When Stowe Machine, Windsor, Conn., one of the Ladish Companies, was designing and building a new 10,000-ft 2 facility for its advanced precision machining operation, company engineers had to decide whether to stay with a traditional hard-wired shop-floor CNC automation network or go with a true wireless LAN communication solution. They chose a wireless system from MACDAC Engineering.
The system includes a WireFreeDNC Ascendant Technologies wireless distributed numerical control (DNC) software application, wireless Ethernet serial adapters, and access points. The Wire-FreeDNC solution connects the shop's CNC machines' RS-232 ports to wireless ethernet adapters, which are mounted on each machine tool. The adapters communicate with access points, which may be placed anywhere on the user's wired network. The access points then communicate with the WireFreeDNC software application, resulting in true wireless communication with respective CNC equipment.
There are no computers in the new facility linked to an existing building via fiber optics. Operators can request a file and receive DNC down-loads at the machine with no computer throughout the wireless network.
For the new building, flexibility is key. A wireless LAN provides the ability to ultimately communicate to an unlimited number of serial-enabled machines anywhere within the facility. It also eliminates wiring issues with regard to over-head cranes and electrical surges on ports caused by lightning strikes. Two years ago, the company suffered such a strike that disabled communications to 12 CNC machines, causing lost production and expensive repair.
An even more important advantage of wireless is that it provides the ability to move machines and reorganize manufacturing cells anywhere on the floor without changing cable numbers or reconfiguring software or hardware.
Stowe's new facility has a wireless infrastructure. MACDAC has helped configure its DNC system to remotely view CAD drawings and setup sheets from a laptop. With the use of Macro B programming at the CNC machines, Stowe's DNC software application performs remote monitoring of cycle processes. For example, if a machine alarms out, the software application automatically sends an e-mail message to the maintenance department. Plus, it provides the ability to monitor real-time status of such factors as spindle speed, X, Y, and Z positions, and feedrates.
MACDAC has helped Stowe configure the DNC software to queue up jobs for operators. File queuing helps to organize a preset number of parts or programs to each CNC machine without continuous operator intervention.