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About CNC Controllers

CNC controllers are devices that control machines and processes. They range in
capability from simple point-to-point linear control to highly complex algorithms that
involve multiple axes of control. CNC controllers can be used to control various types of
machine shop equipment. These include horizontal mills, vertical mills, lathes and
turning centers, grinders, electro discharge machines (EDM), welding machines, and
inspection machines. The number of axes controlled by CNC controllers can range
anywhere from one to five, with some CNC controllers configured to control greater than
six axes. Mounting types for CNC controllers include board, stand alone, desktop,
pendant, pedestal, and rack mount. Some units may have integral displays, touch screen
displays, and keypads for control and programming.
Industrial communications options for CNC controllers include ARCNet, CANBus,
ControlNET, Data Highway Plus, DeviceNet, Ethernet 10/100 Base-T, parallel, PROFIBUS,
SERCOS, Universal Serial Bus (USB), serial (RS232, RS422, RS485), and web-enabled.
Communications language choices include bitmap, conversational, DXF file, G/M codes,
Hewlett Packard graphics language, and ladder logic. A bit map (often spelled "bitmap")
defines a display space and the color for each pixel or "bit" in the display space.
Conversational language is a higher level, easy to learn programming tool. It performs
the same functions as the standard G-code commands. Drawing eXchange Format (DXF)
file that was created as a standard to freely exchange 2 and 3 dimensional drawings
between different CAD programs. It basically represents a shape as a wire frame mesh of
x, y, z coordinates. G-code is the programming language for the Computer Numerically
Controlled (CNC) machine tools that can be downloaded to the controller to operate the
machine. M-code is the standard machine tool codes that are normally used to switch on
the spindle, coolant or auxiliary devices. Hewlett Packard Graphical Language (HPGL)
was originally created to send 2 dimensional drawing information to pen plotters, but has
since become a good standard for the exchange of 2 dimensional drawing information
between CAD programs. Ladder logic is a programming language used to program
programmable logic controllers (PLC). This graphical language closely resembles
electrical relay logic diagrams.
CNC controllers have several choices for operation. These include polar coordinate
command, cutter compensation, linear and circular interpolation, stored pitch error,
helical interpolation, canned cycles, rigid tapping, and auto-scaling. Polar coordinate
command is a numerical control system in which all the coordinates are referred to a
certain pole. The position is defined by the polar radius and polar angle. Cutter
compensation is the distance you want the CNC control to offset for the tool radius away
from the programmed path. Linear and circular interpolation is the programmed path of
the machine, which appears to be straight or curved, but is actually a series of very
small steps along that path. Machine precision can be remarkably improved through such
features as stored pitch error compensation, which corrects for lead screw pitch error and
other mechanical positioning errors. Helical interpolation is a technique used to make
large diameter holes in workpieces. It allows for high metal removal rates with a
minimum of tool wear. There are machine routines like drilling, deep drilling, reaming,
tapping, boring, etc. that involve a series of machine operations but are specified by a
single G-code with appropriate parameters. Rigid tapping is a CNC tapping feature where
the tap is fed into the work piece at the precise rate needed for a perfect tapped hole. It

also needs to retract at the same precise rate otherwise it will shave the hole and create
an out of spec tapped hole. Auto scaling translates the parameters of the CNC program
to fit the work piece.
Features common to CNC controllers include alarm and event monitoring, behind tape
reader, diskette floppy storage, tape storage, zip disk storage, multi-program storage,
self diagnostics, simultaneous control, tape reader, and teach mode.
Encoder interface closes the loop on control
The EnDat interface can transmit position values from incremental and absolute
encoders as well as transmitting or updating information stored in the encoder, or saving
new information.
Note: A free brochure or catalogue is available from http://www.heidenhain.co.uk on the
products in this news release.
Digital drive systems and feedback loops with position encoders for measured value
acquisition require fast data transfer with high transmission reliability from the encoders.
Further data, such as drive-specific parameters, compensation tables, etc must also be
made available. For high system reliability, the encoders must be integrated in routines
for error detection and have diagnostic capabilities.
The EnDat interface from Heidenhain is a digital, bidirectional interface for encoders.
It is capable both of transmitting position values from incremental and absolute encoders
as well as transmitting or updating information stored in the encoder, or saving new
Thanks to the serial transmission method only four signal lines are required.
The data are transmitted in synchronism with the clock signal from the subsequent
The type of transmission (position values, parameters, diagnostics etc) is selected by
mode commands that the subsequent electronics send to the encoder.
The EnDat interface provides everything needed to reduce system cost per axis up to
50% - and at the same time improve the technical standard.
The most significant benefits are: cost optimisation, improved quality and higher
Measurement technology is key to automation
Advances in machine accuracy, on-machine touch probing technology and noncontact
tool setting provide powerful tools for automating and speeding mould machining, says
Barry Rogers.
Note: A free brochure or catalogue is available from http://www.renishaw.com on the
products in this news release.
Drives to faster, leaner, more flexible manufacturing are shifting industry focus away
from traditional post-process quality control. The most expensive, non-value-added
process in most shops is part inspection. Inspecting good parts - parts that meet all print
specifications - is a waste of time, money and manpower.

Rather than back-end detection, attention is shifting to front-end prevention.

The aim is to make 100% good parts, right the first time, to ever-tighter tolerances in the
lowest possible total processing time.
Under that mantra, a variety of practices and technologies are being applied to machine
tools to achieve greater process control.
Automated process checks can keep process and parts in control, while minimising
downtime for operator intervention. These process control improvements can be
particularly vital for mouldmaking. The one-off nature of most mould/die work and the
high accumulated value that can go into a complex mould demand right-the-first time
At the same time, shorter lead times and global competition force the need for faster
mould processing.
By minimising need for operator intervention, these process controls give mouldmakers
an 'eye on the job' during long machining runs and lightly staffed second and third shifts.
Front-end prevention takes three forms: identifying and maintaining machine capability;
in-process probing; and automated tool monitoring.
A technology leader in all three areas, Renishaw offers single-source expertise and
assistance in creating an integrated programme of mouldmaking process control.
To move from defect prevention, you must be able to document your process capability
and the accuracy of your machine tools.
To do this, inspect them to a nationally recognised and accepted standard, such as
ISO230 or ASME B5.54.
Both call for a ballbar and laser interferometer to be used with a recommended
procedure for checking machine tool accuracy.
The purpose of these standards is not to specify an accuracy the machine must meet,
but to find out what accuracy level it can meet - its process capability.
The part print dictates the accuracy your machine must have to make good parts - where
to set the accuracy bar.
Testing tells you how high your machine can jump.
As long as your machine can top the bar, you have process capability.
Test and calibration technology are now available - and affordable - to enable shops to
ensure the accuracy and health of their machine tools.
Plants and large shops increasingly maintain their own laser interferometers and
electronic levels, while rental equipment and diagnostics services are commercially
available to small shops from various sources and competitively priced.
Renishaw's QC10 ballbar system is readily affordable by virtually any shop and provides
a fast, 15-minute check-up for prevention and diagnosis in maintaining machine
The ballbar test allows precise assessment of machine geometry, circularity and
stick/slip error, servo gain mismatch, vibration, backlash, repeatability and scale
Renishaw's Ballbar5 software provides diagnosis of specific errors in accordance with
ISO230-4 and ASME B5.54 and B5.57 standards, then provides a plain-English list of error

sources rank-ordered according to their overall effect on machine accuracy.

This allows maintenance people to target those factors which most need attention.
Periodic ballbar testing enables trend tracking of machine performance.
Preventive maintenance can be scheduled before a machine drifts out of process
The industry trend is to calibrate the machine on need, not time.
There is no reason for maintenance to pull a perfectly good machine out of production
for calibration.
Let the ballbar and the accuracy of your parts determine when something has gone awry.
Meantime, run production.
Today's standard machine tools can deliver accuracy and repeatability approaching
levels formerly available only on CMMs.
This enables the machine tool itself to be used for probing checks of workpieces during
critical stages of the machining process.
Once a machine tool's performance as a measuring instrument has been established, the
touch probe becomes the operator's CNC gauge.
Probing routines can be programmed as part of the machining process and automatically
run at various points to check feature dimensions and locations and apply necessary
This saves operators from using dial indicators and shim stock, or eliminates errors in
manually entering fixture, part and tool offsets into the control.
Probing on the machine makes it part of the process - a powerful process improvement
tool for making parts right the first time in the shortest throughput time.
Used to locate the part automatically and establish a work co-ordinate system, probing
cuts setup time, increases spindle availability, lowers fixture costs, and eliminates
nonproductive machining passes.
On complex parts, 45 minutes of fixture alignment can be replaced by 45 seconds of
touch probing - performed automatically by the CNC.
When starting with a casting or forging, probing can determine workpiece shape to avoid
wasted time in air-cutting and help determine best tool approach angle.
In-process control uses touch probing to monitor size and position of machine features
during the cutting process, as well as verify precise dimensional relationships between
various features at each step to avoid problems.
A touch probe can be programmed to check actual machined results at various stages
against the program and automatically apply cutter compensation - particularly after
rough machining or semi-finish machining.
Reference probing - comparing part features to a dimensional master or reference
surface of know location or dimension - enables the CNC to determine positioning
discrepancies and generate an offset to make up the difference.
By probing the artefact before a critical machining pass, the CNC can check its own
positioning against the master's known dimensions and program an offset.
If the dimensional master is mounted on the machine and exposed to the same
environmental conditions, reference probing can used to monitor and compensate for
thermal growth.
What results is a closed-loop process requiring no operator intervention.
Every machine has its own set of numerous small errors in its motions and structure.
As a result, there is always a slight discrepancy between a CNC's programmed position
and the true position of the tool tip, even after laser compensation has brought the two
into closer agreement.

Programmable artefact probing provides a way to further compensate for remaining

machine errors.
It gives process control feedback to enable positioning accuracy that can approach the
machine's repeatability specification.
Such closed-loop process control can allow a machining centre to achieve accuracies
comparable to boring mills and other high-precision machines.
Many probing operations are accomplished through the use of memory- resident macro
Work co-ordinate updates, tool geometry changes, part measurement etc, are
automatically determined by the CNC after the successful completion of a probing cycle.
This eliminates costly errors resulting from miskeyed information or incorrect
Used to inspect parts after machining, probing can reduce the length and complexity of
off-line inspection, and it some cases eliminate it altogether.
Inspecting on the machine is particularly beneficial with large, expensive workpieces,
such as mould or dies, which can be especially difficult and time-consuming to move.
Here, too, reference probing against a traceable artefact can be used to compare final
dimensions to the known dimensions for a metrology master.
When making this comparison, the CNC can determine if the specific machining
tolerances were actually achieved.
Based on these results, an intelligent decision can be made on corrective actions, while
the workpiece is still on the machine tool.
Laser tool setters provide a fast, automated means to verify tool dimensions, especially
critical in checking for wear during the long machining runs in mouldmaking.
A cost-effective solution to high-speed, high-precision tool setting and broken tool
detection, laser tool setters rapidly measure tool length and diameter on-the-fly, while
the tool is indexing through the laser beam and rotating at normal speeds.
Laser checking at working spindle speeds identifies errors caused by clamping
inconsistencies and radial run-out of the spindle, tool and toolholders - not feasible with
static tool setting systems.
Renishaw's NC family tool setters can perform broken tool detection at maximum
traverse to further minimise out-of-cut time.
As the tool moves through the laser beam, system electronics detect when the beam is
broke and issues and output signal to the controller.
The NC systems can accurately measure tools as small as 0.2mm diameter anywhere in
the beam.
The system triggers when the laser beam is broken beyond a 50% threshold by the tool
being checked.
The noncontact tool setting system uses a visible-red diode laser proven reliable in
machining conditions.
Advanced electronics and simplified design makes noncontact tool setting an affordable
alternative to contact systems.
No moving parts make NC systems virtually maintenance free.
The design avoids the brackets and actuators with contact-based systems.
Housed in a rugged stainless steel unit, the NC laser tool setters feature Renishaw's
MicroHoleTM protection system.
This uses a continuous stream of compressed air to keep out contaminants and provide
uninterrupted protection from chips, graphite and coolant ingress, even during
measuring routines.

Three different Renishaw NC systems enable installation on nearly any size and
configuration of machine tool without impinging on the work envelope.
These proven, affordable control technologies can allow greater automation of mould
machining with greater process control.
They can make it possible for mouldmakers to produce moulds faster, with greater
geometric and dimensional accuracy, and less operator intervention, rework or manual
finishing. Request a free brochure from http://www.renishaw.com
High Speed Milling Machines
High speed machining is characterized by low cutting forces and high metal removal.
High Speed Milling is a technique used in the CNC Machining Industry that combines high
spindle speeds with increased feed rates. This results in a high chip-forming rate and
lower milling forces, producing an improved surface quality finish and closer tolerances.
In high speed milling, the electronics can make all the difference. The right CNC coupled
with other elements of the control system can let a slower machine mill a given form
faster than a machine with a higher top feed rates.
1. High Speed Uses
High-speed CNC milling is used, for example, to machine the titanium rotors of the first
high-pressure compressor stages of the EJ200 engine. High speed CNC milling allows
cost-effective milling of the different airfoil geometry from the solids. By subsequent
finishing operations the planned surface finish is achieved. The CNC milling which caters
to high speed must be structured with an axis movement system that is suitable for CNC
2. Axis Movement
The high-speed CNC milling machines required for the process must be fitted with an
axis movement system suitable for machining blisks, which should be at least 5 axes
simultaneously, depending on the milling task involved and an efficiently high-speed
control system.
3. 3D Surfaces
High Speed CNC milling machines working on 3D surfaces in any materials produce a
finer surface finish and higher accuracy in less time that the traditional milling machine.
Acceleration is the most critical factor that affects the high speed machining. Since one
or more axis are always increasing or decreasing velocity in a 3-D cut, ultimate feed rate
is directly related to acceleration
4. What Can A High Speed Control Possibly Do?
A CNC milling machine which possesses a higher structural stiffness has a greater
potential acceleration rate. Box shaped high speed CNC milling machine, like Bridge and
Gantry is the mostly widely used types of High speed CNC milling tools. The overhead
type Gantry exudes the highest stiffness, acceleration and accuracy among other high
speed CNC milling tools. Due to its scalability, this machine type is available in sizes to
match the work piece, from small to large.
In usual terms, it simply gives you the ability to finish one task faster and move along to
the next sooner, making work output higher. In drilling and tapping, this can result in
faster hole-to-hole times, quicker spindle reversals for tapping, and substantial cycletime reductions. The most dramatic benefits, though, come in 3D designs machining.
Few, drilling and tapping jobs require a million lines of machine codes. In molds, dies,
patterns, and prototypes, complex surfaces comprising a million or more line segments
are not at all uncommon. Saving just a fraction of a second per move can result in

substantial cycle-time improvements.

5. Downsides - When Is Fast Too Fast?
But despite all these benefits, in high milling, the tool path segments can be so short
that a machining center moving at a high feed rate can't accelerate or decelerate fast
enough to make direction changes accurately. Corners may be rounded off and the work
piece surface may be gouged. Look-ahead is one answer. Look-ahead capability can let
the CNC read ahead a certain number of blocks in the program, to anticipate sudden
direction changes and slow the feed rate accordingly.
6. Additional Benefits:
- Improved accuracy - Better fit - Superior finish - Better life - Produce more work in less
time - Improving the accuracy and finish - Reducing polishing and fitting time - Tools
simply last longer because their chip load is more consistent.
Part Program Selection on a Fanuc Power Mate with a Selector Switch
Author: ControlOn
Fanuc Power Mate (Models D, F) has an option called Workpiece Number Search. Using
this option, the PMC can initiate the execution of a specified part program. This is
especially useful in cases where the Power Mate is used to control special purpose
machines that produce a known set of components. Such applications are found in batch
production factories.
How it Works:
To synchronize the PMC and CNC functions, there is a communication area in the Fanuc
Power Mate where the PMC & CNC exchange signals. These are a set of bytes and there
are two areas namely:
a) The G area - signals from the PMC to the CNC
b) The F area - signals from the CNC to the PMC
By selectively loading G009 with a value in the range 1-255, the CNC will execute a
program between O001 to O255.
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