Why a Probe is the First Tool You Should Load in Your Machine’s Spindle

POSTED ON 7/26/2021 – On-machine probing is particularly critical for Mazak customer Jasper Engines and Transmissions. The shop’s Mazak HCN 6800 Horizontal Machining Center processes families of engine cylinder heads, and the parts can look similar, but involve very different dimensions. For this reason, the first tool Jasper Engines and Transmissions runs is a probe that confirms a part is loaded, identifies it and conveys that information to the machine’s control, which in turn selects and runs the correct program for that particular part – virtually eliminating any risk of error.

This is just one example of the benefits of probing. Beyond ensuring a part is accurately loaded in a fixture and identifying it, shops use probing for in-process gaging to determine remaining stock or to check for thermal growth. Most importantly, however, a probe should be the first tool you load because it can make your machining processes secure and more robust – and thus help eliminate scrap.

Most shops have realized the benefits and usefulness of on-machine probing. On average, about 80% of shops use probes on milling and turning centers and multi-tasking machines. Probably one of the most common applications of a probe is for gage passes on a turning machine to check parts prior to running a finish pass. Doing so not only ensures part accuracy, but also that the finishing tool always cuts the same amount of stock, which contributes to longer tool life, allows for tighter tolerances and reduces process variations.

In essence, on-machine probing allows shops to use their machine tool with inspection features similar to a Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM). In fact, these two types of machines (a CMM is not a machine, should we say these two types of methodologies?) are similar in terms of how they move and position, although machine tools are much more robust. CMMs, on the other hand, must be in a controlled environment and rely on electronic compensation for their volumetric workspaces.

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