Cycle Time Reduction Principles for CNC Machining Equipment
What is the definition of cycle time?
Cycle time is defined to be the time that happens from the time a task or series of tasks is initiated to the time a task is completed. Example, the cycle time is the time a shipping order is printed to the time it is loaded on the truck and the system is updated. An alternate definition would be is the time it takes to load, run, and unload on workpiece.
Cycle time of a machine can be simply measured by timing how long it takes from pressing the button to start the cycle for the first workpiece to the pressing the next button for the next workpiece.
Production quantities in an industry dictate that the more workpieces you run, the more important it is to achieve the goal of lowering the cycle time.
Everything and anything that happens in a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining equipment can be divided into four categories:
1.) On-line, productive tasks:
These are the actual machining operations that occur during a CNC cycle. These are the milling, drilling, tapping, reaming, and any other machining operation that in some way furthers the completion of the workpiece. To minimize the cycle time in these areas, there are two ways in which this can be achieved. One would be through careful process planning.
The process engineer must select an appropriate machine tool, cutting tools, fixturing, and machining order in a way that it matches the number of workpieces to be machined that will be based on the production quantity. The cycle time will be a reflection of the processes being used to machine workpieces.
If in the many times that your company’s processes have already been developed and implemented before you begin your cycle time reduction program, then your second alternative is to optimize cutting operations for this would involve properly selecting cutting tool materials, feeds, and speeds to machine workpieces as efficiently as possible with the current process.
2.) On-line, non-productive tasks:
These are tasks that occur during the machining cycle that do not actually further the completion of the workpiece. The first thing Computer Numerical Control people often target for improvement is wasted program execution time. These are the things like rapid movements, tool changes, M-code execution and spindle acceleration/deceleration. Reducing program execution time in this area is usually easy.
It often takes nothing more than carefully monitoring the production run for a few workpieces to find those times when the program can be modified to eliminate noticeable pauses during the cycle. Although keep in mind that the worker for these machines must not overlook other processes for they may be so concerned with minimizing program execution that they overlook other operations, resulting in severe wastes of cycle time.
3.) Off-line, non-productive tasks:
These are the tasks performed in the machining cycle that do nothing to further the completion of the workpiece. Since these types of tasks are done while the machine is producing workpieces, they do not actually add to the cycle time. It is possible to free the operator of the machines of performing off-line productive tasks if they have little, or nothing to do during lengthy machine cycles.
4.) Off-line, productive tasks:
These are the tasks done away by the CNC machine, while the machine is producing workpieces, which would further the completion of the workpiece. This is extremely helpful during lengthy CNC cycles, tasks in this category can reduce the time it takes to complete the production run dramatically, which would effectively reduce cycle time.