Profile cutting machine manufacturer, Techserv, has retrofitted its own controller onto a customer’s existing Esprit Lightening HD to give greater value for money.Managing director of Techserv Cutting Systems Ltd, Mike Cowley, said Read more
Techserv CNC Software Control System
Plasma and gas cutting machines are essentially large XY plotters fitted with a cutting head. As a result they can be driven using very simple control systems offering little more than XY path following functions. Whilst this can be adequate for some applications, however a well designed CNC control system can;
Improve productivity with the Techserv CNC control system software
The Techserv CNC control system software can reduce scrap
Techserv CNC control system helps to decrease operator errors
Automate repetitive tasks with Techserv CNC control softwar
Typically these bespoke systems will be used to manufacture a wide range of products from fork trucks to bridges, buildings and ships, through to signs and small fabricated parts.
The powerful Techserv CNC control software system has been designed from the offset to control cutting machines and includes features not found on most hobby systems.
Techcserv CNC Control Sytem Design
When Techserv started programming the bespoke control system some years ago, we were very conscious that control systems tended to be designed by computer engineers sitting in a computer engineer’s office whereas what we wanted was a system that would be designed ideally by the end user. In the first six months we spent quite a lot of time at a customer who took an early version of the system, we'd make a few modifications and get feedback direct from the customer if he thought it was a good idea or a bad idea and what thoughts they had. Over that 6 month period we built a system that between us we thought was absolutely ideal.
CNC Systems Working For People
So Techserv had integrated the users from day one.
A a lot of the basic control stuff is really invisible to the operator so they didn't have involvement there but it’s more than the front end; how you move from screen to screen, what functions you need to carry out, at which time.
Simplified CNC Systems
Although it sounds fairly basic - you load a shape, you cut it - there's quite a bit of involvement in there dynamically moving shapes around, manipulating shapes, choosing shapes out of nests, automatically set up of gas pressures and plasma controls. It all becomes quite complex.
For Techserv it’s a case of how you remove that complexity and how you make it easy to operate so the key thing is ease of operation and, on the face of it, a simple control system.On the downside people tend to think it looks overly simple and therefore because it looks simple and easy to use, it does not have the functionality that they expect out of more complicated system. In reality the complexity is in there but it is only there when you need it.
With the Techserv CNC system if you're using the gas cutting it controls the gas pressures automatically so there's no regulator on the machine and so it leads to an uncluttered machine with very simple gas controls because they're all electronic - it means you can adjust them 'on the fly', you can add set ups for different material thicknesses which are all integrated in. The consequence of this is the machinery itself looks much simpler because we lose all the clutter on the machine so again it;s a simple design, it lends itself to be an uncluttered, uncomplicated machine.
CNC System Features
- Close-up of System FeaturesSimply select the material thickness, type and the cutting current you want to use and the system sets up all other parameters automatically, including cutting speed, initial height, cutting height, pierce delay, arc voltage etc. Also when flame cutting, the gas pressures are automatically set using a proportional pressure valve.
- ControlCutting speed can be varied on the fly, along with all height sense parameters, oxygen pressure etc.
- Data LoggingThe CNC system produces a daily log file, detailing most functions including, cut on, gas on, job running, job name, screen name etc. Data is logged per second and an off line viewing programme gives an easy to read visual indication of any days activities along with a job list with timings.
- Diagnostic FunctionsThe CNC system has comprehensive diagnostics and test screens allowing all functions to be confirmed including re-configurable inputs and outputs.
- Dynamic re-positionUsing the pop up jog panel, parts can be moved around the plate in test mode and moved to the correct position. This feature is used if the material to be cut is an irregular shape or the parts are a tight fit on the plate.
- Easy Shape SelectionThe system can import programmes from a wide range of systems, including ESSI, Word Address, GCode and DXF etc. Parts can be previewed prior to selection and the rotated, mirrored and scaled if necessary.
- Forward and reverse along cut path.Steel warms up when cut and can flex when the manufacturing stresses are removed, this can cause the plasma or gas cutting stream to be extinguished. Pressing the backup button causes the machine to reverse along the cutting path so the cut can be re-established, reducing scrap.
- Height SenseThe CNC system includes an automatic plasma height sense system capable of driving :- analouge, digital and stepper drives. Initial height sense can be set via :- following error, ohmic clip, touch switch. Arc voltage control can be set via the inbuilt look up tables or self measured and set. Typical following accuracy is +/- 0.1 volt and typical loop response is 2 ms. Full height sense freeze and corner slow functions are included.
- Inbuilt Generic ShapesThe system has a number of inbuilt shapes ranging from rectangles and rings through to lugs and floor plates. Selecting a template from the generic shape screen and following the simple dimension prompts creates a part that can be cut with no further programming.
- Jump to PartOn the run screen touching a part will cause the machine to move to that point and commence cutting.
- Lost Cut RecoveryA Jobs can be halted during the cut and restarted at a later date. This is a useful feature allowing urgent parts to be cut when the machine is tied up during a large nest, or if the cutting has to be stopped for another reason.password protected configuration screen give access to the machines setup parameters. A backup is automatically created whenever this information is modified. The email data button sends the machines setup file to our offices for storage or diagnostics.
- Machine ConfigurationA password protected configuration screen give access to the machines setup parameters. A backup is automatically created whenever this information is modified. The email data button sends the machines setup file to our offices for storage or diagnostics.
- Manual ControlEach process features a manual cut screen with cut on / off control, multi direction jog and height sense controls. Traverse speed and cut speed is controlled automatically.
- NestingSemi automatic nesting fills plates with minimum wastage, allowing multiple parts to be cut from a sheet. Also row and column array nesting with adjustable scrap allowance make the most use of the plate.
- Optical ScannerIt can be difficult to programme some artistic and hand drawn shapes using conventional cad systems. This clip on scanner follows line drawn profiles and converts them into CNC and DXF files so they can be cut out or imported into a CAD package for editing. The scanner is unique to the Techserv CNC system and is easy to operate, accurate, will scan parts up to the size of the machine bed and requires no additional software. Very handy for converting cardboard templates to steel in one go.
- Part SelectionComplex nests can be imported to the controller and individual parts selected by tapping the relevant part on the screen, useful when a part has be damaged or lost.
- PC SystemThe software is designed to run on a modern windows PC, running Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8 and requires at least one USB port, no parallel ports are needed.
- Run ScreenThe uncluttered run screen has a logical layout with a large interactive graphical display area showing the profiles to be cut with current cut position, part cut indicator and overall size. The graphical display includes comprehensive zoom functions, full nest view, twelve level zoom, auto zoom and finger zoom. Around the display are zones dedicated to motion, height sense and cut control.
- Super HoleTo achieve the best quality plasma holes they should be cut with an arc lead in, reduced speed with fixed height sense, the plasma should be turned off at about 350 degrees and the cut continued with some overburn until the hole is complete. The Techserv CNC system carries out all these tasks automatically with no need to pre-define parts or holes.
- Touch Screen InterfaceDesigned from the outset to operate with a touch screen, the CNC system features large easy to press buttons, with large text and specially designed screens to replace standard windows explorer etc.
Techserv CNC Screenshots
Cutting Complex Shapes With a CNC
I want to create an artistic shape, how am I going to do that? Squares and rectangles and angles are quite easy to do in CAD and people can pick it up quite quickly but creating artistic shapes represents a bit of a challenge. Rising to this challenge Techserv have created a small scanning head that clips onto the side of the plasma torch. If customers wants to create complex shapes they can draw them with a pen and then use the machine to trace them and then cut them out.
Simple but Powerful CNC Software
This isn't a gimmick, the amount of confidence it gives people and the ease of use means that it turns what can be a daunting control, complex control system, into something that's easy, simple to use and can produce any shape you like.
This removes the barriers that some people may have in buying a CNC cutting machine because it's now obviously easy to use; generally we can train somebody in the basics of the control system operation in about an hour or two.
Crosshair Laser CNC Guide
Many of our machines are fitted with a small crosshair laser on the cutting torch enabling one to align the plate up easily using this laser. The machine knows where the laser is in comparison to its torch, so, line the laser up and the machine will then move to the correct place to start cutting the plate. This speeds up operation.
Low Cost Laser CNC Guide
Techserv buy the laser units in and make a mounting bracket with our in-house water-jet cutting machine. We clip the laser on the front of the torch so the sum total of all this lot is about £15, but it's a useful feature to have. Generally speaking this useful feature is included with the machine free of charge.
CNC System FAQs
- Remote CNC Software UpgradesBecause we've got remote support to the machines and, generally speaking, the machine's on the internet, we can upgrade the software over the internet. If a customer has a particular problem that we've not come across before, which is unlikely, we can fix it and send them the fixed software in a matter of minutes. It has advantages if the customer wants to do something a bit odd, we can sort it out quite quickly, or if they have issues with the software that lives in the office, what quite often happens is if a customer changes the software in the office and it produces different output, then they'll send us a copy of the output and we'll modify our front-end input functions to work with it. So we're always looking to improve our product, improve the software and one of the things we pride ourselves on is the very quick turnaround time. If a customer has a feature they'd like to see in the control room that's not there currently then, if it's reasonable, we'll put it in. We had one customer wanted very long lead in lines in his circles because he was cutting very thick materials so, "fair enough, that sounds like a reasonable thing to do", so we programmed it in and sent the new version a couple of days later. That leads to a happy customer.
- Remote Control and SupportOur approach to after sales is a little peculiar in that I consider a breakdown as an embarrassment rather than an earning opportunity. So as a consequence, if someone has a fault or breakdown on a machine, then we'll give them as much guidance as we can over the telephone to get them up and running as soon as possible. The most important thing to your customer, generally speaking, is getting the product out and reducing downtime. It's quite often seen as the most important thing - how you can extract as much money as possible out of the customer if they're in a situation where they're desperate for the machine running. We would prefer to get the machine going at no profit to us, if the customer gets up and running quickly. This is one of the reasons why we'll log into people's machines and give them remote support. Because we can do it quickly, if someone rings up and has a problem with the machine, we can log in within minutes, see what the issue is, give them some guidance. It might be that it's an operator issue or operation issue but we can diagnose this very quickly, so we don't have the situation of an engineer driving 250 miles and taking a day to get somewhere only to press a button and come back again, which quite often happens. It can be a very valuable asset to be able to log into a machine and check out what's happening.
- Internet Based CNC Sytem SupportA lot of machines we support using internet based support, so the machines in India, if they've got an issue then we can log into those, check out the parameters of the machines, the machines have all got built in diagnostics and diagnostic pages so we can have a look at the machine, see what it's up to, see if there's an issue and give the local engineers guidance ... this has several advantages, an obvious one is cost cos we don't have to go out on site but the primary one is you can get your customer up and running quickly so if you can diagnose a fault over the internet, you can give the customer some guidance, what they need to do to repair it or which pieces they need to buy - they could buy them locally, stick them on and away you go, and it's the flexibility of using the Internet for remote support means you can become a global company and you can sell systems throughout the globe. The internet is virtually everywhere so it means we can be virtually on site in seconds. Because we design our machines and systems to be simple, using standard parts, if they do have a major catastrophe such as a broken computer, then it's as easy to buy a computer in China as it is over here, or Malaysia or in Egypt, stick it on and we can get the thing up and running very rapidly.