Tool Assistant is an exciting new software product for dealing with tool tables, tool offsets, tool measurement, and more. People have been asking for some sort of utility software that would allow them to move their tool table information from the Mach3 mill control software, over to their desktop where they do their CAM work. We’ve been tossing around ideas on that project for some time now and, as so often happens, the machinists and engineers at Tormach have expanded the basic concept to provide much more. I think it’s pretty cool.
The software is called Tool Assistant. It allows you to read, write, sort, edit, duplicate, and transfer the tool table that is native to the Mach3 program. One of the attractive features is the price – it’s free. But that’s not all. Absolutely the coolest feature is that we’ve interfaced it to PN 31988, our 8” digital height gauge, for 1 button tool measurement. That’s right folks, instead of messing around with mounting tools and doing tool touch off, it takes just seconds to set the tool under the height gauge and push the record button. You’ll get your tool height to 0.001” with little effort.
The product is not without precedence, a tool presetter is common in advanced machine shops with dedicated tool rooms. The biggest difference is that a conventional tool room presetter is around $5000 to $20,000 while the Tormach presetter is a little over $200. Another factor is that, instead of having to take the time write down the tool offsets and suffer the consequences of potential transcription errors, the Tormach system records the offsets directly into the database of the mill control software. You never have to write down the number. I’d be negligent if I didn’t also mention that a conventional tool presetter (like this swiss-made one) will measure both length and radius (and more), while Tool Assistant will only measure length.
When filling out a tool table, most people get pretty terse on typing out the tool descriptions. Tool Assistant should be a big help there. It has a quick pull-down system that will allow you to enter a complete tool description with just a few clicks. You can use the predefined tool descriptions, edit the descriptions, or simply type in your own descriptions. No more excuses folks. If you don’t like our predefined descriptions, there’s even a tool description database that will allow you to add your own descriptions to the pull-down list.
Another nice feature is the ability to save the tool table in the .CSV file format. This is a very common file format, used by Microsoft Excel and other programs. Some CAM programs can read tool tables in the .CSV format, allowing you to synchronize your CAM software to the mill software.
One caveat here, Tool Assistant will only work with our USB interface cable and 8” digital height gauge. We have a 12” digital height gauge on the web site but it’s not compatible with the system, nor are any of the height gauges that we’ve seen in discount catalogs. Nearly all digital height gauges have an SPC port (statistical process control), but they’re not all the same*. The only height gauge that works with the software is Tormach PN 31988
*Related to Process Control, I saw this article a few months back about Portable CMM (PCMM) for small shops. Anybody have experience with one of these units?
PS: If you didn’t see – the answer the last week’s trivia question was “South Dakota”. Congrats to reader Kent, he is the lucky winner of a Tormach Shop Shirt. Thanks to everybody for the good guesses – it went on longer than I thought!