PLANT

Avoid machining downtime


May 13, 2010
by Corinne Lynds

Predict tool changes by hourly increments.

Photo: iStockphoto

It’s certainly annoying and costly when production is interrupted because a machine tool unexpectedly gives up the ghost, or quality issues arise because the tool is past its best before date. DataRealm Inc.’s ToolMon makes tool life more predictable by giving production technicians, engineers and operators real-time status productivity reports.

The web-based monitoring system eliminates limits or restrictions on access: in other words, any computer in-plant or off-site with access to the company intranet, can connect. It also sends data to pagers, cell phones, marquees and e-mail.

“ToolMon allows managers to predict upcoming tool changes by hourly increments, provides immediate tool breakage analysis, connects directly to cutting machines and compares tool life across machines, departments and plants,” explains president Dave Fortin, from the company’s headquarters in Windsor, Ont.

The system uses OPC (OLE for process control) software on the company’s server to tunnel down into a PLC’s memory and grab data.

“Once we get into the PLC memory we can grab tool life, tool counts and various other key data,” explains Fortin. “From there, the pertinent information is pulled out into the server. Once you have that, you can slice it and dice it in many different ways to produce meaningful reports.”

Other DataRealm products
DataRealm offers a range of other systems that extract real-time data for manufacturers. Products include:
• quality information systems
• building management systems
• production and scrap counts
• downtime analysis
• part tracking/birth history
• custom applications
• Palm and Windows CE applications
• web-based applications

Launched originally in 2003/2004, ToolMon was the result of a project with one of North America’s largest automakers that had installed a fully automated cylinder head line with hundreds of CNCs in place, plus a hundred or more gantries.

“You couldn’t even see parts going by, it was all up in the air,” says Fortin. “It was a very large department and they had spent millions in tooling, and we basically developed this system for them.”