Not-so-automatic tool changing, monitoring, Mach4 & alerts, and sub-table cradles

So, generally speaking, as of now, I have no interest in being somewhere else while the machine is cutting. My primary interest in an ATC system is the speed of tool changing and repeatability. I’m happy to push a button to release the tool holder, swap in another, and tell the machine to continue marching.

That said, I need to do other work while the spindle is turning. It would be great if Mach4 could be utilized to send reports via an internet or Bluetooth connection, or to active an alarm. I imagine other folks have wanted this before- has it been implemented? Is there a guide?

I wonder about horizontal-entry tool holder caddies- why? Why not just drop the tool into a receiver cavity? Why slot in from the side? Is the position of the dropped-in tool holder unreliable? On that note, if drop-in tool-holder holding is reliable, I’d expect to see tool holder caddies positioned below the fixture or spoil board elevation to free up usable space; is this just a matter of folks not having the Z axis range to achieve this setup?

Both are possible. I have the typical slot-in-side type, and even then you need to account for a bit of wiggle when it’s used.

Some of my tools are larger diameter than the collet nut, though, and just wouldn’t fit into a drop-in pocket.

My spindle barely reaches to the spoilboard. A tool pocket far enough below there to be “out of the way” would be unreachable, and even if it were, being there wouldn’t free up usable space because as soon as you use that space, it blocks you from getting the tool.

The only way for a tool pocket/caddy/whatever to not tie up usable space is if it could be moved in and out of reach as needed.

I appreciate that. With ample Z axis travel, were the tool holder caddies mounted sub-surface, only the tool holders would needs be removed prior to an overlaying operation- the entire caddy fixture could remain, with no need for replacement or re-calibration.

True, it could be built that way, but when you cover it up like that it becomes unusable.
Plus, building such Z travel adds both cost and flexibility, both of which are bad for users. The tool caddy doesn’t need as much rigidity as the spindle does, so better to let the tool caddy get out of the way than force the spindle to reach it.

A more practical solution is to build the caddy so that it rises up from under the table, so that the spindle doesn’t have to reach down as far.

No solution is for every application, that’s for sure. In the considered configuration, tool holder caddies would only be obstructed in operations requiring cutting on the overlaying table area- an extension of capacity. All design is a trade- “bad” only if impeding goals; for my part, I already require the extended travel afforded by the 12" Z axis, and an elaborate tool holder caddy lift system isn’t a priority.

On the topic of monitoring, does anyone have a method of sending status alerts from Mach4?

I’m new to ATC as well, This popped as an ad the other day.

I’ve thought about adding something like this; basically, you add some code at one of the ending scripts that does what you want; send an email, send a text message, etc. It’ll definitely involve some programming though!

Here’s an Android app for Mach4 that includes WIFI messaging: Phone app for Mach4
…and here’s a thread about implementing email notifications: WHAT DO YOU KNOW Mach4 can send email machine alerts (;-)

I haven’t used either.