Full Control

Full Control

Translated from an original article by Manfred Flohr, Editor-in-Chief, Maschine+Werkzeug, Germany.

Since its founding in 1983, Haas Automation, Inc., has shipped more than 165,000 CNC machines worldwide. Every one of those machines is equipped with a Haas control, making the U.S. machine builder one of the four largest control manufacturers in the world. The American firm’s philosophy: Operators should be able to achieve their aim as easily as possible.

Company founder Gene Haas set himself this development goal right from the start. The intention was for the control to be equipped with functions allowing users to get to grips with the machine and be productive quickly. These requirements stem from practical experience, as Gene Haas had worked with other controls for many years in his own workshop, before beginning production of his own machine tools. Together with chief developer Kurt Zierhut, Haas implemented his ideas for a user-friendly control – made by users for users.

This concept becomes clear even as one begins work. The operator switches on the machine and needs only to press a button for the machine to be referenced and ready for work to start. All machine axes are reset at the touch of a button. Most other controls require more inputs before work operations can commence.

This operating philosophy is continued elsewhere. Some of the most powerful features of the Haas control take only the push of a single button. For example, the operator can set tool offsets with the push of a single button – without having to manually enter numbers into the control. He simply jogs a tool to the surface of the part, pushes the Tool Offset Measure button, and the tool’s length is automatically stored in the tool length register. He pushes the Next Tool button to repeat the process for each tool. Setting work offsets is just as easy.

The Help function is a built-in, searchable operator’s manual that explains the various functions of the Haas machine. The user simply types in a keyword to find a topic, or hits F1 for G-code help and F2 for M-code help. The Calculator pages have powerful tools for solving triangle equations, circle-circle-tangent equations, and circle-line-tangent equations, as well as a speeds-and-feeds calculator, and a standard math calculator. The solution to any equation can be pasted directly into a program from the calculator.


The same control for all machines

The controls are built in-house by Haas in its factory in Oxnard, California, including the corresponding software. All machine tools from Haas – vertical and horizontal machining centres and lathes – are equipped with the same control. This is intended to allow the same operator to operate a lathe and a milling machine, without having to attend expensive training courses.

And the screen display remains the same, even with new machines and new versions of the software. New functions are always integrated into the existing menus. The operating concept is based on three modes – Setup, Edit, and Operation – each of which is assigned a screen.

On the display, the control always shows the user his current location. The Current Commands page displays the current running status of the machine, including the program running, the position, which tool is in the spindle, the spindle and axis loads, the spindle speed, and the feedrate. Additional screens show the commands and G-codes being used in the current program, and timers show cycle time, cutting time, power-on time, and M30 count (number of parts). Other displays show macro variables, provide tool-life information, and show the minimum and maximum spindle load for each tool.


Intuitive operation

The Haas Intuitive Programming System (IPS) allows the operator to perform basic milling operations without knowing G-code. “Our IPS is a dialogue control,” explains Wim Meeus, Technical Support Coordinator in Brussels, where Haas has its European headquarters. “You find the relevant image and simply select the corresponding function.” The conversational operating system uses an easy-to-understand tabbed format to guide the operator through the steps necessary to machine a part. First, the control leads the operator through basic job setup: setting tool and work offsets, selecting the tool type, and specifying the material being cut. The operator then selects an operation to perform and fills in basic information as prompted. Default values for spindle speed, depth of cut, and feedrate are filled in automatically, based on the information provided. The operator can change these conservative values if desired.

Once all necessary information is entered, pushing “Cycle Start” performs the desired operation. Multiple operations can be recorded and saved as a single G-code program that can be played back to duplicate the part. Help menus are available directly on screen, and a graphic dry-run feature allows operators to check their work before running a part.

It is possible to prevent the accidental or unauthorised editing of the program memory with a program lock. Settings, parameters, offsets, and macro variables can also be protected in this way. If necessary, the control can be set such that, for example, only one program is running and the operator cannot change anything in the programs or the offsets. He can then only select “Cycle Start,” as well as “Power On” and “Power Off.”

The jog handle on the Haas control is particularly ingenious. Most machines use the jog handle only to move the axes around. The multi-function jog handle from Haas can also be used in other modes to cursor through the program for faster editing, override spindle speeds and feedrates, or scan through offsets, parameters, etc. A smart accessory is the patented Haas remote jog handle. The handy unit has a 7 cm colour display, an 11-button keypad, a triple-knob motion-control system, and a built-in LED inspection light. One can set tool and work offsets, jog up to nine axes, display machine position, show the current program running, and more – all from the jog handle. To enter a new offset or zero point, the operator doesn’t need to physically go back to the control.

An important criterion to increase productivity is to maximise the tool life. The Haas control can monitor the spindle load for each tool, and automatically adjust the feeds when a limit set by the operator is exceeded. Depending on the setting on the control, in these cases the set feed is decreased, the operator is informed, the feed hold mode is activated, or the corresponding alarm is triggered. When a program is first run, the Haas control automatically records the maximum load measured for each tool. This data is used so that the operator can set limit values per tool using the “Tool-Load Monitoring” function.


Strong features

According to Wim Meeus, combining this load monitoring function with the Wireless Intuitive Programming System (WIPS) option on the machine creates a powerful tool. WIPS is the fully integrated wireless tool and work probing system on Haas machines. It permits the seamless setup of machines, the rapid implementation of machining processes, as well as the reliable control of tools and parts during machining work. “The system can also check whether or not the machined part is OK, a change in the offset is required, or if a new tool needs to be fitted,” according to Meeus.

A strong feature of the Haas control is also the data import. “Many users have a drawing, generally from a CAD program such as Autocad,” confirms technician Meeus. “The CAD program can be used to make a DXF file easily that can be used directly on the control. This means that a program is ready to use in a flash.” If necessary, by taking advantage of the editing functions of the Haas control, the user can modify features, change the order of operations, or even conveniently put them into other programs – all at the control, without going back to a computer.

The folks at Haas are fully aware that an operator doesn’t generally welcome getting to grips with a new control. For this reason the control has been kept relatively simple. With Haas there are also things that operators will be familiar with from other controls, such as IPS functions. “Anyone who has already used other controls and who is familiar with CAD/CAM won’t have any problems using the Haas control,” reiterates Wim Meeus from Technical Support. “After a few weeks, operators say that they are quicker using the Haas than with other controls they’ve used before.”

After a short period of familiarisation, a lot can be achieved on the Haas much more quickly, not least because very little needs to be programmed directly on the control. Many programs that have been created for Fanuc controls, for example, can be transferred across with minimal changes. A converter in the control input automatically translates the program for the Haas control. “Essentially, we use an ISO control here,” explains Meeus. “Several Haas cycles are included for which a few modifications may be required.”

It is not so simple to convert programs from Heidenhain controls to Haas. “However, typical tasks for tool & die work and mould making can also be programmed quickly on a Haas control. Many of our customers are already doing this with features from Haas that are included as standard – this means that it is not necessary to purchase any new modules,” according to Meeus.

Haas intends to demonstrate this in the coming year. Jens Thing, Managing Director at Haas Automation Europe, comments: “At the Moulding Expo 2015 in Stuttgart, we will place our strengths in tool & die work and mould making at the forefront. On our fast machines, we will demonstrate the multipass machining of 3D shapes. We are convinced that we have an attractive offering for the tool & die work and mould making sector in Germany, as well.”

For Jens Thing, there is a significant advantage in that all servicing for a machine comes from one source. “We do not have any control specialists or mechanical engineering specialists, and no specialists for Siemens, Fanuc, or Heidenhain. We have trained service technicians who provide servicing both for the machine and for the control,” according to the European boss.


Connected to the machine

As a native control, the Haas control is deeply connected to the Haas machine. This becomes clear on the tool changer, for example, and at speeds that can be dynamically adapted for every program run. This also makes possible options such as high-speed machining (HSM), which reduces cycle times and improves accuracy considerably. Using a motion algorithm called “acceleration before interpolation,” combined with full look-ahead, HSM allows higher contouring feedrates without risk of distortion to the programmed path. All programmed motions are accelerated before interpolation to ensure the movement of each axis does not exceed the acceleration capability of the machine. The look-ahead algorithm determines the fastest feedrate at which each stroke can be blended into the next without stopping. This results in higher accuracy, smoother motion, and a higher actual feedrate – even with complex part geometry.

Haas builds many options for the machines in-house also, including the programmable coolant nozzles. Whilst the program is running, the coolant jet follows the tool, taking the coolant precisely to the right location. To do this, the position of the coolant nozzle is stored in the tool table so that every tool has the relevant setting. The through-spindle coolant (TSC) important for mould making is integrated into the control as an option. Despite the closed system, the ISO control underlying the Haas offers the advantage of also being able to connect external enhancements, such as pallet changers or robots.


Key advantages

1. Haas uses the same control for all its machines – regardless of whether it’s a lathe or vertical/horizontal machining centre.

2. Many functions can be executed by pressing a single button.

3. The native control also makes high-speed machining possible.

4. Because the control is produced in-house by Haas in the USA, the same service technician can be used for the control as for the machine.

5. The fully integrated wireless tool and work probing system (WIPS) makes a significant contribution to the performance of the machine.

6. The access can be restricted to “Power On,” “Power Off,” and “Cycle Start” if necessary.

7. The jog handle from Haas can also be used to cursor through the program for faster editing, override spindle speeds and feedrates, or scan through offsets and parameters.

8. The remote jog handle provides the machinist with many functions directly at the work area.

  • 10 February, 2015