4 G-Code Tips for Increasing Your CNC Efficiency
We’ve talked about G-code before – the original and most common programming language used by CNC software. It is an alphanumeric format that tells your CNC machine what to do, dictating how and where the machine moves to create your part.
But there are also ways G-code can be optimized to serve as an inexpensive way to improve your CNC efficiency – without sacrificing quality or safety. And the best part is that unlike upgrades to your equipment or workforce, these techniques are free and only require a bit of rethinking on how you are structuring your G-code today.
Here is a closer look at four ways to optimize your G-code for improved CNC efficiency.
Tip 1: Internalize M-Codes
If you recall from the last time we talked about G-codes, M-codes are functions within the G-code language that control miscellaneous machine functions not involved with cutting (such as the stopping and starting of specific actions or programs).
Including M-codes with motion commands whenever feasible is a great way to improve efficiency, including spindle on/off and coolant on/off functions. This results in the M-codes’ activation time being internal to the time it takes to make the motion (or vice versa).
This is particularly important with CNC machines that allow only one M-code per command. It is impossible to start or stop the coolant and spindle at the same time unless the machine builder provides additional M-codes for that purpose.
Tip 2: Efficiently Program Your Automatic Tool Changers
Automatic tool changers (ATCs) improve the production and tool-carrying capacity of a CNC machine by changing tools very quickly without the help of a manual operator. But ATCs still need to be programmed properly to maximize their impact.
For instance, including an M19 command in the tool’s movement to the tool-change position will align the key in the tool-change arm with the keyway in the tool-holder during the motion. For double-arm changers, try getting the next tool ready soon after making a tool change. And lastly, for short machining cycles, you should always be sure your tools are loaded consecutively in the tool changer magazine for optimal efficiency.
Tip 3: Watch for Constant Surface Speed
Inefficiently programmed constant surface speed is indicated by the spindle slowing down and speeding up during tool changes. This adds to the program execution time as the spindle commonly takes longer to slow down and speed up than to perform the retract/approach motion. This also places unneeded stress on the spindle drive system while wasting electricity.
For consecutive tools that use a constant surface speed, you can remedy this by temporarily selecting the RPM mode and specifying the RPM for the next tool’s approach position during the tool’s retract to the turret index position. This will save time as the spindle will not have to slow down.
Then, index the turret and give the command to move to the new tool’s approach position. Finally, reselect the constant surface speed mode and the spindle speed should no longer change since the spindle is already running at the appropriate RPM.
Tip 4: Look for Noticeable Pauses
As programs run on your machine, it’s a good idea to always be monitoring, analyzing, and eliminating any reasons the machine might be pausing. If it is pausing during a tool change, it is likely because the magazine is still rotating to the next tool. If this is the case, place the tools in consecutive order in the magazine.
If the tool has changed but there’s a delay before it begins its first movement, then the machine is changing spindle ranges. This is why it’s so important to understand the cutoff point for spindle range changing and run tools that require the same range consecutively.
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