View cart 0

Did the origins of the Smart Factory begin with Punch Manufacturers?

Read this in your language
  • 简体中文
  • Français
  • Deutsch
  • Italiano
  • 日本語
  • 한국어
  • Polski
  • Español

Receive ANCA news direct to your inbox

Stay updated on the latest tips and technology


Privacy Policy

Punch tool grinding has enjoyed and era of progressive improvements over the past couple of decades, delivering significant changes to productivity and flexibility.  Today, punch manufacturers have moved on to five axis machines that are capable of operations beyond just punches. Further, integrating them to an automated ‘Smart Factory’ is driving production flexibility and cost reduction particularly on small batch runs – benefits that flow directly onto their customers.   

Duncan Thompson, Product Manager at ANCA for Punch Grinding Products recalls “eight years ago, ANCA made its last PGX; a three-axis machine with one grinding wheel dedicated to the punch grinding applications.  The move onto a five axis TX7+ machine using super-abrasive (CBN) grinding wheels in place of conventional (aluminium oxide) abrasive delivered real benefits.  Not only was the metal removal faster, there was significantly less time taken for wheel dressing.  The result was improved overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).”

“Then came the five-axis tool grinder. While the PGX had one wheel for one grinding operation, on five axis tool grinders, customers could now access multiple wheels for multiple operations. With two-wheel packs, the TX7 could have separate wheels for rough and finish and include an additional wheel for ‘roof-top end face grinding.” 

I Holland, a manufacturer of punches and dies, used to produce tablets in the pharmaceutical, detergent, cosmetic, veterinary and confectionary industries - saved time and money by introducing multiple wheel-packs.  John Woloszczak, Senior Operations Manufacturing Manager explains, “we took delivery of two new TX7+ machines as the TX7+ offered us some advantages such as more than one-wheel pack so we could grind the neck with a coarser wheel and the head with a finer wheel as the surface finish is critical on the head. This saves us money in wheels and time with one set-up. The smaller grinding wheels used on the TX7 also made them cheaper. An unexpected benefit was that one operator could now easily lift the wheel packs safely so set-up and mounting was reduced to two to three minutes instead of 15-20 minutes.”


Duncan continued, “Quickly, other customers started adopting the multiple wheel packs in TXcell (up to 24) and MX7 (up to 6) as being the solution for a single setup machine that could cater for their complete catalogue of different punches with zero setup time between different tool types.”

“Customers seeking the increasing levels of production flexibility have also introduced additional operations on the machines that previously required separate work stations.  Endmills and drills are introduced to machine the punch’s ejector pin holes in the punch. Also, the addition of deburring brushes takes care of yet another step in punch production.”

So, in the unending quest for productivity and efficiency gains, where to next? 

Of the diverse array of customers ANCA works with, punch manufacturers are now at the leading edge of ‘Smart Factory’ solutions.  This is driven by the demand for a highly flexible production system that runs with reduced labour requirements.  Duncan explains “we see punch manufacturers increasingly working with small batch quantities.  Less than 10 pieces is common and single piece orders are now also expected.  With up to 24 wheel-pack stations on hand to grind any punch in their catalogue, companies now are taking steps towards automated, lights out production.” 

Key to lights out production is the integration of the automated grinding cell into a factory wide production system.  The first step was linking the machine to the factory Enterprise Resource Planner (ERP) system that manages incoming customer orders and production flows through the factory.  Scanning a QR code from the tool job sheet or an RFID attached to the tool, data from the customers’ order is used to generate the required operations on the ANCA grinder.  There is effectively no operator input required for wheel or tool selection or setting grinding feeds and speeds – its all done automatically using ANCA Scripting Language that sets up necessary operations from pre-prepared template operations that are then adapted for specific customer tools.”
“With this capability in place, the next step was to automatically feed tools to the grinder.  Normally, the ANCA grinder is one of several discrete operations in producing a finished tool.  To increase automation, customers are using fixed conveyor or automatically guided vehicles (AGV) to move tools from one work station to the next.  Each work station reads the same RFID to determine what operations will be performed. This effectively means a finished tool can be made to order with little or no operator involvement.”

 “While there are challenges in setting up ‘Smart Factory’ systems, working together with ANCA, customers are realising the rewards with reduced labour costs, greater machine overall equipment efficiency (OEE) and quicker turn around of customer special orders. While punch manufacturers are leading the charge on this, this trend seems set to continue with cutting tool manufacturers also looking at similar Smart Factory systems,” concludes Duncan

A punch tool manufacture has set up the infrastructure for closed loop tool grinding. Parts move automatically through the factory from one processing station to the next on a conveyor system.  RFID chips in the tool pallets are linked to the company MRP & ERP system with gives information of the customers tool order and therefore what manufacturing operations are required. With two TXcell machines, the ANCA grinding cell robot arm has the capability to reach each station to perform grinding, milling and drilling, deburring, measurement feeding back to machines and part cleaning operations before the tool is returned to the factory conveyor for its next processing operation and ultimate despatch to the customer. This set up is possible for most tool grinding applications.

What are the benefits of industrial automation or lights out manufacturing?
  • Cost reduction, through reduced labour input and greater machine uptime. The drive for automation is being driven by availability of skilled labour, where machines can fill those gaps.
  • Automation is an important step to help people meet regulatory obligations with relation to the limits of weekly work hours without compromising machine utilisation.
  • Reduced material handling makes run smaller batches much more cost effective.
  • Streamlining of existing processes and systems across the business.
  • Eliminating mistakes in material management.
  • Automating in-process measurement raises the quality of tool production and can nearly eliminate waste, meaning more profit.

26 June 2019