Why Should You Adopt Lights Out Machining?

High-performance machining is about increasing your part output level at the end of the day. We adopt powerful machines, solid carbide tools, enhanced toolpath techniques, and cooling methods, all to get faster feed rates and finish our shift with a higher stack of finished parts.

But once the shift is over, we turn off the lights and go home leaving a perfectly operational shop inactive for at least 12 hours.

Manning a shop during nighttime hardly ever makes sense. However, if you have moved your processes towards automation, you might be closer to achieving the right level for lights-out machining.

Unattended machining has been a recurrent dream for hundreds of years. Machines doing all the work for you, increasing productivity while increasing profit margins. The top 25% of machine shops run more than 12 hours a day, and this trend seems to be catching on.

However, running an unmanned operation is not as easy as leaving your machines on all night long. There are plenty of considerations you should take into account before taking this important step. There are some counterintuitive notions one must adopt to run an effective lights-out machining operation.

New Equipment
You need to fit your shop with elements that help you move raw material, chips, and finished parts in an effective and timely way.

Bar feeders that can hold enough material for the full shift can keep your machine fed, chip conveyors can transport the debris out of your operations area, and smart parts collectors to place finished parts right where you need them in the morning. You also need effective monitoring systems to keep your peace of mind. Alarms and fire suppression systems are a must for these operations and are required by code.

However, not even these measures are enough to prevent crashes and tool breakage.

Save Your High-End Machine For Low-Value Work
This is important. During the daytime, we love to perform complex operations on our most expensive five-axis machines. That’s why we acquired them after all, right?

This approach invites trouble and events that need to be solved manually. Instead, we should save all straightforward and simple jobs for nighttime, and high-value jobs for when you can have an operator close. Overnight low-value work will allow your shop to have a full stack of partially finished pieces or even ready to pack parts in the morning. This helps reduce labor costs attached to repetitive work, giving shops a fighting chance to compete against low-cost pressure from foreign markets.

Slow Feeds Are Best
High feed rates might help you increase daytime productivity. However, high-speed machining requires constant monitoring and increases the chances of unexpected failure or tool breakage, which could stop your machine with no one around to restart it. Slow machining guarantees more stability and provides higher levels of throughput consistency.

Use the Right Tools
This should be obvious. You need tools that can be kept spinning all night long. Carbide drill mills are almost always the best tools for the job. Their rigidness makes them extremely accurate, especially for parts that require consistent sharpness which is difficult to achieve with steel tools. Carbide can also withstand higher temperatures, which is important for unmanned coolant management. Carbide drill mills have improved hardness and resistance, so they last up to 10 times more than HSS, reducing tool cycle time and the chances of unexpected stops.

If you need high-quality carbide drill mills that can provide accurate and reliable results for your lights-out machining operation, contact Online Carbide. They offer the best prices in carbide tools to help you stay competitive in this demanding industry.

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