As everyone knows, flood coolant doesn't do much good if the coolant stream isn't aimed adequately at the point where the cutting tool is removing metal. So, many machine operators find themselves babysitting their machining centers just to make sure coolant lines are in the right position to flood the work zone. Certainly, coolant lines and nozzles are now easier to adjust and lock into position, but having to make adjustments every time a tool change takes place is a waste of time. It is also a dangerous practice if the operator reaches in with the spindle running.
A device to eliminate this problem was introduced at EASTEC in May. Named SpiderCool, the system is based on a programmable coolant nozzle that automatically adjusts position to direct coolant so that it reaches the right spot. The system stores a separate nozzle position in its own computer memory for each tool in the tool changer. Whenever that tool goes into the spindle, the coolant nozzle redirects the flow of coolant appropriately.
Developed by Dimensional Control, Inc, (DCI) of South Windsor, Connecticut, the system is designed for retrofit installation on virtually any machining center with a standard coolant pump. The developers call the system "programmable," but "teachable" is a more descriptive term for how the nozzle positions are recorded.
When setting up for a new job, the operator inserts a tool in the spindle, dials the system's aiming knob until the servo-controlled nozzle is positioned to direct coolant precisely where it needs to go, then moves on to the next tool until all of the tools in the tool changer have been processed.
The system's intelligent interface (patent pending) detects tool changes and re-aims the nozzle automatically based on the position memorized during setup. The interface keeps track of which tool is in the spindle based on the tool's station on the tool changer. The system supports both carousel and double-arm type tool changers.
In fact, the interface operates independently of the CNC program—nozzle positions are not incorporated into the CNC program as M-codes or tooling data. COOLANT ON and COOLANT OFF commands are programmed normally. Nozzle positions can be adjusted and "re-memorized" at any time during a machining routine.
The benefits of keeping coolant on target make substantial contributions to productivity. It minimizes the risk of damaging heat build-up in the workpiece or cutting tool, preserving tool life. It allows optimal feeds and speeds to be applied more safely. It flushes away chips. Most important, it allows operators to leave a machine truly untended for extended periods.
According to Stephen Gardner, president of DCI, SpiderCool is designed for simple installation, although some experience with machine electronics is required. "It should take a competent machine technician less than a day to finish one installation," Mr. Gardner says. The nozzle mounting bracket and nozzle assembly are typically fastened to the right side of the machine head with four cap screws. The machine's existing coolant hose is then attached to a standard fitting on the nozzle assembly. The control unit is mounted in the machine's electrical cabinet and interfaced with existing electronics to detect tool changes. A pre-wired servo cable connects the control unit with the nozzle assembly. Finally, the adjustment knob is installed on or near the CNC control panel, with a cable that runs to the control unit. Factory or distributor installation is also available.
Uninstalled, a complete kit of system components is priced below $2,000.