Organizing the Programming Process

You Already Know the Problems

Say goodbye to NC setup sheets.

Files, files, files.....

  • What are all these files?

  • What is a .clf, .fan, .nci, .cl, .igs, .pdb, .dwg, ...file anyways?

  • Am I looking in the right folder?

  • Are these the current set of files or are they obsolete?

  • Where are the post processed files I'm supposed to run?

  • Which programs have been run on the machine already?

  • What programs did the 2nd shift run?

  • Someone accidentally deleted all the finish programs!

  • Did I run this program already?

Back in the 20th century shops used NC setup sheets to convey information to the machinists on the shop floor what is to be machined, what machine tool to use, what programs are to be run, what tools to use for each program and so on. A traveler with the setup sheet was produced in the office and physically walked out to the shop and put in the hopper for scheduling. NC programs created and post processed for the job were organized on a server using the directory structure and naming conventions that shop standards dictated. As the programs were run, the machinists would mark up the setup sheet to indicate progress.

What could possibly go wrong?

"Fugetaboutit! That program won't crash the machine. It's OK. Trust me."

Anything and everything. A common site was machine tools idle while shop and office staff confer about the programming:

  • Disagreements about tool selection or the tools listed on the setup sheet were not available.

  • A program listed on the setup sheet is not on the server.

  • Program parameters are causing excessive tool wear or exceed the capabilities of the machine.

  • One or more programs listed on the sheet seem to be in the incorrect order (the walls of a pocket are machined before the pocket is cleared of stock).

  • The program was post-processed for a different machine tool so the program won't run on the CNC.

  • And the worst-case scenario; a machine tool crash just happened and the blame game begins.

A Better Way

Prospector does away with the rat's nest of files because it is project-based. A Prospector project encapsulates all the data associated with the machining of a job. Pick the project to open, and everything is there and it's organized. No more roaming around file systems trying to find data files.

All programs created to machine the component appear in the Program List:

The Program List is a tree structure that organizes the NC programs so you can make sense out the entire machining process.

Job & Project - the top-level folder in the tree control is the job number and project for that job that you are currently working on.

Setup Information - a setup defines how the part is positioned on the machine tool. There can be any number of setups in a project. In this example there is just 1 setup and it was named "Top".

Machining Categories - Rough, Semi Rough, Semi Finish and Finish are machining categories. Within these categories are the programs to perform the phase of machining for the job. Because the programs are categorized like this, you can setup your PowerSource knowledge-base to suggest and enforce parameters for each phase of machining. For example, your stock allowance for finish machining would be far less than for rough machining.

Program Information - each program for each phase of machining is listed in the order it was created and intended to be run on the machine. Prospector automatically assigns each program a unique number as they are created. You can designate a different prefix to use for program names and/or renumber the programs if you wish. The tool information is always shown for each program. Additional columns of information you wish to see can be added to the program list. In this example, just 1 column with the machining strategy was added. The graphic symbol next to each program indicates the state of the program. See the left side-bar for more information.

A Collaborative Effort

Often times the machining of a job involves 2 different machine tools and more than likely 2 different machinists. The job is roughed on one machine tool, sent to heat treat and returned to be finished on another machine tool.

The finish machinist picks up where the roughing left off using the same project. Since all the roughing programs are in the project, the remaining stock model reflects the actual state of the stock on the job. That's invaluable information to have to guide the finish programming process.

When machining is complete the project is archived in the event a duplicate tool is ordered in the future.

Prospector for Non-programmers

A Prospector software license is not required to use the Send to Control (post processing) feature. This allows you to put Prospector in the hands of non-programmers in your shop. Using Prospector, they can retrieve previously prepared projects, preview the programs so they aren’t running blind then send them to the CNC for execution on the machine. You need not worry about non-programmers making inappropriate edits to any program because the project build feature does not enable if there isn’t a valid software license. This ensures the programs prepared by your programming experts are run as-is.