To understand the potential value in the cellular phone affixed to the new programmable comparator from Tru Tech Systems (Mount Clemens, Michigan), consider the delay that is inherent in any service-related problem.
Consider even a minor question. The machine user who has this question not only has to leave the machine, but probably also has to leave the shop floor in order to sit down somewhere to phone the machine supplier. The minor question could turn into 20 minutes away from the machine tool.
Tru Tech sales manager Toby Roll says the company decided to equip its machines with cell phones to avoid this delay. Each phone provides the operator with one-touch access to the company’s 24-hour service department.
The cell phone is even equipped with a camera function. If the operator has a question related to a particular job or component of the machine, he can take a photograph of it and send that photo to help the service rep on the other end of the call to understand.
Mr. Roll expects service phones to become standard features of all of the company's machines during 2005. There is a patent pending on the idea. Achieving this kind of streamlined simplicity is the focus of much of the development effort of the company, which makes ID/OD and centerless grinders that are intended for use by operators who have relatively little machining experience. These grinders are CNC, but not in the sense that G codes or line-by-line programming is required. Instead, they use "self-training" software that the company developed. The software is not only icon-driven, but it also includes audio-visual tutorials that guide the novice user through both programming and machine maintenance.
The new CNC comparator is an extension of this line, performing programmable inspection of the same types of cylindrical parts that the grinding machines produce. Its programming uses similar software and follows the same icon-driven approach. The machine measures angles, radii, tangent points and lengths. Because an existing program can easily be called up and run again, the machine doesn’t need a dedicated operator. Instead, the idea behind this machine is that any operator might use it as a complement to his or her standard machining work.