CNC Machining is a complicated business, whether dealing with Used CNC machines or new, everyone runs their shop a little differently. Because of that, certain simple machine tool tricks may completely fly under the radar of even an experienced CNC machinist. Here are a couple tips that may help your shop run a little smoother:
3. Always keep spare parts
So imagine this: the president of the United States walks into your shop. He was on his way to an important peace talk which could bring stability to the entire middle east, when his helicopter broke down! Now, you're the only one for miles around that can manufacture the replacement part for his helicopter in time for him to make it to the meeting. Luckily, you've made parts exactly like it hundreds of times, and it should be no trouble. You go to your workstation, calibrate your CNC mill, put in the work piece, and get started, when tragedy strikes; your cutter breaks. None of your other end mills will be able to handle such a precision piece! You order another and assure the President that his part will be done soon. Tragically, while you and the POTUS were waiting 2 to 3 business days, the entire middle east has descended into war and chaos, and it's all your fault.
All. Your. Fault.
Now you may or may not regularly serve the US President or other important world leaders (that's none of my business) but there's no doubt that you have some important customers, and you never know when they're going to have an urgent need. Keeping a well stocked supply of spare parts set aside specifically for emergencies can save you from wasting time, losing customers, and inadvertently causing major international incidents. Pro tip: whenever you need to dip into your spare parts collection, order a replacement before you even take it out, just so you don't forget.
2. Create a maintenance routine
Maintaining your shop and equipment is crucial to success. If your machine isn't regularly cleaned you may lose parts in the hustle of day to day work, and if you don't perform routine maintenance on your machine tools, they'll... burst in to fire or something? I don't know, I take care of my machines like a smart person. However, obvious as this may sound, shops all around the world constantly lose hours upon hours searching for misplaced tools or repairing machines that shouldn't be broken. So why's that? Well, it's simply easy to say "eh, I can do it tomorrow" when you don't have a set routine, and just like Mom said when you wouldn't do your chores, "tomorrow never comes". That's why having a schedule is so important, you can't miss a step or delay much needed maintenance.
"Ugh, fine mom, I'll refill the coolant fluid."
What should your schedule be then? Well that's up to you, build it around your business and your equipment. Okuma offers a schedule for their machines, so that may be somewhere to start. Ultimately it's going to depend on how much you use every machine, and what times and days you're busy.
1. The Internet is Your Friend
We all get stuck sometimes. There's no shame in it, it's an inevitable part of the process, all that matters is what you do about it. While an ancient Egyptian lather hitting a roadblock may have had to pray to ka'lath, the god of CNC equipment, here in the modern day we've got a few more options. The internet is a vast resources of CNC guides, tutorials, and forums, all full to the brim with all the information a machinist could possibly need. Here on the MMI blog we're written articles on topics from shop safety to selling equipment, and that's just scratching the surface; youtube channels like NYC CNC offer video guides, manufactures like Haas have in depth tutorials, and forums like Practical Machinist have dozens of Q&A threads from people who've probably gone through the same problems as you.
CNC Machining is something you can always improve on, and one of the keys to running a successful shop is always having your eyes open for little ways to make things more efficient. These tips are just the surface; maybe it's time to try learning a new machine, or upgrading and old reliable machine to a new model. Whatever the case, we hope these tips were able to help push your shop to its full potential.
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