Shop Works Without Wires

Shop Works Without Wires

Dearborn Precision's wireless system mounts in and on machine control cabinets.

Dearborn Precision Tubular Products (www.dearbornprecision.com) gave itself flexibility to change its operations in the future by choosing to use a wireless factory-automation system in a recent expansion. Dearborn Precision, which specializes in gun-drilling, deep-hole drilling and other machining operations, expanded and added new machines to keep pace with its growing workloads. The shop chose a wireless factory-automation system over a conventional hardwired DNC system.

Because of the facility's large size, the shop would have had to install a centralized direct numerical control system if it used a hardwired system, so it could not simply expand its existing DNC system. That would have required rewiring all the shop's machines — not just the new ones — and that would have required a significant investment of time and money.

By incorporating a WireFreeCNC wireless factory-automation system from CNC Computer Integrators LLC (www.wirefreecnc.com) and SuiteFactory software from CAD/CAM Integration (CCI) (www.suitefactory.com), Dearborn Precision avoided having to rewire its machines and ensured its freedom to move machines in the future without having to deal with data cables. Also, the shop will be able to add new machines to the network quickly and easily and will be able to get statistical process control information from machines and incorporate wireless part-gaging technology.

Three Dearborn Precision technicians installed the WireFreeCNC system on the shop's 22 machine tools in a day and a half. Most of the work involved mounting the system's internal units in the machine control cabinets and placing external antennas on top of them. Dearborn Precision runs its WireFreeCNC through an existing wireless phone system it has in its quality control department, but on a different frequency.

WireFreeCNC was developed for manufacturing applications and was designed to facilitate the use of leanmanufacturing practices, says John Carpenter, president of CNC Computer Integrations. Shops will be able to find productivity and accountability benefits in areas such as personnel and material tracking, remote troubleshooting for machines, transmission and retrieval of real-time data from processes, status reporting without human intervention, and notification of problems before catastrophic failures occur.

SuiteFactory software works with the WireFreeCNC system to upload and download programs and to back up all programs. "So if an item is accidentally deleted, we can retrieve it in the software's archives. Also, if operators question whether a program has been changed, we can compare it to the original," says Jerry Benoit, a programmer at Dearborn Precision.

Benoit says the shop is using about 10 percent of the software's capability, so it plans to use the software database for gathering SPC information from machines and generating reports. In addition, it is considering incorporating SPC wireless handheld gaging tools, such as those from L. S. Starrett (www.starrett.com). With those gaging tools, the shop will be able to measure parts at the machines and send data through the WireFreeCNC units. This will help to eliminate errors associated with operators having to walk from machines to an SPC station to enter part measurements.

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