Tooling and Integrating Your First CNC

Congratulations, you’ve just bought your first CNC!  The price tag was a bit overwhelming, but breaking the price down into monthly and weekly costs makes the expense easier to rationalize.  The manufacturer has assured you that this machine will replace the majority of your current manual equipment and perform the same tasks much more efficiently.  Builds which would take weeks can now be accomplished in hours with greater accuracy and quality.

You’ve configured the machine footprint on your shop-floor, contracted an electrician to install the proper disconnect, and a dust collection company to install an external collector and piping.  The machine will arrive tomorrow, and the riggers will be here in the morning to off-load and set the machine.  A service tech from the manufacturer will arrive the following day to complete installation and begin training your operators.

Ready, set, WAIT… Tooling! You’ve completely forgotten about the tooling!  Unfortunately, this scenario is all too frequent.  Manufacturers focus on the machine, not realizing the machine is simply a big tool holder.  They don’t consider the importance of proper tooling when the tooling actually controls the efficiency, productivity, and ROI of the machine!  Make the wrong choices regarding tooling, or run tools at the wrong parameters, and your new production battleship becomes a tugboat.

Take for instance a Midwest cabinet manufacturer, who contacted us to urgently tool up their first CNC.  Thankfully basic collet chucks, solid carbide routing tools, and boring bits were stock items, but there are critical considerations when deciding which tools to utilize.

Tool holding is one of the most important considerations because this is the first point at which a weak link can be introduced to an otherwise rigid and precise machine.  Collet chucks may suffice for start-up purposes, or when running seldom used tools, but flexible collets allow for significant tool deflection and run-out.  Thankfully the customer was aware of and understood the value of the Leitz ThermoGrip heat-shrink chucks.  This collet-free chucking system extends the machine spindle rigidity and precision through the cutting tool.  By maintaining the perfect tool centerline, cutting pressure and workload are equally divided, providing excellent cut quality while yielding upwards of 25% longer tool life and allowing significantly higher processing speeds.  Thanks to the ThermoGrip chucking system, the customer believed in and is now realizing more than $16,000 in annualized operational savings (based on current single-shift production levels).

leitz, thermogrip, tooling, woodworking toolsThe customer inquired about the value of the Leitz solid carbide router bits offered, stating they could by the “same style” compression bit at a slightly lower cost from another source.  As always, we suggested the customer test both tools and track differences in longevity.  Solid carbide routers may look alike but can be made from dramatically different grades of carbide.  Carbide is essentially powdered tungsten (cutting element), held together with a cobalt binder and some trace performance elements.  The differences cannot be seen visually, but a hard carbide composition with 3% cobalt concentration will generally far outlast a softer carbide with 10% cobalt concentration.  Add to this a protective coating, and the slightly more expensive tool may outlast the lesser tool by a factor of 2 or 3 times.  The customer completed their testing and chose to use the Leitz tool for this reason.

This company also wanted to convert their old shaper profiling tools for use on the new CNC.

While It may be possible to convert certain shaper tools for use on a CNC, that may not the best choice. Your new CNC will process material at a much faster rate, and more than twice the RPMs, generally using lighter, more compact tools.  Beyond size and weight issues, the CNC will hold much tighter tolerances, but only if you equip it with precision tooling.

The customers’ existing three-wing, carbide-tipped tools may have “worked” on their shaper, but workpieces required significant manual repair and sanding.  Wanting to eliminate this expensive off-line processing, the customer was interested in higher quality profiling tools.  They found this quality in Leitz ProfilCut Q profile insert system, a light-weight and highly precise profiled insert system which provides almost perfect knife-to-knife precision.  Not only did these tools fit within the machine spindle weight and collision diameter specifications, but they also cut extremely quiet and provided a cut quality which did not require post-machine sanding.  The customer also appreciated the fact that they could manufacture various profiles through simple knife changes, and that these coated knives provided exceptional service life.

Even more critical than tool design is ensuring the operator understands how to optimize performance through proper operational parameters.  Even the best tools can be quickly destroyed by part movement, overheating, or excessive cutting pressure.  The Leitz consultant took the time to educate the operators about essential variables such as rim speed, chip-load, mass removal and part fixturing.  Above all, operators must ensure workpieces are securely held in place, vibration is eliminated, cutting pressure is regulated, and friction heat is removed from the cutting process via the wood chips.   Understanding how to apply these relatively simple machining parameters is the key to maximizing CNC process efficiency and profitability.

How can we help your production team maximize their process efficiency?

Leitz is the trusted tooling partner for today’s manufacturing leaders. For over 140 years, Leitz has set the standard for tooling development, innovation, application expertise, and service. We empower our customers with the right solutions to optimize their entire manufacturing process to meet their business goals.

Form a partnership for continuous improvement with Leitz. Fill out the form below or contact us at 800.253.6070 to talk about solutions.