As well as achieving in-machining efficiencies through advanced tooling technologies and strategies, there are many gains to be had earlier in the process at the design and planning stage. At this stage, the digitalisation of previously manual processes such as tooling item selection and tool assembly creation can help to significantly increase efficiency and machining security.

Cutting tool data can in fact be gathered more accurately and used to create precise digital twin representations – a functionality that has become fundamental in the modern workflow to prevent errors at the machining stage. Today, such processes can be fully integrated with the user’s CAM software, and can be completed with a few simple clicks as part of an easy-to-use menu-driven process.

In machining applications, it is not individual tool items such as toolholders, cutters and inserts that are used on machines, but tool assemblies. In many instances this creates a somewhat laborious task for the CAM programmer, where there exist several opportunities for error, not least failing to select the optimum tool items in the first instance. Furthermore, many typical tool assemblies can take up to an hour to create. With some components demanding the use of 25 or more different tool assemblies, this is an enormous overhead to the business in terms of both time and cost.

The challenge isn’t to create the assembly itself – nowadays this can be created in just a few seconds by adding a description and the relevant parameters, for example diameter and length, into a CAM system without any external help. However, creating a digital twin representation for a tool assembly simulation is far from being a simple task. To make the most accurate possible representation of a tool assembly in a CAM system, the creator would first need to search various vendors’ catalogues, download the 3D model files, and assemble them in a CAD programme. Only then can they be created as a tool assembly in the CAM system, including the technical parameters.

Streamlined process

Clearly there is an opportunity to streamline the pre-machining process and make it more agile, something that can be achieved by integrated tool item recommendation and tool assembly creation within the CAM software platform. In this way, it is possible to cut the time required and increase security in design and planning processes.

With regard to tooling item recommendation and selection, an optimised, integrated solution would allow CAM programmers to select from holders, tools and inserts for milling, for example. Here, users would be able to choose a preferred source, such as a digital catalogue stored locally or a cloud assortment whose data are constantly and automatically updated. Then, once data such as component, material and type of machining operation have been input, users could simply click ‘get results’ to receive the speeds and feeds required for the selected tool.

One such solution is CoroPlus ToolGuide from Sandvik Coromant, which uses an open application programming interface (API) to connect with the CAM software. In short, CoroPlus ToolGuide enables users to find a suitable cutting tool for a given task. It creates an organised list of all the suitable tools, with the most economical choice at the top. It will also show the suggested machining process and cutting data.

The list is generated by an algorithm that matches the stated task and conditions with Sandvik Coromant tools. This algorithm holds information about the different machining processes that can be used for different tasks, while the product data on the tool holds information on the machining processes to which the cutter is suited. Importantly, all of the data can be sent to CoroPlus ToolLibrary, where standard tool assemblies can be created ready for export to the CAM or simulation software.

Easy access to tool data

For a productive CAM process, the programmer needs access to tool data, which is usually stored in so-called tool libraries. However, most of today’s tool libraries are empty, for a number of reasons, not least because it is difficult to find tool data and keep it up to date. In addition, until recently there has been no industry standard for communicating tool data.

There are approximately 1.2m manufacturing units in the world today, and all CAM vendors, machine tool builders and tool suppliers have historically had their own way to denominate and structure tool information. This is why ISO 13399 has been created. Sandvik Coromant, the KTH Royal Institute of Technology and other players in the metal cutting sector are behind the development of ISO 13399, which is now a globally recognised way of describing tool data.

This international standard defines tool attributes – for example length, width and radius – in a standardised way. Before the standard was written, three different suppliers may have called the diameter D3, D1 or DC2. With ISO 13399, however, the diameter will always be DCX, regardless of supplier.

ISO 13399 also simplifies the exchange of data for cutting tools. When all tools in the industry share the same parameters and definitions, communicating tool information between software systems becomes very easy.

CoroPlus ToolLibrary is built on the ISO 13399 structure and is open to all tooling suppliers, ensuring there is no longer any need to interpret data from paper catalogues and then manually enter it into the system.

Failsafe system

CoroPlus ToolLibrary allows CAM programmers to work with any tool vendor catalogue compliant to ISO 13399 standards and to create assemblies safe in the knowledge that all suggested items will fit together. The results can be viewed instantly in 2D and 3D, while users can also digitally store all information about the tools. Once saved, programmers simply import the tool assembly into their CAM or simulation software. All of the tool data is pre-set and a 3D model included.

Users report that this efficient and easy process makes it possible to cut the time from tool assembly to simulation by at least 50%. Plus, there is a much better chance of making the right tool choice in the first instance. Of course, having accurate tool data also means that collisions are possible to detect and avoid during simulation routines due to having the real tool shape and a precise digital twin representation.

The importance of accessible and accurate tooling data in pre-machining is vital to help address the challenges faced by CAM programmers on a daily basis. Through the latest digital solutions such as CoroPlus ToolGuide and CoroPlus ToolLibrary, it is possible to demonstrate how much easier and faster pre-machining tasks can be executed. Both are part of the wider CoroPlus suite of connected solutions from Sandvik Coromant, aimed at helping manufacturers prepare for Industry 4.0.