The XYZ of CNC

2 mins read

There are still companies out there yet to make their first step into CNC. XYZ is onto this and is taking steps to convert those yet to be convinced, as Mike Corbett, manager, applications and training, explains

XYZ Machine Tools organises regular CNC Appreciation Days at its four UK regional showrooms, the idea being to introduce non-CNC users to the technology and to upgrade the skills of existing users. Strictly off limits to the sales team, the feedback to date from participants is that these events are achieving these objectives. The main focus is on showing non-CNC users that the technology is relevant to small batch and prototype/one-off machining, and encouraging existing CNC users to expand their machining knowledge, and thereby increase their productivity and their company's competitiveness. When computer numerical control was still in its infancy, it could take six months for an operator to become totally familiar with a specific CNC system. This, combined with lengthy programming times, was a powerful disincentive to anyone, even a large OEM, contemplating a move from manual machining methods. With the introduction of more user-friendly systems, there is no longer the requirement to learn a computer language and a proficient manual machinist can learn to program a CNC machine within a day or so. Image: XYZ's Mike Corbett; training not selling The reason for this is simple: if you don't know how to say the word 'bicycle' in French, German, Japanese or whatever, then draw a picture. It's instantly recognisable. The same applies to the ProtoTRAK and Siemens controls fitted as standard to the XYZ range of CNC/manual and full-CNC machine tools. Forget about G and M codes. If you want to drill a hole, simply access the menu instruction and then follow the plain English prompts to create a graphical image. This enables the operator to set about generating a program in the same way as he would set about making the part on a manual machine tool. At this point, a non-CNC user may well be thinking: 'It's going to take 20 minutes to write a program and then I've still got to machine the part, whereas it's only going to take a few minutes on a manual machine'. But when XYZ issued a simple two-axis milling challenge, the fastest manual mill competitor took 70 minutes to produce the first part and would have taken another 70 minutes to produce a second component. It took 35 minutes to program that same part on a ProtoTRAK CNC/manual mill and 14 minutes to machine it… and it would have taken just another 14 minutes to produce a second part that was an exact replica of the first, in terms of dimensional accuracy and surface finish. An experienced CNC user will have other issues to address: he may want to know more about, say, internal thread cutting. So that could be one of the issues to focus on during a CNC Appreciation Day, the idea being to help individuals, whatever their current level of expertise. The golden rule is, 'Don't assume anything', and our role as trainers, all of whom have been awarded the Professional Trainer Certificate accredited by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, is not to sell CNC machines, but to equip people with the knowledge allowing them to make a balanced judgment concerning the merits of the technology, and to have the confidence to operate a CNC machine safely and productively. First published in Machinery June 2009