the tool would be entered. The T column in the offset tables holds the imaginary tool tip location.

Cutter compensation must be programmed using what is commonly referred to as a start up block. This block, which must be a G01 type block, is used to activate the cutter compensation before the cutting tool actual contacts the workpiece. The movement amount in the start up block must always be greater than the nose radius of the tool stored in the R column of the offset table. Circular commands using G02 or G03 are not allowed on start up blocks.

G40 is used to cancel the automatic compensation of the tool nose radius. G40 should always be commanded on a G00 block as the tool moves away from the workpiece with the tool in a clearance position.

More Rules and Thoughts :
Many rules apply in the use of cutter compensation as the control is always checking the tool position so it can calculate for the tool nose radius. Three rules of thumb apply and should keep you free of the controls cutter compensation alarms :

(1) Always command a start up block before contacting the workpiece and move in the
G01 mode with a move greater than the nose radius of the tool.

(2) Use cutter compensation primarily in the finishing cut and try to eliminate it in the roughing
passes. The more moves made with G41 or G42 modal, the more likely for a
problem. To finish the part, use the start up block, finish cut the part and
command G40 when done. If additional cuts are required, use another start
up block and cancel the cutter comp each time as soon as the profile cut is

(3) Always cancel G41 or G42 using the G40 command. The best place to command G40 is
on a G00 block, at a clearance point or moving to a clearance point.

Because cutter compensation causes the control to perform some powerful calculations and is a complex command, you should also consult your controls instruction manual for further info on G41 or G42.

Happy Chip Making !!

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