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How do you decide between conversational (shop floor) programming and programming off line?

We are getting a new MAZAK vertical and I am wondering if we should switch from manual G code programming to Mazatrol. Our parts are mostly simple and we have small runs. I have done a little Mazatrol programming and it seems like a very useful tool. Are you aware of any drawbacks to this method? I looking forward to more great articles In MMS. Thank you. Darin Brockman


Response:

Darin,


While there may be some in this industry that disagree with me, my feeling is that conversational programming (like Mazatrol), while simple, should only be used if its application fits. Generally speaking conversational programming on the shop floor should only be used when there is no time to be preparing programs while the machine is running in production. That is, the machine must be down during the programming process. In this case, conversational programming makes the most efficient method to get programs prepared. Maybe lot sizes are very small and 90% or more of your jobs are new ones. Or maybe lead time is extremely short in conjunction with a high percentage of new jobs. These are common scenarios in contract shops (job shops) and tooling producing companies (or tool rooms in product-producing companies).


If there is time to be preparing programs off line, I urge people to do it. While it may take longer to get programs prepared, the machine can be producing during this task. This way, programs can be being prepared while the machine is in production. In most product-producing companies, for example, there is a great percentage of repeated jobs, so very few new programs must be prepared. Additionally, lead times are great enough to allow many things (including programming) to be done up-front, before the job hits the machine.


Admittedly, many conversational controls allow programs to be prepared while the machine is running, but with all the distractions an operator faces when running production, this is rarely feasible.


While there may be other factors that contribute to when conversational programming should be used, these are the most basic points. I hope I've answered your question. If more come up, please feel free to contact me again.


Responses:


This in response to the conversational verse G code programming, and what a story to tell. I work for a very big name , but our shop is very small, maybe 40 souls. During this recession we have done extraordinary things to survive, mostly because of our will to and a very talented group of people. And last ,but, not least our Mazak machine tools, mainly the mills have helped us keep up. We were able to bring in a lot of parts, efficiently and timely. Tooling and proving at remarkable speed. I believe we could have had 3 full time programmers and not met the deadlines imposed on us. We were able to do this with our pool of shop floor talent, letting everyone excel. Granted you will find G code in most of programs, because sometimes it is more cost effective, but Mazatrol eliminates the redundancy, letting talented shop floor people get the work out.


Another:


In response to your Mazatrol vs. G-code question, I have owned a Mazak vertical that had the capability to use either Mazatrol or G-code, as well as other Fanuc only machines. The question of whether or not to use the Mazatrol might not matter if you do not have any communication software that will enable you to download your Mazatrol part programs to your PC. I'm not sure which version of Mazatrol you are using, but before Fusion, you needed another program such as Griffo Brothers or Mazacam to be able to save part programs. These programs are (were) quite expensive, and I think only the Mazacam allowed the programming offline (it simulates Mazatrol).


Programming in Mazatrol is very easy, and quick, at least for simple parts. Every once in a while, you will have to "lie" to the machine to actually have it follow the path that you want. Experience will help here. Be careful though, since the machine will be actually processing quite a few movements from very little operator input, it is easy to "break" things. For example, if your safe approach distance for drilling a series of holes is +2.000 on Z, that doesn't mean that the machine will go up to +2.000 on Z BETWEEN the holes, but only on the approach to the first hole, and depart from the last. The distance on Z that it will move to, before moving to the next hole will be the clearance height for your peck drilling cycle. Not good if you have clamps on the top of the part. Yeah, I've broken a tool here and there!!


My advice would be to take the time and set up a Parametric system using standard G-codes. If your machines have different controls and codes, then set up one for each one. There literally is no faster and safer way to program...yet. Or if you don't feel comfortable with that, look at buying a CAM system - Gibbs and BobCad are easy to use. Communication can be managed with any number of free communication programs, such as NCLink form OneCNC. For cable wiring diagrams, refer to GE's Fanuc site.

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