Suburban Machinery/Software Division Suburban Machinery
Software, Inc.
37777 Harlow Dr., Willoughby, OH 44094 (440) 951-8974 Fax: (440) 951-1412
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PC-DNC Plus Tooling Control System
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PC-DNC Plus is now available with an optional tooling control system that uses barcodes to identify qualified (pre-measured) tools. When a qualified tool is loaded into a CNC machine, PC-DNC Plus will automatically generate the correct tool offset commands and load them into the CNC control. The system can also be used to control your tool inventory, and to actively monitor the usage of each tool during production. This powerful new feature works through the PC-DNC Plus communications system, and can be added to existing systems currently in operation.

The qualified tooling features of the system can be used with any CNC control that is capable of executing a program command to set tool offset values (such as the Fanuc "G10" command). Additional features for active tool life monitoring require that the CNC control have "macro" programming features (similar to the Fanuc Macro B option.) The only hardware items required are barcode wands or readers, and some inexpensive (pre-printed) barcode tags and machine placards.

Functionally, PC-DNC Plus Tooling Control System is similar to the system made by  Balluff Corporation that uses RFID chips embedded in the tool holders.   Unlike the Balluff system however, the PC-DNC Plus system:

1)  Does not require an RFID chip, so it does not require any modification (or rebalancing) of the tool holders
2)  Does not require a special RFID reader mounted on the machine to read the data on the chip
3)  Works on both machining centers AND lathes
4)  Reports tool usage to the DNC system, showing total tool usage time as the tool is used
5)  Can send emails to selected recipients when a tool's predicted use limit is near
6)  Shows on the DNC system what machine and what tool position has the specified tool holder
7)  Works with multiple machines in your shop.   Lathes or Machining Centers.
8)  A single wireless barcode reader can be used on multiple machines


In the tool room:

  1. New cutting tools or inserts are installed in ordinary tool holders, and each tool’s standard length and cutting diameter are entered into a simple tooling database. If the expected cutting life of the tool has been determined, it can also be entered into the database. The name of the tool room technician and the date & time the tool was qualified is automatically recorded by the system. To avoid manual data entry, it is also possible to use measuring devices with RS232 serial output to automatically enter the length and diameter values as the tools are measured.

  2. Once a tool is qualified, a disposable barcode tag is attached to the tool holder, and the unique barcode on the tag is scanned into the database. This barcoded serial number is then used to identify the qualified tool to the PC-DNC Plus system.

  3. Used tool holders that are returned to the tool room without tags can have new inserts or cutting tools mounted, or (if the old tool’s useful life has not been reached) a new barcode tag can be attached and new length/diameter data entered into the database. Tool room personnel can quickly determine how long a tool has been in use from the database.

At the CNC machine:

  1. An embossed placard is attached to each machine, which contains a unique barcode for each of the machine’s tool positions along with a special "DONE" barcode.

  2. To replace a tool, the operator takes any qualified (tagged) tool holder and scans it with a barcode reader. He then scans the tool position number on the machine’s placard. This informs the PC-DNC system that this tool is being placed into a specific tool changer position on this particular machine. The barcode tag is then discarded.

  3. As each tag and tool position is scanned, PC-DNC Plus automatically creates a "G10" command, which it adds to a temporary tool offset file. The tool length and diameter data from the tooling database are used to construct the correct G10 command format for each machine. If a macro variable is also being used to monitor tool life, that macro variable is automatically reset to zero with a macro command. If a tool that has been previously used is being installed in the machine, PC-DNC Plus will "preset" the variable to the correct value to reflect the previous use of the tool.

  4. When all the necessary tools have been loaded into the machine, the operator scans the "DONE" barcode on the placard, and PC-DNC Plus automatically queues up the temporary tool offset file containing all the G10 commands. The tool-offset file is then ready for the machine to read through the DNC system.

  5. The machine operator can then download the tool offset file in Edit mode (or run it in TAPE mode) and all the correct offset data from the database is automatically loaded into the CNCs tool offset registers.

  6. As each tool is loaded into a machine, PC-DNC Plus automatically updates the "tool use" field in the tooling database, and registers the tool’s new location. Tools that are removed from the machine are also tagged as being "used", and the location of the tool in the database is changed to "in transit"

During automatic operation on the machine:

  1. Each time the CNC executes a "spindle start" command (M03 or M04), a small macro program is called that resets the CNCs internal timer variable to zero.

  2. When a "spindle stop" command (M05) is executed, a second macro reads the timer data, and adds this time to a pre-assigned macro variable.

  3. At the end of each part program (M30 or M02) a third macro runs, which transmits the values of each of the pre-assigned tool use variables. PC-DNC Plus receives this information, and updates the "tool use" fields in the tooling database. Anyone viewing the database can see the actual time that each tool has been in use. These "use times" are automatically updated at the end of each part cycle. Tool use can be recorded independently by the CNC control, even if the PC-DNC Plus system is not running.

  4. When a tool approaches its expected cutting time limit, PC-DNC Plus can automatically transmit e-mail messages to notify the correct personnel.

From any PC-DNC Plus server or client station:

  1. The PC-DNC Plus operator can use the "Tool List" menu to view the status of every tool in the shop’s inventory. Listed with each tool’s description is the location of that tool, its use status, and its expected life. In addition, the time and date that the tool was qualified, and the person who qualified the tool is listed.

  2. By programming the optional PC-DNC Plus E-mail function, the system can be set to automatically send or e-mails when any specific tool reaches its expected use limit, or if ANY tool reaches its expected use limit. Preset pages or e-mails can be sent to any single recipient, or simultaneously to a list of multiple recipients.

PC-DNC Plus users who are authorized to edit the tooling database may do so using any PC-DNC Plus server or client workstation. Since the tooling database file is a simple comma delimited text file, anyone with access to the file can read and analyze the tooling database with Microsoft Excel or any similar spreadsheet program