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Do you know how much your machine is worth?

15 March 2017

This does seem an like obvious question, and one which most companies can answer as machine tools are large capital assets. But let's look at the reality...

The reality is that if the machine isn’t producing it’s worth less than nothing as it’s probably costing production, putting back deliveries, disappointing customers, maybe even losing customers.

Again that’s obvious, if any machine isn’t maintained then it runs the risk of failure, so most companies carry out maintenance procedures to ensure that their machines are reliable.

However one of the most crucial parts of a CNC machine is the control and drive system itself, this tends to be forgotten or even ignored as a potential cause of failure, especially in an older machine. No one can look into a crystal ball and say that in a complex electronic system something is going to fail, the key is to be ready in case it does. Like in many IT departments they have a disaster recovery plan, this is also needed for any complex CNC machine tool.

One of the key components forgotten is simply the battery, many control systems have batteries to maintain RAM (Random Access Memory), it is here that the part programs and cycles are stored, also in some cases the PLC program, special HMI etc. If the battery fails and memory loss occurs then the control system/machine is effectively dead.

So the questions to ask yourself:

1. Does my control system have a battery?
2. Where is it?
3. When was it last changed?
4. Do we know how to change it?
5. Do you know when it should be changed?

In the event that the control system does lose its memory, for instance if the battery fails (don’t forget that all types of memory can fail not only RAM, i.e. a hard drive), have you got a full machine data backup? The data in the backup is not the property of the CNC manufacturer, it was defined by the machine builder, it’s the responsibility of the machine builder to supply it and of the end user to have this available.

So the questions to ask yourselves:

1. Have we got a backup? 
a. Part programs
b. PLC
c. Special cycles
d. Machine parameter file.
2. Where is the backup stored?
3. When was a backup last taken, i.e. is it up to date?
4. Do we know how to load it?

Also bear in mind that the majority of Servo and Spindle drives have parameters which need to be backed up in case of failure, this is vital as most OEM’s customise the drive parameters specifically to a machine type.

1. Do you have backups for all your drives?
2. Do you know how to load them?

If you cannot answer all the questions then your machine, and therefore your production is vulnerable.

Another thing to consider is that if you do not have backups and the machine manufacturer no longer exists, or does not have the original backup stored, then in the event of memory loss, your machine is probably scrap, “an Expensive Anchor” .

Your machine is worth a lot of money, it may be worth contacting either the manufacturer of your machine to obtain the original backup which will have been taken at the date of manufacture or their last service visit.

NUM treat this subject seriously, and have tools that allow you to create your own backups. On the newer CNC’s, NUM can activate an option that allows an automatic backup tool as part of the HMI which takes copies at regular intervals.

Alternatively, book a NUM UK Service Engineer to visit, change the batteries, and do a full data backup of the NUM CNC and Drives. Also if your machine has a Windows based PC as the HMI, NUM will also take an image of that. Then supply them to you to hold in a secure location on site, also with your permission, NUM will store it on its file servers, thus giving you added protection of an offline storage facility.

Contact: David Ward
Tel: 024 76 301 259

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