Full-scale training on mid-sized machines

July 1, 1998
Less powerful, smaller machine tools built for training perform like full-size machines, but at 10% of the cost.

Less powerful, smaller machine tools built for training perform like full-size machines, but at 10% of the cost.

The EMCO Maier training machines, PC Turn and Mill 50, are made with a rugged design to withstand a training environment, but cost 1/10 less than full-size machines.

Win 3D-View provides realistic part program simulation, going beyond the graphics normally represented on machine controls.

Control specific keyboards are interchangeable to help students realistically learn different systems.

The PC Mill 100 comes with accessories including pneumatic vice, automatic door open/close, coolant device, and DNC and robotics interface.

The PC Turn 120 is a powerful training machine that performs all the same functions of production lathes. Cost is kept down by reducing power and speed.

Ideally, students and employees would emerge out of training programs knowing how to use various control systems, machine complex parts, and program or manipulate CAD/CAM software. Unfortunately, gaining that kind of versatility in training is not always possible. Often times schools can't afford technologically advanced full-sized CNC equipment and manufacturers can't afford to let new employees spend precious production time learning these concepts on expensive, shop-floor machines.

For many, training machines could be the answer. EMCO Maier, a manufacturer of full-sized production machining centers headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, also makes training machine tools. According to Jeff Murray, technical services manager, training machines offer unique benefits compared to training on a full-sized machine, and they can be purchased at 1 /10 the cost.

Murray says the biggest benefit for using the EMCO training machines is the interchangeable control system. Any given training machine is on-line with a PC that can host up to four different control software programs—GE Fanuc, Siemens, Heidenhain, and EMCOtronic. These programs operate and function identically to the original control systems.

"Our controls don't 'emulate' common-industry controls," says Murray. "We have gotten permission to use their language and screens. Our controls are exactly like the real production-line controls."

Interchangeable, brand-specific keyin panels also enhance the realism of varying controls. Changing from a Siemens to a Fanuc system is as easy as switching the control panel and double clicking on the preferred control software icon to choose the new operating system. Murray says EMCO has plans to offer six control systems by next year.

"For schools, our machines are ideal because they keep students on the cutting edge of technology without having to invest in expensive, full-sized equipment. For manufacturers, our machines let new employees learn different controls on one machine, and much-needed machine tools are not taken off production work to train."

Another consideration for manufacturers is the risk of letting inexperienced machinists run $300,000 machines. As Murray explains, "If an operator runs the tool into the workpiece or chuck due to a programming error, it can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 to fix the machine, which doesn't include any down time losses. On one of our machines, training software ensures that crashes result in a shutdown of the spindle, so there is no damage done to the machine. It only needs to be reset before resuming normal training."

One company that decided to try these tools for training was the Saturn plant in Springhill, Tenn. Saturn filled its training department with EMCO training equipment. Now manual machine operators and new employees can get acclimated to the CNC production environment before ever going out onto the shop floor.

Murray emphasizes that EMCO training systems do not just train workers to use EMCO full-sized systems. "Saturn is one of our training customers that does not own our full-sized equipment. The inter-changeable controls and basic machine design make our training line ideal for preparing workers for any machine."

Product offering
EMCO makes four systems—the PC Mill 50 and 100 and the PC Turn 50 and 120. The PC Turn 50 is $12,900, and the PC MILL 50 $15,900. The PC Turn 120 and PC MILL 100 are each $29,900. Cost is kept down by reducing power and speed.

Instead of machining difficult materials, students learn how to make parts in aluminum at a slower rate of speed. The 100 series, however, can also cut light steels.

The PC Mill and Turn 50 machines are both made w i t h a rugged design to withstand a training environment. There are no plastic machine bases or band iron ways. All machines are built along the lines of their full-size production counterparts. Both systems come with automation accessories like automatic door open/close, air blast for clean out, and robotic and DNC interface.

With the lack of experience typical of many trainees, EMCO places an emphasis on safety with its machines. Both 50 models have fully-enclosed machining areas, machining area door limit switches, lockable main-power key switches, and emergency stop-push buttons. The machines also meet stringent CE electrical and mechanical safety requirements.

The PC Mill 100 is a powerful machine that can perform all of the same functions as production milling machines. It has standard cast construction, hardened guideways, pre-loaded ball screws for X, Y, and Z axes, and 10 tool drum turret with directional logic. It also has chip blow out, high-resolution stepping motor, automatic lubrication for guideways, helical interpolation, enclosed work area, and CE safety standard compliance. Accessories include pneumatic vice, automatic door open/close, coolant device, and DNC and robotics interface.

The PC Turn 120 has a torsion-free, cast iron, slant-bed design, three-point support of the machine bed, hardened guideways, 8-station tool turret, fully-enclosed working area, and integrated machine stand. Its accessories include VGA color display, flood coolant system, pneumatic chuck and tail-stock, automatic door open/close, DNC and robotic interface.

Support software
There are four programs available for all four EMCO training machines: the EMCO Win-TrainCNC, EMCO Win 3D-View, EMCO WinCAM, and EMCO WinCTS. The WinTrainCNC is a menu-driven Windows software package that serves as a reference source and lesson plan for the classroom. The software presents a variety of basic concepts with an easy-to-use format that prompts the trainee. Graphic simulation aids learning for topics such as: cutting tools and materials, chip formation, lathe and mill construction, and CNC tooling requirements. Users receive immediate feedback to responses and incorrect entries are referenced to the software section that explains the concepts. The system also has video clips and over 900 pages of documentation.

WIN 3D-View is a graphic simulation software package that offers a 3D view instead of the line simulation normally represented on machine controls. The software provides realistic part-program simulation prior to actual machining to increase comprehension and safety. Students benefit from modeling options, "crash" control, and simulation start from any program block.

EMCO WinCAM is a seamless CAD/CAM system with an integrated NC code processor that directly controls the machine. It was developed to provide trainees with an easier, faster, and more efficient introduction to the total CNC process.

Users simply draw their workpiece on the screen and the part program is automatically generated in the desired machine-control format. The system has user guidance, graphic interface, and on-line help.

WinCAM is also compatible with other full-production CAD/CAM software so companies can use their own CAD and machining labs in conjunction with training. As Murray says, "A company can draw a part in AutoCAD and then download it into the WinCAM system. Then the training machine can make the part. And since the system has post-processors for each of our four offered controls, operators working in WinCAM can send programs to a full-sized production machine using one of those four systems."

EMCO WinCTS links multiple student training stations in an interactive PC network with the instructor station that controls the entire system. Instructors can send or receive information from any student station. Similarly, students can transmit their work to the instructor station. Students benefit from a split screen where they can work along with the instructor as the part program is developed step-by-step.

"This system is nice because a teacher can control student work. He can view each student's actions and take control of an individual station or all the stations at once, so students can watch him program on their screens."

Training material
All machines come with instructional courseware. The Instructor package includes everything necessary to complete several workpieces, including a teacher's guide, student worksheets, and overhead transparencies. The Instructor package, which comes in a briefcase, also holds finished part examples of each workpiece drawing, aluminum stock, and a 3.5-in. disk with all workpiece programs.

More thorough versions of the teacher's guide, student worksheets, and transparencies can also be purchased apart from the instructor package. For worksheets, the classroom guide provides a detailed, step-by-step, self-paced study that takes students through the machine operation and the control systems.

The Vision package is a complete set of detailed overhead transparencies that illustrate the intricacies of each machine control.

"Most people buy the Instructor package and all the separate offerings because they get all the information they need to start teaching right away. Teachers don't want to have to do a lot of preparation work. The market is demanding we offer everything educators need for teaching preparation," says Murray. Teachers also come to EMCO Maier in Columbus for initial training. "We train teachers all year long and offer 10 classes a year just on the training machines. We usually fill them up with 8 to 10 people per class. Training is free with each machine."