Implement Hassle Free Tool Changes

The Problem

From conversations with many of our customers, I have found that there are two key problems encountered when working with tool change-outs:

  1. Tool Identification:  “How do I know I have the right tool in there for the right job at the right time?”
  2. Cables & Connectors:  “How do I remember every time to disconnect them before the tooling is removed?  We spend thousands each year repairing dies with the cordsets torn out.”

The Solution

The solution to implement hassle free tool changes comes first in implementing a well documented and simple tool change procedure; and second in selecting the right technologies for the application.  Below are technology solutions that I think work well for the problems presented above.

Tool Identification:

  1. Controller not present:  If this is the case, many times, the best way to track is with a well oiled and well documented procedure that has solid and repeated training for all persons involved.
  2. Controller in Use:  Simple to complex RFID systems can be implemented on the fixtures or presses and then low cost ID tags attached to each tool or die in question allowing for the recording and tracking of vital information in the process.

Cables & Connectors:

  1. Low Number of Tool Changes:  To solve this problem, many companies implement a junction block with homerun cable approach.  It is fairly low cost and concentrates all of the connections so it is easier for the operator to remember to disconnect.
  2. High Number of Tool Changes:  In this solution, usually called quick die change in metalforming, a non-contact connector type product can allow for the passing of signals and power across a small air gap to the sensors and controller.  This technology requires no mechanical connection, reducing cable repairs.

for more information on tool ID and tool changing, click here.

Will Healy III is the Industry Marketing Director at Balluff Inc. in Florence, Kentucky and he is enthusiastic about smart manufacturing, automation and STEM education. Will graduated from Purdue University with a degree in mechanical engineering and has been sharing his passion for automation for more than 10 years in a variety of industries. He is published and quoted in various trade magazines, works as an industrial adviser for multiple universities and has widely presented on the value sensors, networking and IIoT bring to manufacturing.

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