GE Looks at the Future of Cutting Tools

September 26, 2016 - 11:00am

“Manufacturers who conduct a lot of machining know that the cost of productivity of a machining operation is inextricably connected to the selection of the cutting tool and the process for managing them,” writes GE Industry Analyst Andy Henderson in a GE Digital blog. “In the utopian future, the manufacturing intelligence system will automatically control how cutting tools are used and automatically optimize the cost of machining operations.”

“In the ideal future,” Henderson writes, “there will be a significant amount of automation to augment the manual tasks” of the workers:

Regarding the cutting tools, there will be robotic arms removing and replacing cutting tool assemblies in the machining centers. If tool setting is centralized, then there will be Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) moving carts of new and worn cutting tools between the loading area for the machining center and the centralized setting station.

The cutting tool setting station will have another robotic arm which is removing the worn end-mills, inserts (admittedly, inserts will be exceptionally tricky), drill bits, etc. from the cutter bodies. In the case of an end-mill, the robotic arm will pass the worn cutting tool in front of a vision system for the cutting edge to be inspected for wear-type and amount of wear. The analysis data from the vision system will be saved to a centralized data-base for that cutting tool. The cutting tool will be discarded and a “fresh” (new or reground) cutting tool will be selected and inserted into the cutting body. The AGV will return the fresh cutting tool assemblies to the machining center for those tools to go through the operation.

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Related Glossary Terms

  • centers


    Cone-shaped pins that support a workpiece by one or two ends during machining. The centers fit into holes drilled in the workpiece ends. Centers that turn with the workpiece are called “live” centers; those that do not are called “dead” centers.

  • machining center

    machining center

    CNC machine tool capable of drilling, reaming, tapping, milling and boring. Normally comes with an automatic toolchanger. See automatic toolchanger.

  • vision system

    vision system

    System in which information is extracted from visual sensors to allow machines to react to changes in the manufacturing process.


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