Why Customers Use CNC Machine Tool Hardware

When working with a CNC machine tool, it can sometimes be frustrating for machinists and those on the shop floor. When you have a big, expensive machine that can do amazingly complicated tasks, yet there are certain tasks it cannot handle, it is understandable. Upkeep can also be a chore. There are workarounds that can get a machine of any age working great again, and CNC machine tool hardware is one of them.

cnc hardwareCNC machine tool hardware can fulfill any number of purposes. It can make a machine with a USB port go wireless. It can help replace old media, such as floppy disks or PCMCIA cards. They can replace cabling on the shop floor, help drip-feed programs that are too big to download at machines, plus many more benefits.

Why do some of our customers invest in machine tool hardware? Here are some of their reasons:

I bought the Portable (USB Connect) unit for some of our older machines and it definitely saved us a lot of time and a lot of money from running around, doing it with a laptop. Especially a lot of the older units with floppy drives in them, the PCMCIA cards, and they kind of died out.  -Randy, Fredon Corporation

Heat and humidity were wreaking havoc on our old RS232 cables…we went wireless with a MOXA system sold by SFA. Their customer service and tech support is top notch. – Stollen Machine & Tool Co. via Instagram

My old-style floppy drive stopped working, and since I am a returning customer, I looked into the floppy drive emulator. Guy Barrow helped me and he always does a great job. SFA solved my problem by giving me a much better transfer system and once again supplying good customer service. -David,  Top Line Tool

To read more customer reviews on our hardware, software and support, click here. If you want to learn more about our hardware or other solutions, call (877) 611-5825 or fill out this form to have an Account Executive get back to you. 

SFA meets 2017 Manufacturing Technology Trends

manufacturing technology trendsBeing a technology-related company, part of what we do is about keeping up with trends. We were definitely excited to see we meet the criteria of this beautifully articulated piece from the ARC Advisory Group on 2017 Manufacturing Technology Trends to watch for.

“The automation industry appears to be evolving at a faster rate right now than at any time in its history,” writes Craig Resnick of ARC, which is a research and consulting group that keeps up with industry changes, especially in terms of IIoT technology. “Commercial technologies continue to infiltrate the industrial automation space, especially wireless and mobility solutions.”

“One of the biggest end user challenges remains unscheduled downtime,” Craig says. ” IIoT-enabled solutions, such as remote monitoring and predictive maintenance, can help minimize, if not totally eliminate this, which would deliver a rapid ROI (return on investment).”

With machine monitoring solutions such as Predator MDC and Scytec’s DataXchange, as well predictive maintenance solution Bigfoot CMMS, we combat the issue of downtime and meet the needs that Craig mentions. It is also worth noting that DataXchange can be integrated with Bigfoot. As far as wireless and mobility solutions, we offer many hardware options, as well as many of our software options being able to be accessed via Smart phones and tablets, where you can receive notifications of any machine issues.

“The Industrial Internet of Things…offers tremendous potential to transform and improve business processes,” Craig continues. “But prospective end users need help to quantify and justify the associated investment, and – in some cases – the associated risk.”

If you need any help with convincing the decision maker of your shop floor to consider these solutions, or if you have doubts before you make these investments, give us a call today! We are toll-free at (877) 611-5825 and we also have a responsive chat feature on our website. We can also be contacted via social media.

 

Greg Mercurio interview with Manufacturing Tomorrow

Manufacturing Tomorrow Greg MercurioGreg here at Shop Floor Automations had an opportunity to speak to Manufacturing Tomorrow about how the manufacturing landscape is changing these days, Industry 4.0, as well as the concepts of machine monitoring and OEE. Here are some quotable bits from the Greg Mercurio interview in question:

“In a nutshell, we provide software and hardware solutions to manufacturing shop floors to help decrease downtime and improve OEE,” Greg said. “We help those working on shop floors gain extra time, productivity and profits.”

On Industry 4.0: “For years, the shop floor as been an island of its own and with the latest climate from the US government and other countries, more companies are seeking integration and connection to the corporate world.”

On how manufacturing will change in the new USA political landscape: “I think we’re going to be very busy in 2017 and hope that’s a trend that will build as time goes on.”

Greg Mercurio is President of Shop Floor Automations. He is a long-time resident of San Diego County and a family man. Shop Floor Automations will soon be celebrating two decades in business. 

To read the whole interview via Manufacturing Tomorrow, click here. You can also call us at (877) 611-5825, and we encourage you to share this article on social media

Hire a Professional Technician – It’s Worth It

shop floor cabling

Click on the photo above for a larger view

With the popularity of YouTube, Reddit, WebMD, and similar sites, we are definitely a culture obsessed with DIY (AKA “do it yourself”). While this is great for cooking or hobbies, it is not necessarily the answer for everything pertaining to a job focused on manufacturing production. Here are the top 3 reasons you should hire a professional technician when implementing manufacturing hardware and software solutions versus going it alone:

Reason 1: Don’t assume the price tag to consult with a professional is going to be outlandish. Take for instance the techs at SFA – you have the option of bringing them to your shop all over the USA, or getting a very affordable Support contract, where they can help you over the phone with a remote session. It’s sometimes as easy as them seeing a photo of the hardware that is having a problem, or having access to your screen where you are running into a software roadblock, and having it fixed within a half hour or less phone call. Some problems may take longer to fix, but wouldn’t it be nice to know it’s a problem that can be fixed without flying a technician out to you?

Reason 2: Hardware needs to be handled and wired a certain way. Your run of the mill computer and related products, such as a commercial wireless internet router and even commercial USB connectors/cables, are an entirely different entity compared to manufacturing hardware implements. Hardware for powerful and expensive manufacturing machines need to be wired and placed a certain way to help with baud rates, and manufacturing shop floor cabling (as you can read in this previous piece) are durable yet complex. It is best to let a technician install it for you, or tell you how to install and wire it over the phone, so you can ensure data will transfer correctly, you don’t potentially void a warranty, and that you also protect your investment.

Reason 3: Free up more time to get back to work, rather than struggling with something that is potentially foreign to you. You made a great decision in making an investment to increase productivity and OEE, and if you went with SFA, you have a group with years of experience behind you to help you in-person or over the phone. You’ve got a job to do, and so do we – and our job is to make yours easier. Why not take advantage of a Support team based in the USA that will actually pick up their phones or reply to emails?

Want more reasons why to use our technicians? Give us a call today at (877) 611-5825. You can also fill out a contact form here, or chat with us on social media.

3 Reasons Not To Buy a New CNC Machine Tool

cnc machine tool With the start of a New Year, you may be thinking about purchasing a new CNC machine tool, or tools, for your shop floor to help with productivity. You may be of the mindset that a brand new machine would be great, similar to the feeling of buying and sitting in a brand new car, but there are three factors to consider as to why buying a new machine right now is not the best time:

Repurposing money for a new machine into helping fill the manufacturing skills gap is a wiser move. With a huge portion of this industry retiring from the workforce within the next decade, the loss is definitely being felt. With a younger workforce slowly coming on board, the solution may seem to be to invest in newer equipment, similar to what the new work force is bring trained on.

The issue here is that buying a new machine, which can cost five to six figures, especially more if you are investing in multiple machines, is money that is being spent on tools. What about the people who work on the tools? Especially if you are leasing new equipment, it will be hard to pay it off with less of a work force.

The best strategy would be to spend thousands of dollars not on new machine tools, but on a new workforce. Giving them solutions to make legacy machines operate more smoothly has the potential to help production surpass goals, as well as keeping the Made in America manufacturing workforce afloat.

New machine sales haven’t been prevalent in over two years. According to EDA, a data-driven market insight company, there was a huge spike in buying or leasing new machines between 2000 and 2001, with a minimum of 2k machines sold per month between August 2000 and January 2001. February 2002 was when new machine sales/leasing finally dipped below 1k units per month.

machine purchase

Click the graph for larger view

This event seemed to trigger a trend for low sales of new machines until October 2003, when sales started to recover. Sales and leasing of new machines hit a healthy stride until January of 2009, sales significantly dropped.

Since that point, sales and leasing of new machines has been up and down – new machine sales or leasing has not surpassed 2k per month since December of 2014. Sales or leasing of used machines has always been consistent, and even surpassed new machines once in 2001, for half of 2002, more than half the year in 2003, once in 2009 and once as recently as October 2015.

Leveraging the tools you already have saves time and money. Adding supplements to the tools and equipment you already have will save you precious time, teach you new skills, plus the benefit of money being saved by not buying new machines or losing production time by staying with what you have and not changing it.

Time spent by manually tracking data or using spreadsheets for job scheduling can be replaced with machine monitoring or graphical schedulers. Instead of hoping programs send to machines or dealing with programs too large to download to machines, use DNC software to drip-feed (it will also save you the time from going back and forth to the PC, or bringing your laptop all around the shop). If you are constantly replacing cabling due to a caustic shop floor environment, maybe now is the time to go wireless.

If you are interested in more info, we invite you to give us a call or chat with us on our site. Call (877) 611-5825 and make the most of your New Years shop floor resolutions today!

Top 5 Shop Floor Product Updates in 2016

Top 5 Shop Floor Product Manufacturing 2016With the year quickly coming to a close, we wanted to take the time to share some updates to shop floor software and hardware that you all need to see. Whether you implemented them into your manufacturing routine or you are looking for new tech for 2017, here is what you need to know to obtain the goals of lean manufacturing, continuous improvement, and turning data into actionable items:

1 –  Scytec DataXchange Machine Monitoring & Data Collection – Many shop floor runners are fans of DataXchange for their $45 per month, per machine Cloud pricing, but they may also want to check out Version 2016.10.03 updates. New features include an MTConnect Data Viewer, which is a testament to DataXchange’s continuing advocacy of the protocol. Scytec Support staff will also be able to remotely restart DataXchange for users without remote access, as well as many utilization tools being updated or refreshed. You can also integrate DataXchange with Bigfoot CMMS from Smartware Group if you are seeking a plant maintenance management system, which you can read more about here.

2 – The WiFi USB Connect – This new piece of hardware is a wireless USB solution for the manufacturing shop floor. It emulates a USB stick, allowing you to share data from a PC to your machines. No drivers are required, plus Floppy drive emulators and CNC machines with a USB port can now have wireless abilities! The device serves as an easy and economic shop floor upgrade, with more info here from MoldMaking Technology.

3 – Machine Monitoring through Predator MDCWith v11 now available, there are many incredible new updates, and quite a few improved features, that will be beneficial to your shop floor. From being able to access MDC machine monitoring on Android phones, to having a real-time view of data from any browser, many new charts to display information on, and an updated list of Windows Support, MDC is worth checking out.

4 – MTConnect & the Cloud –   More CNC machine controls, and more shop floors, are embracing MTConnect. The open, royalty free factory floor communication standard is universal and embraced by shop floor factories. Comparative to Bluetooth technology that allows for plug-and-play connectivity of shop floor devices, equipment and systems, the protocol helps collect and process data from machines. The concept of software on the Cloud, AKA IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), is also taking off. Cloud tech can be cost effective (as you saw above with DataXchange’s Cloud pricing), is easy to implement, and can often come with advanced tech support that will help a company’s IT Department struggle less. Industrial Machinery Digest published a piece about integrating MTConnect, along with machine monitoring, at this link.

5- Predator’s Touch HMI – A big button interface, Predator’s Touch HMI replaces barcode readers, handheld terminals and proprietary shopfloor hardware; simplifies data collection on machine uptime; enables access to information via tablet, PC or CNC; and provides buttons to transfer NC programs or launch the part drawing on the shop floor for the operator. It can also be color-coded for the convenience of individual machinists, and novelty buttons can be added through the magic of IoT. More on Touch HMI via a Modern Machine Shop piece you can read here.

Want to become the hero of your shop floor by helping achieve better machine utilization? Call us at (877) 611-5825 or chat with us on social media. Check out any of the products mentioned in our store, or contact us for info on MTConnect & Cloud options.

First SFA Customer in Japan

Japan SFA customerAs a New Year is around the corner, we at Shop Floor Automations are grateful to see our customer count grow each day. We are especially happy for the rare occasions we can help International customers. While we mostly do business with parts of Canada and Mexico, we are pleased to announce that we have our first customers from Japan! 

The customers who ordered from us were shipped out 2 of our USB Connect External devices, as well as 2 Pendant USB Connect devices. While we did not get to chat much with the customers on why they needed this equipment for their shop, it is possible they could share the same predicament as our first Hawaii customers.

From an earlier blog, our Hawaiian customers needed the USB Connect External to communicate with their Milltronics control. They were also using SD cards,  no longer want to deal with the 2GB restriction, and the cards were also hard to find for them, so this device suited them best.

We offer many solutions to help machinists and other workers on manufacturing shop floors communicate better with their machines. From software to the hardware solutions we mentioned earlier, our goals are to help your shop floor eliminate downtime, increase OEE and get the most utilization out of your machines. Even legacy machines still have a lot of potential just waiting to be discovered.

If you have manufacturing shop floor needs, or you have purchased from us in the past and want new solutions, contact us here. Time to renew your Support contract with us? Call to find out at (877) 611-5825. 

 

IMTS 2016 is Complete

SFA at IMTS 2016Shop Floor Automations enjoyed a very successful IMTS 2016 tradeshow in Chicago IL. We loved running into so many of our customers in the Windy City, as well as meeting potential new customers that we look forward to serving for years to come. We encourage you to click the photo to your left to see in better detail a collage of some of our favorite moments of the show.

One highlight of the show was the unveiling of the Multi Connect to the public. With its sleek look in a beautiful acrylic case, a shiny black footing, and its beckoning stack light, it was definitely eye catching. Many of our leads from the show want to know more about this fascinating piece of technology, which is specifically compatible with the MTConnect protocol, as news becomes available.

A great number of our visitors were definitely interested in Machine Monitoring, as well as Wireless DNC and our other solutions. We enjoyed educating machinists on how to make their shop floors and CNC machines run more efficiently and eliminate downtime, even with legacy machines.

IMTS 2016 SFA Contest WinnersDuring our time at IMTS, we were letting guests know that by getting their badges scanned, they were also entered into our drawing for various Shop Floor Automations prizes. We were giving away some of our Hardware solutions, as well as our very popular G-code T-Shirt.  The list of winners, who have been notified, is in the image to the right, which you can click on to magnify.

Other than the business we conducted, we also found rare free time to do some things of a tourist’s nature. Four of our employees went on a nighttime field trip to the top of the Sears Tower AKA the Willis Tower to take in the 103rd story views. We also ate at many great restaurants, such as the exclusive Frontera, and interacted with many interesting local Chicagoans. The architecture of this grand city during our many back-and-forth drives from downtown to McCormick Place made our commute worthwhile.

UPDATE, as of 9-27-16: We pulled three new winners for this contest, since three previous winners did not get back to us in a timely manner. See the list HERE.

If you would like to see what we got to do in Chicago:

  • Check out our Marketing video from the event on YouTube HERE
  • Look at our Facebook photo album (and Like our page) HERE
  • We also posted a few shots on our Instagram page HERE
  • If you visited our Booth and grabbed a USB drive, or did not have time to stop and chat, call us at (877) 611-5825

 

Manufacturing News – August 2016

MFG News August 2016SFA is proudly featured in the August 2016 issue of Manufacturing News! We not only have an ad in it, but we also have an article on the Multi Connect unveiling at IMTS 2016.

From our press release in this issue: “The Multi Connect is a turnkey device, able to continuously monitor the machine’s operating state and other necessary data, while making this information readily available over a network connection using the industry standard MTConnect protocol. The Multi Connect is compatible with a wide range of machine monitoring software packages, including Scytec’s DataXchange, Predator’s Machine Data Collection, and more!”

We again must publish a brief retraction: We will be unable to take Multi Connect pre-orders at IMTS, but we will be happy to scan badges to keep people in touch with more info on the product, as it becomes available. The tech specs and the price will definitely be worth the wait!

Other than hardware solutions, we also have many customizable software solutions to help automate your shop floor. We especially love to help shops realize the possibilities of machine monitoring! Call 877-611-5825 or chat with our sales team today to see how we can increase uptime and help diminish downtime on your shop floor. 

IMTS 2016 Software Updates & New Hardware Previews

NEW SHOP FLOOR SOFTWARE & HARDWARE AT IMTS 2016 BOOTH E-3240
Shop Floor Automations preps for premiere of new manufacturing tools at Chicago’s IMTS in Fall 2016.

La Mesa, CA (August 1st, 2016) – Shop Floor Automations (SFA) is bringing an artillery of tools for the manufacturing field to Booth E-3240 at IMTS 2016. From software updates to a new hardware solution, the nearly two-decade-old company seeks to further enhance the manufacturing industry.

SFA IMTS 2016 Scytec Predator MoxaA reseller of Predator Software since 1998, SFA will be informing tradeshow goers about new software versions, plus the incredibly versatile Touch HMI. Version 11 of Predator Software, with solutions from this brand for machine monitoring, DNC communication, CNC program editing, document control, and tool management, will soon be available with an IMTS sneak peek.

Looking to replace bar code readers, hand-held terminals, or proprietary hardware on the shop floor? Want simplified data collection to see why your machines are down, and be able to access this information via a tablet, PC, or even via the CNC Controller? Need buttons to transfer NC programs, or launch the part drawing on the shop floor for the operator? Predator Touch HMI is changing the need to invest in hardware and provides shop floor operators an easy way to interact with management and the Predator Software line. From custom color-coding options to setting up specific layouts, prompts, and launching of third party applications, SFA will integrate the solution for the end user as desired without a large investment.

Also in the realm of software updates, DataXchange Machine Monitoring from Scytec will be experiencing changes that SFA will be speaking to tradeshow attendees about. New OEE charts, views from their real time dashboard, multiple part time analysis reports, a shop floor layout view in the dashboard, and various equipment status comparison charts that analyze equipment utilization across a span of different days are all new features. Scytec pricing now includes a greater quantity discount for machine monitoring when adding machines with MTConnect, Fanuc Focas, and legacy machine tools.

The newly branded SFA Connect Series of products includes the USB Connect, Floppy Connect, LAN Connect, Ethernet Connect, and more. All Connect products help machine shops enhance and empower themselves with automation tools that make operations more efficient and effective. The new piece of the Connect Series, the Multi Connect, was developed in partnership with Moxa and will be available from SFA in Q4. Exclusive early info and an in-person preview of the Multi Connect will be available at IMTS, plus you can get more information by contacting their sales department at 877-611-5825.

There are also many other software and hardware solutions that SFA will be able to discuss with tradeshow attendees at IMTS 2016. The show takes place from September 12th to the 17th at IMTS 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  SFA will be exhibiting in the East Building of McCormick Place at Booth number E-3240.

More info on SFA, a leading provider of automation solutions for the manufacturing industry since 1998, and their exhibit at IMTS 2016 is here: www.shopfloorautomations.com/IMTS2016