At Kentech Inc. … We’re MAKERS and DIY’ers Too

There is no doubt that a lot of folks are letting their creative juices flow today and becoming members of what is touted as the “maker community”. It is so great to see … and to see that great American ingenuity in play in so many ways.

Being a machinist for almost 30 years now … I like to think I have a little of the MAKER in me as well … and not only in metalworking. Here at Kentech Inc. … our various Kipware® machine shop software software titles are used by thousands of professional machinists and machine shops around the world … and also by thousands of MAKERS as well. People doing everything from woodworking to metalworking in garage shops and professional machine shops around the world. We like to think that if a product is good … it finds it’s way into many places. And we are proud of the fact that our Kipware® conversational CNC programming software has made parts for SpaceX as well as that coat rack for Average Joe or Jane.

Kipware® software is also running our sister woodworking company — KÄRV. From quoting and estimating to CNC programming … Kipware® software gives us THE EDGE. Check it out at www.KarvWoodworking.com.

With that MAKER and DIY spirit bubbling inside ( watching Yard Crashers on the DIY network with some java certainly HELPS ) me and my wife decided that this summer would be the summer of our personal YARD CRASH. And so it began.

The Vision

Looking aerially at the yard … I laid out my vision to see if the wife approved. First … a curved walkway leading from the house to a brand new firepit. Not one of those metal, cheap firepits … I mean a new brick firepit with a metal inner ring and nice stone cap. Halfway down the walkway … a detour to our own designed and constructed water feature … waterfall or fountain.  And here’s where the wife chimed in. “How about this” she says later in the evening. She shows me a pic on Pinterest of a bamboo themed waterfall. “I like it” I reply … we’ll think about the design in more detail as we get closer. But there it is … our vision.

The START of Construction

The DEMOLITION and DESIGNER MAKER

The next day we begin the layout in the space where we decided to work … marking the area with string … and removing all the sod. Big job … but we get it done in a couple of days … and start the remodel.

construction2
Aerial view #1 of the “construction site”
construction1
Aerial view #2 of the “construction site”

PHASE 1 – Privacy Panels

The CARPENTER MAKER

The first item in the rebuild was to install some privacy panels to insure our nights spent by the firepit were nice and cozy and private. My wife had a “bamboo theme” in mind … which carried over from the waterfall idea … so we got to designing. We came up with a wooden frame clad on both sides with bamboo fencing. Came out and looked great … just the right amount of light coming through and bamboo effect was very elegant.

PHASE 2 – The Fire Pit 

The MASON MAKER

We purchased a stone firepit kit from a local stoneware vendor and during the week I got the area prepped and the firepit installed. Leveling and preparing for the first layer was quite a job … but it came out great and the feeling of accomplishment was fantastic. If you’re a MAKER … you know what I’m talking about. Friends always say “We just have someone build it” … but there is nothing like that feeling of accomplishment that lasts for years as every time you look at it .. you can proudly say “I built that !!”.

With the fire pit installed … I lay out the artistic walkway … line the outer edge with cobblestones … and fill the inside with stone dust. I was a little apprehensive about using the stone dust as a bottom … it was quite dusty to start with … but it turned out fabulous. Once a good rain shower did it’s thing … it hardened up nicely and makes for a great walkway.

The completed fire pit.
The completed fire pit and walkway area around the pit. The right hand side leads to our nature trail through the woods behind the property.

PHASE 3 – The Water Feature

The ENGINEER and PLUMBER MAKER

The more I viewed my wife’s idea for the water feature … and the more we discussed the details … the more confidence I gained that I could do it. I don’t think my wife was quite as confident though … a lot of probing questions like “How you gonna do this?”

First … we needed to bring electricity from the house to the waterfall area. Following the local code … we dug our trench ( what a b*&%$ ) … layed our cable inside our PVC piping … and presto. 4 new plugs … an outdoor switch … and plenty of juice for our pump. Tough job but very professionally done … and all to code. The wife was the hardest worker through it all. Chipping in with the ditch digging … and keeping me straight and focused through all the aggravation and  at times frustration and hard work.

Next … I bought some reclaimed wooden beams … 6x6x10 … that were once used in the old railroad yard in our city. They became the perfect uprights to support our bamboo “waterfall”.

construction_start
Reclaimed railroad ties in cement and in position.

After the ties had set in their concrete moorings for a week … and another trip to Home Depot ( it became our Saturday morning breakfast trip ) … I began the plumbing work. Again … with the constant nudging from the wife to keep me on the straight and narrow … we got it all in and we’re ready for the big reveal. Remember this was only a vision and a theory … we had never really tried the design. Judge for yourself with the video below :

You can see it all in the video … the bamboo privacy panels and the working waterfall feature. Below is a closer look at the design “behind the scenes”.

Behind the scenes of the waterfall.
Behind the scenes of the waterfall.

The BIG REVEAL …

And that was that. After the wife lent her gardening touches … the big reveal :

The big reveal
The big reveal

… and CONFIRMATION !!

As I mentioned above … I’m a big fan of YARD CRASHERS on the DIY network. A lot of great memories of sitting and binge watching the show on rainy days … getting stoked to start projects of my own around the house … fueling the MAKER spirit if you will.

So when the project was completed … I couldn’t resist tweeting a pic to the host of the show, Matt Blashaw. And low and behold … it got his attention and he replied … AND APPROVED !! WoooHooo !!

Matt Blashaw approves !!
Matt Blashaw approves !!

As the summer nights and weekends go by … we are enjoying the fruits of our work with fabulous fires in the pit with friends and family … accompanied by the zen like sounds of the waterfall. In fact … we have christened the garden with the name the KenZenSue Garden.

Being a machinist I always took a ton of pride in my work … but a lot of it was “business”. It was great to unleash my MAKER side and work on a “for fun” project … and to enjoy the results. To all the fellow MAKERS out there … be proud and go get’em.

Kenney Skonieczny – President

Kentech Inc.

Accurate Machining Cycletime Estimating – THE KEY

No matter what system you utilize to create your cost estimates and quotes … everything starts with an accurate machining cycletime estimate. The phrase … “Oh, that should take about two and a half minutes to machine.” … is doing more harm to your bottom line than you are probably even aware. This type of guesstimating … especially when it comes to machining cycletime … is throwing the whole cost estimating process that comes down the line into question.

If the machining cycletime estimate is not correct … you could be winning work … but unprofitable work. And that’s just what your shop doesn’t need … wasting time manufacturing parts that are losing you money. Taking machine time and employee energy away profitable work.

So what is the KEY to accurate cycletime estimating?

Having lived and “grown up” on the shop floor … we realize that the MAIN KEY to accurate cycletime estimating is to utilize the cutting conditions and parameters that can actually be reproduced on your shop floor … with your equipment.

It doesn’t do any good to estimate using an RPM or SFM and feedrate that your shop floor can never duplicate … or utilize a method of machining that your shop floor would never follow or duplicate.

Sure cycletime estimating software that has feature recognition and auto-determines the method of machining will get you a time quickly and get that estimate done quickly … but what good is it if your shop floor would never machine the part using the method the software determined?

Cycletime estimating software that boasts thousands of materials and speeds and feeds is expensive and seems powerful and complete … but if your shop floor can’t duplicate that “book knowledge” speeds and feeds … what good is it?

Estimating

So Kentech’s KipwareCYC® software is different? How?

It certainly is … and I’m glad you asked.

First : 

KipwareCYC® is a database driven application … utilizing a user-defined database for machine specifications ( max RPM, rapid rates, tool change time, etc. ) and user-defined cutting parameters ( speeds, feeds for various materials and machining operations ). This insures that the calculated times accurately reflect what happens on your shop floor … the key to accurate cycleltime estimating. You create the database and input YOUR specifications and cutting parameters.

Second : 

Using the various outputs and travelers available from KipwareCYC® … the more you use the software, the more accurate it becomes. For example : the Routing Sheet that is automatically created from KipwareCYC® provides the operator / set-up personnel with a complete list of cutting parameters and times for each operation as the part moves through the shop. This means he has a targeted RPM, feedrate and time for each operation. If any of those factors cannot be achieved … a report back to the estimate creator will result in an adjustment to the database information … perhaps a revision to the SFM or feedrate or chip load used for a specific machining operation. Next time … the RPM and feedrate will be more accurate. So the more you use the software … the more accurate it becomes.

Ugh … Entering ALL that database information !!!

Actually … a couple of points that may have crossed your mind. First … we do ship KipwareCYC® with installed database information for common machines, materials and cutting parameters. But again … this is just to get you started … you really need to make the database information your own. Here is what we recommend.

Let’s say today you receive an RFQ for a 316 stainless part that requires some turning. You gather the machine specs for the lathe you’re going to use and grab the normal cutting parameters the shop uses for 316 stainless. One additional point here … most shops use a common insert that works well for them for specific machining operations … there really isn’t a need for a dramatic, all encompassing speeds and feeds database with info you’ll probably never use … let’s keep it simple and keep it real. So you enter that data and now … 316 stainless is done !! Next time you get an RFQ the info is all there and ready to go. With this system … you are building the database as you are preparing quotes and winning work !!! It’s a win -win … with long term benefits.

So … the moral of the story is?

No matter how you are arriving at your machining cycletime estimate … the one certainty is to insure that it is utilizing the cutting conditions and parameters that can actually be reproduced on your shop floor … with your equipment.

 If you are looking for a software application what will insure that key … we invite you to check out our KipwareCYC – Machining CycleTime Estimating software HERE.

Kenney Skonieczny – President

Kentech Inc.

3 Ways To STOP Your Machine Shop From Losing Money

In today’s age … every machine shop is looking for an ADVANTAGE. Most, however, are looking for the “home run” … and overlook the advantages / solutions they trip over every day. It’s not always that big hitter but a lot of little things that can contribute to your shop losing money and profits.

We know that the task of turning around a non-profitable shop is daunting … so we decided to help by focusing on some of the small fixes … that can mean big profit reversals. Hope they help and get you thinking … and turning your shop around.

#1 – Break the “CYCLE”

cycle

The Problem :

For many shops, every day is business as usual. The same cycle … day after day. Doing the same things … producing parts the same ways … working with the same clients. Unfortunately, it’s the cycle of losing money .. and most don’t know how to get out of it … or are scared to make a change.

Also unfortunately … doing things this same old way won’t turn things around.  Most shop owners simply think that by just getting more business … they can turn profits around and solve any and all financial problems. The truth is … the more business you bring in … the more the existing problems will be exacerbated.  Probably … the more money and profits will be lost … the hole will just get deeper.

The Solution :

The first step is to step back … take a breath … and realize “Houston, we have a problem.” The first act of fixing a problem is realizing that there IS a problem … and being 100% committed to working to fix the problem. But how do you identify the problem?

You need to look deeply at every aspect of your business. All the things as a business owner you do every day need to be assessed completely. Most times … you already know the things that frustrate you and that you know “aren’t right”. Each week … take one … focus on it … and it alone. Try to come up with some ideas either yourself or in group discussions to move it along … and implement at least two.

Will they work? Will they be the right solutions? Maybe YES … maybe NO. But as I mentioned above … you need to break the CYCLE. Sometimes just changing things up highlights another road or opens another door.

Realizing that there is a problem … and being 100% committed to trying to resolve it … is an monumental first step.

Estimating

#2 – Chasing Your Tail

tail_chasing

The Problem :

RFQ’s are coming in the door left and right … and your sending out bids and quotes to match. At this clip business must be good. Right?

There is a huge difference between winning WORK … and winning PROFITABLE WORK. If your shop is losing money … the first place to start looking is in your bidding process. OBVIOUSLY ( doesn’t really need to be stated does it? ) … quote to high you won’t win the job … quote to low you won’t make any profit.

The Solution :

WARNING … SALES PITCH AHEAD. You knew it was coming … but it’s true. Spreadsheets and an outdated quoting and estimating process is almost all the time a big culprit. NUF SAID about this. OBVIOUSLY … we recommend a trip over to HERE and explore some options we have to offer. Created from our almost 30 years in a variety of manufacturing environments … including running shops from small to high volume manufacturers.

TURN LEADS AWAY. That’s right. One effective way to “fix” your quoting and estimating process is to turn leads away. Not every job or RFQ you receive is the right job for your shop. As mentioned above … sometimes getting more work will simply lead to losing more money.

PRE-QUALIFY. Invest some time upfront in qualifying those RFQ’s. Ask about their budget … ask when they plan on making a decision … find out who the decision maker is and make sure you’re in contact with the right person. A little bit of pre-qualification will save you a lot of time and frustration with leads who will never result in business.

TRUST YOUR PROCESS. You need to have a cycletime and cost estimating process in place that you can trust. Take some time to compare jobs you won … against the costs of actually manufacturing and delivering the job. Time consuming I know … but definitely time well spent. Once you know that your bids are turning a profit … that’s a process you can trust.  When you work up the numbers … that’s it. That’s the cost … period. No undercuts. No additional discounts. If you lose the job … good .. you wouldn’t have made any money anyway.  Don’t spend valuable time running after profit-losing business … invest your time in winning profitable work. It makes no sense in bringing in work just to bring in work. The mantra needs to be ONLY PROFITABLE WORK. Maybe … just maybe … this will open other doors and shed light on other problems … some you want to see and some you don’t. But reality is what it is.

#3 – Manage Your Cash Flow

cash_flow

The Problem :

Bad cash flow will sink any size business. The work might be flying out … but if the money isn’t coming as fast or faster, you can’t fund the process. It’s that simple … and it’s that important. It’s a job nobody likes … but has to be done. PERIOD.

The Solution :

Think of innovative ways to get paid faster. Discounts for early / quick payment … but build these into your quotes and estimates … we don’t want to effect the bottom line.

CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS. This is the first and best alternative. Be proactive on this … and clients who choose this method are your #1 clients. Let the bank or CC company worry about dept collection … not your cash flow. Sure the “big companies” will have an issue … but there are plenty of smaller players that can fill the gap.

ONLINE STORE. OK I shouldn’t even have to mention this … but I will. Your shop MUST HAVE a web presence. NUF SAID. If you don’t … get one … period. And if you manufacture any kind of product that can be sold online … a web presence with an online store that accepts credit cards is ESSENTIAL !! I can’t emphasize this enough. IT’S HUGE. No cash flow issues here … no collection issues here … no chasing orders here … the web site does all the work … 24/7. Even getting real innovative … accept RFQ’s through the site and have clients accept and pay through the site. There are really too many points and roads to point down here … but your business mind should be scrambled by now with all the innovative and new ways to grow your business and better manage at least a portion of your cash flow.

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OK … it’s a start. Just some initial ideas we have experience with … and some solutions we found effective over the years. But hey … you’re a business owner. You’re an entrepreneur. You just need a shot in the arm. Hopefully … we have provided some food for thought … some stimulation … some energy. NOW GO GET ‘EM !!

Kenney Skonieczny – President

Kentech Inc.

Backlash in Your CNC – What You Need to Know

( NOTE : This article references FANUC controls but is basically applicable to all CNC controls. )

A machine is a machine is a machine. Just because the words CNC are attached to your machine tool doesn’t mean it doesn’t get old or lose it’s accuracy. And one of the main reasons your CNC machine losses it’s accuracy is due to the ever infamous backlash.

What is backlash ?

The axis motion that makes up your machine tool is done through the use of ballscrews attached to your machining center’s table and spindle housing or your lathes tool turret. The nut for the screw is usually attached to the table or turret and is connected to the ballscrew which is connected to your drive motor. As the motor turns the ballscrew, the nut moves the table or turret and your machine has motion. All ballscrew assemblies have some “slop” or backlash at assembly – the match between the screw and the nut. Basically backlash is the amount of motion the screw has to make when reversing direction before the nut and therefore the table or turret start to move.

How is backlash compensated?

Using the machine tools CNC controller, the builder can tell the controller how much motion is lost when the axis reverses direction due to the backlash. This value is stored in the machines parameters and when the particular axis goes to change direction, it looks in this parameter to know how much motion it needs to have (how many revolutions of the screw it needs to make) before the axis will physically start to move. The value of the parameter is usually in MM, although they may be in INCH settings in some instances

Why should I care ?

As the machine tool wears or as contaminants get onto the ballscrew and therefore in the nut, the original backlash settings lose their accuracy and therefore effect the accuracy of the machine tool. Positioning problems arise, straightness problems arise, as do a host of other related problems. Basically, the machine does not meet the specs like it did when it was new.

As mentioned above, sometimes contaminants can get onto the screw and then get carried into the nut. Although most nuts are protected against chips and debris, poor conditions can sometimes force the debris into the nut causing premature wearing of the screw and a pronounced backlash problem. Those contaminants can range from coolant to cutting chips. That is why it is essential to keep the machine areas clean and free from an excessive amount of chips. If chips are allowed to accumulate, they can become packed and when the machine tool moves, it forces the chips under guards and into areas where they shouldn’t be. Eventually they get forced into the screws and nut areas causing un-repairable problems. Ballscrew replacement is not a cheap repair. Keep the expression: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound or cure” in mind when planning your maintenance efforts.

What can I do about backlash ?

The normal method for adjusting the machine’s backlash involves adjusting the backlash parameter values. This can be done by a qualified technician or you can give it a try. Outlined below is a brief but complete explanation of how to check for backlash and how to adjust it in FANUC controlled machine tools.

How often should you check it ? Recommended time frame would be about every 3-6 months. If you create the following sample programs in your memory and leave them there or upload and download them from a shop floor PC, you shouldn’t spend much more than one hour or so keeping your machine accurate and at the same time you’ll be checking for any other damaging problems. For example, if you see the backlash changing drastically, you might find a way lube problems or chip build up problem before they cause bigger problems.

How much backlash compensation is acceptable ? As mentioned above, all machines have some backlash adjustment, even when brand new and at ship time. As the machine wears, that value needs to be increased. Normal wear might have .005″ – .010″ adjustment in a ballscrew. If the value needs to be more than .010″, it might be time to take a deeper look. Also, you need to check the backlash at various areas of the screw as it might be wearing more in one area than another. One example might be on a machining center where the set-up people always mount the vise or fixture in the middle of the table. Looks good but also causes a massive amount of wear in one confined area. the best scenario is to mount the vise or fixture all over the table, changing the location for every job – spreading the wear around evenly.

The best way to check the backlash is to first clear out the current parameter value in the control. The various parameter numbers for the variety of FANUC controls are listed further down in this page. First, write down the current values, then clear them by setting them to zero. Then make the machine move through the memory mode. We have found discrepancies in the past between the machine’s handle or MPG mode and the memory mode, so we recommend you run the machine through MDI or through the machines memory mode. Below are a couple of sample programs for FANUC controls that you can use to gather your backlash data. Remember, the backlash is the amount of wasted motion when the particular axis changes direction.</p>

<p>If possible, check the backlash at different areas of the screw. On a machining center, mount the block in different areas of the table and check. On a lathe, check the backlash as various distances away from the chuck. If the values are different in the different areas, this could mean that the screw is worn in one place different than others. On a lathe, this tends to happen close to the chuck where the majority of the cutting is performed. You can’s do much about to prevent it on a lathe but on a machining center, you can help yourself by mounting the chuck or fixture in various places on the table to allow for even wear. If you find big differences in the backlash in different areas, it may be too late and you may have to replace the screw.

Conversational

Machining Center Backlash Adjusting Program.

If you have a Vertical or Horizontal machining center, the following program will give you an idea of how to create a program to test the backlash for each axis.

The following is a sample program for the X axis. Start the program with an indicator mounted to the spindle, touching a block mounted on the table, touching the right side of the block.

You can let the program run a couple of times to make certain that you get the same readings at the M00’s in the program. The difference between Reading #1 and Reading #2 is the amount of backlash in your X axis.

You can use the same style program making changes as required to perform the same function for the other axis as well. Basically, you just want the machine to move one way then back, stop so you can and collect the indicator reading, then move the other way and back and collect that reading.

CNC Lathe Backlash Adjusting Program.

If you have a CNC lathe, the following program will give you an idea of how to create a program to test the backlash for each axis.

The following is a sample program for the Z axis. Start the program with an indicator mounted to the spindle or chuck, touching a block mounted on the turret or the tool turret itself, touching the spindle side of the block or turret.

Once you collect the value and know the backlash for your machine, you’ll need to adjust the parameter values. Parameter values for FANUC controls are usually given in MM  values, without the use of decimal point. So, for example, a parameter value of 30, actually means .030 mm – the decimal point is imaginary and placed three places from the right. You can use the following conversion formula to change your backlash data to mm, then enter that value into appropriate parameter – don’t forget to drop the decimal point and add any zeros as required.

MM = inch x 25.4

For reference, 1mm = .0394 in.

On a CNC lathe, the value can either be a radius or diameter value. Since there is no easy way to tell, input a radius value then re-run the test program. Adjust as necessary and make a note so next time you will know.

When you’re done, you should re-run the particular axis program again to double check that you did the backlash adjustment correctly. When you re-run the program, you should see less than .0001″ backlash.</p>

FANUC Backlash Parameter Numbers.

Listed below are the parameter numbers for the various FANUC control models. One note, lathe controls are T models whereas machining centers are M models.

FANUC Version 6T :

X Axis = Par # 115

Z Axis = Par # 116

FANUC Version 6M :

X Axis = Par # 115

Y Axis = Par # 116

Z Axis = Par # 117

4th Axis = Par # 118

FANUC Version 10/11/12T :

Par # 1851

Seperate line for each axis.

FANUC Version 10/11/12M :

Par # 1851

Seperate line for each axis.

FANUC Version 0T :

X Axis = Par # 535

Z Axis = Par # 536

FANUC Version 0M :

X Axis = Par # 535

Y Axis = Par # 536

Z Axis = Par # 537

4th Axis = Par # 538

FANUC Version 16/18/20T :

Par # 1851

Seperate line for each axis.

FANUC Version 16/18/20M :

Par # 1851

Seperate line for each axis.

NOTE : This 16/18/20 series of control can have a seperate backlash amount when moving at a feedrate and for moving at the rapid rate. This is an option – check with your machine tool builder. If this is the case, Parameter number 1851 is for feedrate and # 1852 is for rapid. You can use the programs above, just change from G00 to G01 and add a feedrate to test for the feedrate backlash amount.

Until Next Time … Happy (and accurate) Chip Making !

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