Probing Solutions To Fit Your Needs
- February 8, 2019
Dave Hodder, machine shop supervisor at Brantford, ON, forestry equipment manufacturer Tigercat Inc., recalls what a labour intensive process it used to be to set up one of its very large workpieces in a machining centre.
“We did it manually with a tape measure and chalk and a scale. We’d try to figure out what the best solution was for setting up the part; you’d either move your X or Y to make it look right. It was very time consuming.”
That was until about a year and a half ago, when Tigercat acquired the RMP600 high accuracy touch probe from Renishaw (Canada) Ltd. and installed it on its Mazak Versatech 100 five axis machining centre. The change has been dramatic.
“The probe comes in and tells your machine where the surface is,” Hodder says. “Machine downtime is down to zero because the machine always knows where the surface of the part is. Accuracy has improved tenfold and we’ve cut about 75 per cent off our setup time.”
But Tigercat also wanted to use probing for quality control on completed workpieces. The parts Tigercat makes are large, which is why it has the Mazak V100, one of only two machines of its size in Canada, Hodder says. (The other belongs to custom fabricator MacDonald Steel, Tigercat’s sister company based in Cambridge, ON.)
So Tigercat also purchased the Renishaw RMP60M modular probe, with a 150 mm extension to enable the probe to reach into the large weldments Tigercat handles. There was just one catch: the V100 is wired for only a single probe. The RMP600 can’t be used for QC because with its extreme accuracy, the extension required to get the probe inside the parts where it’s needed would introduce enough flex to throw the measurements off. So the RMP600 was removed and the RMP60M was installed for quality control checks.
“Renishaw worked with my operator and came up with a program to probe the parts,” Hodder says. “We told them what points we needed to have probed, they came up with the program, and then my programmer on the V100 worked with Renishaw to integrate their program into the program we use to run the part.”
The next step is to wire the V100 for two probes so the RMP600 can be added to do what Hodder calls the “health check” of the machine, making sure everything’s aligned properly before the job. Hodder hopes the V100 will be up and running with dual probing in a couple of months. The V100 will be the only machine in the shop with two probes, but Hodder says Tigercat plans to adopt more probing—and Renishaw will definitely be getting the business.
“When we were first looking around we tried another product on a boring mill and it didn’t turn out very well. We needed the service and the quality, so we had Renishaw come in and do a part for us—setup, test, everything. I was super impressed with their ability to program the probe, the way they worked with us. They were right there on a moment’s notice when we needed help.
“Now we can incorporate more probing into our other machine tools. We’ll see where Renishaw takes us.” SMT