10 options to automate a CNC mill

Author Craig Zoberis
April 19, 2022 - 03:00pm

People often ask what is necessary to implement automation. Before adding it to a CNC mill, machine shops should consider the following 10 options regarding the investment.

1. An automatic door opener. Whether applying a CNC robot to a new or used machine, you will need a door opener to increase efficiency and minimize operator intervention during production.

2. Spare M codes. Some machines have available M codes depending on the age of the control and originally purchased options. You should assess if you have these M codes or if spare M functions must be purchased.

3. Automated vise control. Newer CNC mills have choices for pneumatic, hydraulic and electric vises. For older machines, ask your CNC automation integrator for guidance on the required vise control.

4. Probing. Although not necessary, it is highly recommended to add probing to a machine. Probing will allow you to quickly set up parts, reset work coordinates during production, use more universal workholding that doesn’t require part stops, check parts, apply tool break detection to sensitive tools and more.

5. Proper workholding. How you hold parts should be considered when purchasing a robot. Pneumatic, hydraulic and electric options are available for integration during the automation process.

Before adding automation to a CNC mill, machine shops should consider the following 10 options regarding the  investment.
Equipment make: RoboJob-USA
Equipment model: Mill-Assist Essential
CNC machine make: Haas Automation Inc.
CNC machine model: VF-2SS
CNC machine model year: 2008
Shifts per day: one
Shifts per week: five
Productivity increase: 54%
Uninterrupted production time: 13 hours
Total parts produced: 130

To view a video of this robotic automation visit cteplus.delivr.com/2ewzp

6. A chip auger. Chip augers help get chips out of a machine and away from workholding, where they can cause issues with loading and maintenance. This allows production to run smoothly and remain unattended for longer periods of time.

7. A chip clearing fan. This is a great addition to reduce the coolant and chips on a part as the robot unloads and places the part onto a table.

8. Automated coolant management. This helps production run longer without intervention from an operator and lowers the chance of catastrophic tool failure if coolant runs out or the system becomes clogged.

9. A larger-capacity, side-mount toolchanger. Although not required, a larger side-mount toolchanger is a handy option to accommodate tools, such as a probe or a chip fan. You also can store redundant tooling in unused pockets and use tool management features to switch to new tools when tooling has reached the end of its life.

10. A fourth-/fifth-axis rotary with a trunnion. A rotary table, along with a trunnion table, can reduce setup times for multiple operations and boost productivity.

Deciding to automate can be a big investment. However, with proper preparation, the move may reap big rewards. Do not hesitate to ask a trusted, experienced robotic integrator about options to help your shop take full advantage of CNC automation. 

Related Glossary Terms

  • computer numerical control ( CNC)

    computer numerical control ( CNC)

    Microprocessor-based controller dedicated to a machine tool that permits the creation or modification of parts. Programmed numerical control activates the machine’s servos and spindle drives and controls the various machining operations. See DNC, direct numerical control; NC, numerical control.

  • coolant


    Fluid that reduces temperature buildup at the tool/workpiece interface during machining. Normally takes the form of a liquid such as soluble or chemical mixtures (semisynthetic, synthetic) but can be pressurized air or other gas. Because of water’s ability to absorb great quantities of heat, it is widely used as a coolant and vehicle for various cutting compounds, with the water-to-compound ratio varying with the machining task. See cutting fluid; semisynthetic cutting fluid; soluble-oil cutting fluid; synthetic cutting fluid.

  • milling machine ( mill)

    milling machine ( mill)

    Runs endmills and arbor-mounted milling cutters. Features include a head with a spindle that drives the cutters; a column, knee and table that provide motion in the three Cartesian axes; and a base that supports the components and houses the cutting-fluid pump and reservoir. The work is mounted on the table and fed into the rotating cutter or endmill to accomplish the milling steps; vertical milling machines also feed endmills into the work by means of a spindle-mounted quill. Models range from small manual machines to big bed-type and duplex mills. All take one of three basic forms: vertical, horizontal or convertible horizontal/vertical. Vertical machines may be knee-type (the table is mounted on a knee that can be elevated) or bed-type (the table is securely supported and only moves horizontally). In general, horizontal machines are bigger and more powerful, while vertical machines are lighter but more versatile and easier to set up and operate.

  • toolchanger


    Carriage or drum attached to a machining center that holds tools until needed; when a tool is needed, the toolchanger inserts the tool into the machine spindle. See automatic toolchanger.


Craig Zoberis is founder and president of Fusion OEM/RoboJob-USA in Burr Ridge, Illinois. For more information about CNC automation and integration services, contact info@fusion-robojob.com or visit www.robojob-usa.com.