Whats is lights out machining concept?
Unattended Machining especially during night is called ‘Lights Out Machining’ Concept. This helps CNC machine shops to generate more revenue by utilizing the machined idle time during nights.

 

Where Lights Out Is Used Today’s manufacturing?
There are many applications where robotics are an advantage, even if only part of the manufacturing process is automated. From pin manufacturing to packaging, from Postal department hubs to Amazon warehouses to airport baggage handling, automation plays an important role in offering reliability and ability to self-correct the process in a manner that is cost effective. For instance, automated packaging operations use built-in GO / No GO shunting to ensure quality during lights out operation, where a camera can check that the product coming off the line is good and the machine can shunt aside bad product or shut itself off if a problem occurs.

 

 

What are the Benefits Lights-Out Machining in CNC machine parts manufacturing?

Lights-Out Machining lowers the cost of production by allowing CNC machining automation to replace manual labor and utilizing the machine idle time at nights. By minimizing the labor cost for each part made, manufacturers have an edge in competing with the low costs manufacturers, as well as gain a larger market share among competition as automation is necessary evolve in business.

Basic Infrastructure required for Lights-Out Machining?

Any lights out manufacturing operation — whether in precision machining or some other production method — needs to have some fundamentals in place to be successful. All the machinery, including tools, peripherals, and programming, must work together flawlessly. The equipment must be able to withstand continuous operation, ideally with the ability to self-monitor and either auto-correct or switch off if a problem arises. The same goes for the mechanisms used to feed material into the equipment, deliver coolant, remove debris, and offload finished products. And contrary to the “no humans required” fantasy, remote monitoring by a person — again, with the ability to correct minor problems or shut the system down in the event of a major issue — is an added advantage.

CNC machines, bar feeders, robots, probes, Laser Visual measurement device, software programs and the integration of all the said components will mkae sure that Lights-Out CNC machining dream possible.

How it can be achieved?

CNC Machine must be equipped as follows

Raw stock input – Requires a bar feeder or robot input integrated to work with the CNC machine.

High Pressure Coolant – To adequately clear the chips away from the cutting edge.

Redundant Tooling – Substitute tools to automatically replace worn or broken tools and allow the machining process to continue.

Full Time Tool Monitoring – To control the machining process by maximizing tool life, calling up redundant tooling and preventing crashes.

Fire suppression system – Running without fire suppression systems with in the machine is risky to the machine as well as the whole CNC machining infrastructure

 

CNC machines are operated at 50% – 60% of their original accepted cycle times once they are producing parts during lights out production. Then, when launching into Unattended operation, the tendency is to slow the process even further with the idea that this will enable stable, uneventful, continuous operation and at least reduce the operator attention.

The minimum benefit would be provided by broken tool detection such as probes, laser measurement system. The next benefit level is provided by the vast majority of computer-based tool monitors. The payback is the cost savings from being able to catch worn tools as well as broken and missing tools. No need to slow the CNC cycle time, and the payback comes primarily from reduced labor cost and tooling costs.

Finally, the maximum benefit level is provided by computer-based tool monitors that provide Live Process Visibility as well as Process Protection. The payback from these units can be enormous when the Live Process Visibility is utilized to maximize the throughput by reducing the cycle times and catching tools in the worn condition, thus producing the maximum number of good parts.

Viewing Lights-out concept from Indian manufacturing prespective:
As India is striving to be become a manufacturing power house, Companies should explore the option towards moving closer towards lights-out CNC machining operations as it would provide tangible benefits in the longer run. but following factors may affects the interest of CNC machining companies

 

  1. Investment in Robotics and automation process devices and instruments
  2. Consistent power supply as Interruption cut the lights-out dream off.
  3. Quality workforce which understand and forecast the issue that might occur during unattended operations.
  4. Reliable tools to support the process
  5. Above all, Willingness of the management to kick start the process.