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ELSEVIER Computers in Industry 28 ( 1996) 95- 102

Effecting in-cycle measurement with preteritic CNC

machine tools
E.P. Zhou a, D.K. Harrison bp*,D. Link
a School ofEngineering, Bolton Institute of Higher Education, Bolton, BL3 SAB, UK
b Department of Engineering, Glasgow Caledonian University. Glasgow, G4 OBA, UK
School of Engineering, Staffordshire University, Stafford, ST18 OAD. UK

Received 3 May 1994; revised 14 August 1995


Interfacing probe systems to CNC machine tools which have non probe-compatible controllers is still a crucial problem
in applying in-cycle measurement techniques. A methodology for using a remote microcomputer control to effect in-cycle
measurement is described in this paper. Several approaches are discussed and a case study of one of the most practical
methods is presented.

Keywords: In-cycle measurement; Touch trigger probe system; Probe-compatible controller; Non probe-compatible controller

1. Introduction quality assurance, cycle time reduction and scrap

reduction etc. [l-4].
In-Cycle Measurement (ICM) is the automatic ICM is a sensor-based machine tool measuring
measurement or gau,ging of a component while it is system. An optional set of sensors, some already
clamped in the machining position which feeds back commercially available, some still in the laboratory
in-cycle quality data to the machine controller. This stage and some suggested as being worthy of re-
form of measurement and feedback may also include search, have provided significant information for the
automatic component setting, tool setting and tool measuring system. thong these sensors, Touch
condition monitoring. KM is used extensively in Trigger Probe (ITF) systems, which are commercial
Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining. products, have become the most widely used sensors
Since many manufacturing processes are already au- for in-cycle measurement on CNC machine tools,
tomated, it is important to obtain, from first time CNC machining centies and CNC turning centres
machining, a component of the correct size adhering [5,61.
to correct specifications. Under the ICM system, As TTP systems are introduced in ICM, it is
many benefits accrue such as adaptive control, auto- necessary that probe-compatible software is available
matic inspection, tool wear and breakage monitoring, in control. Many CNC control systems from leading
manufacturers are incorporating probe-compatible
software and hardware to respond to probe signals.
* Corresponding author. This type of control uses the built-in gauging com-

0166-3615/96/$15.00 0 1996 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved

SSDI 0166-3615(95)00062-3
96 E.P. Zhm et al./ Computers in Industry 28 (1996) 95-102

Lterface Conaector
mands or function codes to integrate the probe sys- No.20 !.SO. Taper n
tem. However, older machines are normally fitted 4 ---_H
with non probe-compatible controllers. In this case,
the probe system can not be simply applied to the
CNC machine tool to effect in-cycle measurement
since the machine controller does not react to the -J
probe signals and the gauging activities are impossi- Fig. 2. The touch trigger probe.
A major problem existing in industry is how to
apply these techniques to those machines which have
non probe-compatible controllers. Achievement of terns, Linear Variable Differential Transformers
the full credibility of ICM with those preteritic CNC (LVDT) and pneumatic gauges can be classified as
machine tools is still a crucial task. contact sensors whilst capacitance probes, inductive
This work describes a methodology for using a probes and optical sensors are non-contact sensors.
remote microcomputer control to effect in-cycle These sensor systems, relatively mature in technol-
measurement for non probe-compatible CNC ma- ogy and quite popular in practice, have been used in
chine tool controllers. The design of software to CNC machine tools for dimension and profile mea-
effect multi-function measurement is also presented. surement [7] for a number of years.
Several approaches are discussed and a case study of TTP systems with well designed measuring and
one of the most practical methods is explained in compensating programs meet the basic requirement
detail. for ICM when used on CNC machining centres and
CNC lathes. Most TIPs in current use are electronic
touch trigger probes.
2. The in-cycle measuring system The touch trigger probe (Fig. 2) is a precision,
omni-directional trigger device consisting of a probe
A typical ICM system normally consists of sen- body and a stylus. It may be mounted in a machine
sors, sensor interfaces, microprocessors or micro- spindle or on a machine bed. Whenever the stylus is
computers, software measuring programs and com- deflected in any direction, the probe sends a signal to
pensation as shown in Fig. 1. the machine controller via a cable or other methods
and the current co-ordinates of the point of contact
2.1. Sensors and sensing systems are known. After the contact has been removed the
novel design of the stylus support allows the stylus
There are two choices in sensing techniques, con- to return to its datum position with a very high
tact sensors or non-contact sensors. Both contact accuracy [8]. Usually a generous over travel permits
sensors and non-contact sensors can be applied in the stylus to deflect after contact without damage.
in-cycle measuring systems. Among them, TIP sys- The stylus returns to its datum or equilibrium posi-
tion when contact ends.

2.2. Interface
The TIP system relies on a switching principle
which is based on a kinematic location to give the
high repeatability required. The trigger signal is
transmitted to the interface, which converts the trig-
ger signal into an acceptable form for the machines
controller. Fig. 3 gives the output wave forms from
Fig. 1. An in-cycle measuring system used in a CNC machine the Ml5 interface which is a typical probe interface
tool. for CNC machine tools produced by Renishaw Ltd.
E.P. Zhou et d/Computers in Industry 28 (1996) 95-102 97

2.3. Probe-compatibi!e controllers probe signals and the TIP system can not be simply
applied to the CNC machine tool to effect tool
Some modem CNC controllers from leading man- setting and workpiece dimension measurement. There
ufacturers such as Fanuc, Heidenhain, Okuma, are still many such controllers, especially those found
Cincinnati Milacron and Siemens employ electronic on early CNC machine tools.
TTP systems combined with probe-compatible soft-
ware to effect in-cycle measurement. For example,
the Heidenhain TNC control series enables three 3. Interfacing strategies
dimensional automatic or manual measuring and
checking functions such as: checking the dimen- Having considered the practical possibilities [lo-
sional accuracy of holes, determining feeds for fin- 121, three interfacing strategies concerning the probe
ishing, checking workpiece geometry and identifying system connection may be considered. They are a
deviations from tolerances, identifying workpieces software solution, a hardware solution and a remote
prior to machining and scanning 3D surfaces. Ren- microcomputer control solution.
ishaw application software contributes to the com-
prehensive usage on work setting, component verifi- 3.1. Software solution
cation, 1st off and in-cycle inspection. Probing cy-
cles are normally activated by a single line of infor- Since a compatible controller has been endowed
mation. The Cincinnati Milacron software [9], in- with software facilities, as soon as the probe touches
cludes four NC preparatory function codes (G74 the component, the probe interface sends the output
through G77) and six process parameter blocks (RST, signal to the CNC controller. As the CNC controller
OFS, TST, LAB, JMP, PCR) which allow for inte- receives the signal, the corresponding gauging or
gration of a probe system. Here G77 is the function measuring activity is to be executed. The software
to find and measure a surface, G75 is arm the surface solution is trying to put the measuring commands or
sense, G74 is disarm the surface sense and G76 is probing codes to the CNC source program, therefore
used to detect the part presence. Parameter blocks the non probe-compatible controller could be con-
(RST, OFS, TST, ILAB, JMP, PCR) are used in verted to be a compatible controller. If a very de-
connection with the function blocks to reset the tailed CNC source program and operating system
offsets, the computer offsets and test tolerances etc.. software could be obtained, it would be possible to
insert the in-cycle measuring program or rewrite the
2.4. Non probe-compatible controllers source program and operating system software. Un-
fortunately, CNC controller manufacturers seldom
The terminology non probe-compatible controller provide such information and the source programs
with respect to a probe system means that there is no are usually written in different computer languages
probe-compatible software existing in the CNC con- by different vendors. Thus inserting the measuring
troller. The machine controller does not react to the program or rewriting the source program will take an
inordinate amount of time and resources.

3.2. Hardware solution

A hardware solution is the use of a logic control

circuit to control the machine movement (see Fig. 4).
Here a group of relays are used to regulate the
controller control panel switches. These switches are
typically the X and Y direction movement switches
and the stop switch. As the probe touches the com-
ponent, the output signal from the probe interface is
Fig. 3. Ml5 interface output waveform. sent to the relays which control the stop or move-
98 E.P. Zhou et al./ Computers in Industry 28 (1996) 95-102

Fig. 6. Using a remote personal computer to integrate the probe

system to a CNC controller.

chine tool controller, when in-cycle measuring is

Fig. 4. Using relays to interface the probe system with a non taking place. Extensive measuring cycles can be
probe-compatible CNC controller. developed and multi-function in-cycle measuring
tasks can be accomplished. A logic control system is
ments. Therefore, the measured value can be taken used to interface the probe system with the PC, to
from the display of the controller. control the machine tool movement and to switch the
A more comprehensive hardware configuration activities from measuring to machining.
could use a Programmable Logic Control (PLC)
between the probe interface and the relays. After
programming the PLC, the automated gauging or 4. Case study
measuring could be fulfilled. Fig. 5 illustrates this
arrangement. Having compared the three strategies discussed
The advantage of using the hardware method to above, it is obvious that using a PC to interface the
interface the probe system with the CNC controller touch trigger probe system with a non probe-compat-
to effect in-cycle measuring is that it is quite easy ible CNC controller has more advantages than the
and cheap, but it lacks support from the software and others. The PC has flexibility and speed of operation
gauging cycles and thus the measuring functions are and it is much cheaper and easier than the software
limited and the whole system is not flexible for solution and leads to a very powerful and flexible
different in-cycle measuring tasks. measuring system with a much wider application
area than the hardware arrangement. Therefore a
3.3. The remote microcomputer control remote PC control has been employed in the follow-
ing case study to effect in-cycle measurement.
The remote microcomputer control, a much more
powerful and flexible strategy for integrating a probe 4.1. A Bridgeport Series I CNC milling machine and
system to the CNC controller and for multi-function controller
measurement, is the methodology that combines both
a software solution and a hardware configuration. A A Bridgeport Series I CNC milling machine,
diagram of the system is shown in Fig. 6. Here a which has a non probe-compatible CNC controller, is
Personal Computer (PC> is employed to control the selected as an example to make the practical case
movement of the machine. instead of the CNC ma- study. The machine has a CNC controller, an opera-
tors main control panel, a spindle motor which is
used for cutting and drilling and three stepping mo-
tors which drive the x, y motions of the table and the
z motion of the spindle. Fig. 7 gives a sketch of the
Series I CNC milling machine.
The CNC controller has an internal computer
which performs most of the logic functions: program
storage, canned cycles, linear and circular interpola-
tion, loops, macros, etc. In order to perform all these
functions the computer must be instructed by a pro-
Fig. 5. Hardware configuration with programmable logic control. gram called an operating system. The operating sys-
E.P. Zhou et al./ Computers in Industry 28 (1996) 95-102

Macbhe r--J----J--Y 1 CNC 1
Controtter Motors

-- I I

Fig. 7. The sketch of rhe Bridgeport Series I CNC milling

Port - B Outputs

tern is usually built into the machine and is contained

in an internal Read-Only Memory (ROM). The oper-
ating system in the Bridgeport Series I CNC is called
Fig. 9. Logic control system configuration.
BOSS (Bridgeport Operating System Software 4.0)
it still needs a way to communicate with the periph-
The computer used in the Series I CNC is the
eral devices (the probe system and the machine
LSI-11, built by Digital Equipment Corporation
actuators, in this case). A logic control system com-
(DEC). Other cards in the system include the XDI
bined with hardware and corresponding software
(External Data Interface), ERS (ROM and Series
provides the interface to receive the probe signals, to
Interface), and RCK (Rate Clock) as shown in Fig.
transfer data between the PC and the milling ma-
chine and to switch the status from the in-cycle
measuring to machining which is the machines nor-
4.2. A logic control *system for intelfacing
mal state.
The configuration of the logic control system is
As mentioned before, it is difficult to make the
displayed in Fig. 9. It consists of an 8255
operating system software (BOSS in this case)
Input/Output parallel digital card, relays and the
recognise the signal from the probe system. Al-
electronic switches. The stepping motor drive signals
though the PC is very powerful for data processing,
from the External Data Interface (XDI) board are fed
Addresz and Data Bus
into the Stepping Motor Drive (SMD) board at pins
13 and 19. The SMD splits each input into two
outputs of opposite polarity and amplifies them to a
-yczqj%r level sufficient to operate the drive transistors. To
effect in-cycle measuring and compensation, the PC
and the logic control system are needed to control
the movement of the stepping motors of the milling
machine, therefore, the stepping motor drive signals
required by the SMD board at pins 13 and 19 are
32K sent from the PC instead of the XDI board.

4.3. Control of the stepping motors

The input to a stepping motor is a train of digital

pulses, as can be directly provided by a digital
input/output port on a computer. Several methods
Fig. 8. Simplified Bridgeport Series I CNC map. are available for generating pulse trains, including
100 E.P. Zhou et al./Computers in h&shy 28 (1996) 95-102

pulse rate multiplication and the use of a Digital milling machine is controlled by the BOSS to fulfil
Differential Analyzer (DDA). In this case study, the the machining functions, then the probe is mounted
load on the motors is quite heavy and the control of in the spindle instead of the cutter. The logic control
the motor is delicate. Therefore, these pulse trains system is used to change the control status from the
have to conform to the physical limitations of the BOSS to the PC and thus measurement functions can
stepping motor with regard to acceleration and decel- be effected. After measuring, the control status is
eration limits and maximum stepping frequency. returned to the BOSS through the logic control sys-
Since the DDA method has been found to give tem to enable the next procedure to begin.
excellent results as far as the uniformity of the pulse The second measuring sequence is the measure-
train is concerned [14], it is applied here. ment effected during the machining part program.
This sequence is typically triggered if some crucial
dimensions require measuring before machining is
5. Software environment carried out. This also occurs at a tool change. Firstly,
the control status rests with the BOSS and the ma-
Since a Personal Computer (PC) has been em- chining part program is input to the BOSS. After the
ployed to effect in-cycle measurement, extensive crucial dimension has been cut, the tool is returned
measuring cycles can be developed. In this case the to the tool change position through the tool change
C language (Turbo C> has been selected as the command (M6) which is written in the part program
software program to control the stepping motors as and the probe is inserted at the tool change. Then the
well as to manage the in-cycle measuring routines. control status is set for PC control through the logic
Although assembly language may be used in control control system and the measurement can be effected.
situations, it is difficult to use when developing and Once the measuring is finished and the dimensional
debugging a program. Lack of structure makes as- tolerance of the workpiece is within limits, the logic
sembly language programs difficult to read, enhance, control system receives this information, so the probe
and maintain. Cs inherent efficiency combined with is changed for another tool and the control status is
its ability to operate directly with the computers returned to the BOSS. The next machining operation
memory allows the use of C in place of assembly can then begin. If the dimensional size measured is
language. Also the C language has the speed of not satisfactory, then a signal is shown on the PC
assembly language and the extensibility and few of screen and the logic control system will not change
the restrictions of the other high level languages. the control status, thus no more machining can begin
The development of a software environment suit- until the part program is modified.
able for an in-cycle measuring system includes the The third sequence happens before machining
design of a language interpreter for commands of the begins and is used for workpiece alignment or set-
measuring programs and the design of a set of ting. In this situation, the status commences with the
corresponding measuring terms to execute measuring PC in control. By placing a probe in the spindle,
functions. By using this software, in-cycle measuring some points can be measured and the co-ordinate
programs can be generated easily by NC program- values are stored. These co-ordinate values are then
mers. Since the measuring programs are written in a used as offsets for the part program.
similar way to machining programs (part programs), A flow diagram in Fig. 10 summarises the work-
it is not necessary for the part programmer to de- piece setting and offsets transfer process in practice.
velop new skills in order to use the probe system. The original design is generated via CADCAM soft-
ware to produce the part program. Then the work-
5.1. Measurement sequences piece is set to the approximate place in the machine
table. Normally there may be deviation from the
Three measuring sequences have been considered. position where the part program is expecting the
The first is the measurement effected after the workpiece to be located. By workpiece setting cy-
Bridgeport milling machine has finished its part pro- cles, some points are measured and the co-ordinate
gram. Thus, at the beginning of the procedure, the values are stored in the PC. Using intermittent trans-
E.P. Zhou et al./Computers in Industry 28 (1996) 95-102 101

the circle; I, J are the nominal circle centre co-

ordinate values; R is the nominal radius value of the
circle and 2 is the probe stylus vertical movement.
In operation, the probe stylus moves to the circle
nominal centre I, J, then the stylus moves down a
distance Z. Secondly, the machine table separately
moves R along the positive and negative X direc-
tions, which takes two point readings X, and X,.
Thirdly, the stylus is moved to i( X, + X,>, which is
the measuring centre of the circle in the X direction.
Finally, the table separately moves R along the
positive and negative Y directions, taking Y, and Y2.
Thus the four point circle measurement is finished.
The measured centre co-ordinates and the calculated
Fig. 10. The workpiece setting and offsets transfer process. diameter are given on the PC screen.

fer software, the relative data in the part program are

modified to the actual work co-ordinate values. The 6. Concluding remarks
part program is sent to the CNC machine controller
through a RS232 serial port. It has been demonstrated that a PC and a compati-
ble hardware and software interface can be used to
5.2. Measuring cycles enable a touch trigger probe system to be used in
conjunction with a CNC machine tool with a non
In-cycle measuring cycles are typically compo- probe-compatible controller to effect in-cycle mea-
nent feature measurement, distance measurement, surement. Although the work mentioned above has
angle measurement, tool setting, tool condition moni- been completed for the Bridgeport Series I CNC
toring and component setting. Fig. 11 gives the main milling machine (BOSS 4.0), the methodology can
capabilities of the measuring cycles. be applied to other non probe-compatible CNC ma-
An example of measuring a diameter on the chine tools. The area that may be different is the
Bridgeport Series I CNC milling machine is shown machines actuators, some of which use stepping
below. The measurement gives the centre co- motors (as in this case> and some servo motors. Thus
ordinates and the diameter value: some hardware and software related to the connec-
tion probe system with the CNC controller may
NlO M-CIRCLE-ID 120.0 J 20.0 R 32.0 Z - 5 .O
require modification; for example, using a Digital to
where M-CIRCLE-ID means to check the inside of Analogue (D/A) conve.rter instead of the parallel
digital I/O interface for the servo motor control, an
Analogue to Digital (A/D) converter receiving data
from a transducer and changing the relevant control
software. With respect to the. measuring programs
Feature and the measuring cycles, they may be used directly

Point Plane-Plane for different types of CNC machine tools.
Liic Line - Line The advantages of using a PC are:
Circk Angle to Axb
Distance to Ref. Plam
t-i 1 Multi-function in-cycle measurement can be made
slot by comparatively cheap flexible software design.
Thus, not only does it fulfil those functions that
compatible CNC machines have had, but it can
Centreline -Circle
also be expanded into new measuring functions as
Fig. 11. Component measuring cycles. required.
102 E.P. Zhou et al./ Computers in Industry 28 11996) 95-102

Since PCs are relatively common, it is easy and 1131 Anon., M-131 installation & maintenance manual for the
economic to control the measuring process via a Series I CNC Milling, Drilling & Boring Machine (BOSS
4.0/4.1, 5.0 & 6.0 Controls), Textron, Bridgeport, 1980.
non compatible CNC controller with a probe sys- [14] J.G. Boilinger and N. Duffie, A Computer Control of Mo-
tem. chines and Processes, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1988.
The logic control system can maintain the original
manufacturing status of the CNC machine tool Erping Zhou received her BSc(Eng)
and it causes no disturbance to the machining Degree in mechanical engineering from
Shanghai University of Science and
Technology in 1982. She is currently
registered for a PhD Degree at Stafford-
shire University. From 1990 to 1992 she
References worked as a researcher in the School of
Engineering, Staffordshire University.
[1] D.S. Co&ran and K. Swinehart, The total source error of Since 1992 she has been a lecturer in
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(1991) 1423-1435. research interests are in the areas of
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[3] G.R. Sotirov. V.I. Vitanov, SK. Ghosh, N.H. Minkov and Professor David K. Harrison has spent
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[7] J.F. Wagner, Intelligent metrology systems for automation Engineering at Glasgow Caledonian University in 1994. He is
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assessing data transfer methods for CIM systems in practical academia in many overseas countries.
engineering situations, Int. J. Comput. Integr. Manuf: Syst. predominantly throughout Europe. He has lectured to professional
2(4) (1989) 228-235. audiences world-wide.