Organizing CNC Tools

We use the S Tools (short for SMW Tools) 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.

Tool Tag

Akro-Mils 19228 Bin

Bin Numbering

Label Maker

Tool Tag Rack