Ok, for openers I run a CNC panel bender where I work. Currently we have two running (sort of) and this brings us to our little missive.
Both of these machines are at least 20 years old. One of them, "The Old One" or " Senile" as I like to think of it runs OS2 Warp (remember that classic?) the "New One" runs a UNIX based version of Windows and I think of it as "Psycho" or my new nickname "Marie LeVeau" after some of her antics last week. (more on that later).
Our story begins two weeks ago. I was running some parts on The Old One. Not a major problem to be had, she was purring like a kitten, the parts were coming our beautifully and forming impeccably. Then I ran into an issue with the load table wanting to take off without a part in it. Now, I run this machine in manual mode as the autoloader died and were never properly repaired about four years ago. Not a problem and usually the above is no issue. You just stop the program, restart the run and it clears itself. this time it didn't.
"Ok," I think, "I'll kill the hydraulics then restart." Which did give me control until it did the same thing after a couple of parts. I did this for a few more runs, then said to heck with it and tried a soft boot. A soft boot is where I would place the machine in shut down mode, turn off the machine operating system, let it set for a minute then fire it back up. I am EXTREMELY reluctant to do a cold boot with this one or the other as neither one wants to come back up and we can't afford to have them die on us. So, the machine comes back and nothing.
I get the operating system and software for the machine up, try to calibrate, and no luck. Spent about a half hour fiddling with it. I tried ever trick I new, walking through the normal calibration cycle manually. No luck. Saw some interesting combinations of command though that should not have happened such as telling the machine to move the blankholders and having the panel rotator turn but I never could get it calibrate. Anyway I left a note for maintenance and the day shift and went to find other things to do.
The next day, the day shift guy, the fellow in the office who used to be running these on days, and two brake operators on the floor who used to run them as well as maintenance had all tried to get it to do it's thing: no dice. They bring in an outside repair tech, no luck, finally late last week the manufacturer's tech comes in. He looks it over, make some calls, goes out, comes back this week and aside from the jerry-rigging and temporary fixes of our previous maintenance man the only thing he could find was that somehow the manual switch to send the blanks on their way to become panels had stuck. ?!
Ok, a quick backup. Our company was sold over a year ago when the previous owner retired and the new owners are doing their level best to do things the correct way.This is in not the way of the previous owner who had a nasty habit telling our maintenance tech to use band-aids, bubblegum and bailing wire to repair things until the broke for good. Hence all the little work arounds, jerry-rigging, and other little tricks he used to keep things running. It wasn't that he was lazy, he just knew what the boss was willing to do. he told him what was needed to do it right, then was told to make it work. He left after the sale of the company.
Back to today, they updated software, reloaded the Machine operating system and did some other work, but the only thing that they could find was that the load switch was shot. Now, that's the only thing they could find. That doesn't mean that there isn't something elselurking in the darkness waiting to strike.
Now, onto Marie. While all this was going on Marie started having fits. She would always give random and goofy errors. Over the last two weeks we went through about 30 rotator shafts (at about $50 USD a pop) on that machine between both shifts. It would lose its place and jam parts into the blankholders, obviously destroying the parts as well as the shaft. Last week I had it eat up several rather expensive blanks for no reason as well as a couple of shafts. Things sound better (if that's the word for it) on this one though. The tech has found several issues that need to be fixed, has the parts and will work on it tomorrow.
The truly sad part about this is that these machines have been beaten into scrap metal but the negligence of the previous owner. The tech mentioned that he's seen older versions of these machines that are in far better shape than our kit. All because the previous owner was a cheapskate. I'm ed at him for this. Ok, it was his money all but it's stupid and pointless. We got these things 20 years ago new, long before I got there, but now they're in worse shape than third rate, clapped out Mongolian equipment in a Bulgarian tank factory. We'll get them fixed up and running again, but not like they should or could run and for that I'm mad. Thanks for listening.