S Tools (short for SMW Tools) is a great organization method to reduce setup time.
End mills, chamfer tools, taps, drills, and other frequently used cutting tools remain in dedicated holders. A Google Sheet (similar to Microsoft Excel) tracks the “S number”, tool description, cutting tool product link, holder, and approximate stickout. The S Tools are also programmed in a Fusion 360 Tool Library.
The S Tools system offers a number of benefits, such as:
- Common tools are always in a ready-to-use state. Significant time is saved by not having to search for and set up tools, collets, and holders.
- The investment is negligible compared to the time savings and improvement in programming and process reliability. Most of the tool assemblies (holder + collet) are under $200. As an example, converting 30 tools to S Tools would cost approximately $6,000. There are also ways do implement this system cheaper: 1) current holders may be able to be used, 2) holders can be purchased over time as cash flow permits and 3) the investment is still a fraction of alternative “automation” solutions such as higher capacity ATC’s, robots, or pallet systems (many of which are $30k to $100k+).
- The bins offer a high-density, inexpensive way to hold extra cutting tools, tool-specific hand tools, extra carbide inserts, tool information, anti-seize and more.
- The solution effectively requires no training; a new employee immediately knows where the requisite items are.
- The tag rack displays the current “T” number for a cutting tool in the machine control ATC.
- Tools not currently in an ATC are relatively easy to identify, increasing the confidence you’re selecting the correct tool and avoiding the time, hassle, and risk of mis-identifying similar tools.
A note on the system design:
In a perfect world with unlimited ATC size, the S Tools system could be abandon and all tools could be stored in the ATC. (However, this solution would still not allow a way to share tools across machines). By separate the “S” number (for S tools) and “T” number for the current machine tool number, you can easily share tools and use the tool tag + 3D printed rack to identify current tool number.