Video: 3D-Printed Brackets Are Key to Automated Coolant Delivery for Lights-Out Machining

An on-site look at the different elements of the coolant-delivery system developed by a machine shop committed to running unattended.
#brackets #polymer #machining


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Precision Tool Technologies of Brainerd, Minnesota, is a contract machine shop dedicated to lights-out machining. It runs unattended not only through nights but also all the way through weekends. As this article describes, one of the challenges of that long lights-out operation is coolant. How can coolant levels be replenished in the machines reliably when no one is around?

This video filmed at Precision Tool looks at the elements of the solution for automated coolant delivery this shop developed. Behind me as the video opens is a system of valves linked to a central reservoir of coolant and linked to every machine that runs lights-out. Liquid level sensors at every machine serve to control this system, triggering replacement coolant whenever a level drops. As I show here, 3D-printed brackets are a simple but essential element for making this system work.


I'm Pete Zelinski with Additivemanufacturing.media. I'm at Precision Tool Technology of Brainerd, Minnesota.

Could a 3D printed component be key to unattended machining? Yeah, at this shop it really can. This shop is great at running lights out. It runs all through the weekend machining parts [with] no employees in sight.

To do that they have solved problem after problem. Chips, tool life, etc. The problem they struggled with for years? Keeping the coolant supply level. How do you refill coolant if there are no employees around to bring a bucket to refill the tank? The answer they found: this coolant level sensor. It triggers a centralized cooling system [and] delivers coolant in the concentration required for this machine as it's needed. But the catch is, it has to be held at just the right height, at just the right perpendicular angle. That means it needs a bracket to hold it that way and this bracket is different for every machine.

Enter 3D printing, the easy way to create the one custom component that every machine needs in order to take advantage of this unified lights-out, unattended, machining coolant system. 3D printing makes it easy to customize the tailored component that every single machine tool needs to take advantage of this unified coolant system.

The tailoring through 3D printing made the system possible; It's going to make the commercialization of this system possible. Precision Tool Technologies is going to market this idea ... they're getting ready to. Thanks to the ability to 3D print brackets for end users, they'll be able to apply it to any machine tool, any prospective user of this system that might want to keep [it] running for hours and hours, days and days on end.