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10 Tips To Prevent Your CNC Machine From Standing Idle

10 Tips to Prevent Your CNC Machine From Standing Idle

While every situation is different, and different challenges play a role in every factory, here are some tips to prevent your CNC machine from standing idle. Article by BMO Automation.

10 Tips to Prevent Your CNC Machine From Standing Idle

With a servo controlled gripper, the operator no longer has to adjusts gripper fingers to the correct size.

A machine that is producing generates money. A machine that stands still costs money. In the machining sector, the full production capacity of CNC machines is often not used. Here are 10 tips to prevent your CNC machine from standing idle.

Tip 1: Standardise the raw material.

By standardizing the raw material, multiple product series can be made from the same format material. Simply put: mill more off. Changing products happens faster because the operator can use the same fixture. Resulting in less downtime.

Tip 2: Provide the CNC machine with a zero point clamping system.

With a zero point clamping system on the machining table, the operator can quickly change fixtures. Moreover, the advantage is that new fixtures can be prepared while the CNC machine is machining. With a zero point clamping system on the machining table you are also prepared for automated fixture changes.

Tip 3: Automate!

By providing a CNC machine with an automation solution, it will make more spindle hours. You can start automating at different levels. The easiest form is bar feed on a lathe. The next step is pallet and/or product loading.

Tip 4: Are you opting for single-batch or multi-batch automation?

What is single-batch automation? Automating of one product series. No continuous production but simply one unique product in one program loaded on the CNC machine through product loading. A higher level is multi-batch automation. Automating multiple product series in one continuous process. You combine the loading of products with the changing of a pallet with an automatic machine clamp or a clamped product on top. This makes 24/7 production of multiple product formats and product series possible. The biggest step towards less downtime is made with multi-batch automation. It is important that the machining table is equipped with the correct connections to control the machine clamps.

Tip 5: Choose one gripper that can handle it all.

The span on multiple product formats is great, but if the gripper cannot pick up all the sizes, the added value remains low. One solution is to use multiple grippers, but the changing will take time and the format range is often still limited and it comes at the expense of storage capacity. Another solution and a better one is the servo-controlled gripper that adjusts itself fully automatically to all possible product sizes. The setting time is 0 and the flexibility very high.

Tip 6: Continuous production of multiple product jobs.

All the previous tips are of little utility if only one CNC program can be produced with the automation software. Continuous production is necessary, otherwise the CNC machine will stop when the program comes to an end. Choose a software with which multiple different product series can be edited in a continuous process.

Tip 7: Focus on automating single pieces and small series.

On which products do you make the highest margins? Often these are single pieces and small series. By implementing all the previous tips, you have an automation that is fully set to this. With automation you can produce 24/7 and deliver faster due to a shorter product turnaround time. Selling ‘No’ because of a low capacity is something of the past. At least until your CNC machine makes 160 hours a week and you have to link a second CNC machine to the automation to meet the growing customer demand.

Tip 8: Make sure you have enough tools in your CNC machine.

A simple calculation. On average, a CNC machine has 60 tools of which 40 are standard. If you produce more than 5 different product series with 5 unique tools per series unmanned, you will already run into problems. A large tool stockroom is unnecessary luxury. Of course this can be taken into account by using the same tools as much as possible in the CNC programs during the preparation. But what happens when a miller breaks? Will you lose production and will the CNC machine stand still? Tip 9 offers a solution.

Tip 9: Manage the stand life of your tools.

The solution? Tool life management. The robot controls the total machining process but also calculates exactly which production per mill is feasible. Can the tools in the machine handle the numbers? What does the machine do if it breaks? The Tool Life Management module cleverly handles this and prevents the shutdown of your CNC machine.

Tip 10: Manage the automated process.

Continuous production and a maximum number of spindle hours are not simply achieved. Your operator has to become a process engineer. Does the coolant retain the correct values? Can the chip conveyor handle the quantity? Is the collection bin large enough? The total automated process must be optimized to avoid downtime.

These are just 10 tips to prevent your CNC machine from standing idle. Every situation is different, and different challenges play a role in every factory. Full use of production capacity involves attention, knowledge and experience. Be sufficiently informed and, above all, look carefully at your own process and the products that you produce.


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ANCA Discusses Trends Driving The Cutting Tool Industry

ANCA Discusses Trends Driving the Cutting Tool Industry

Pat Boland, co-founder of ANCA talks about electric vehicle manufacturing, their new motor temperature control technology, and his outlook for the year. Article by Stephen Las Marias.

Pat Boland

Founded in 1974, ANCA is one of the leading manufacturers of CNC grinding machines, motion controls, and sheet metal solutions. The company has manufacturing plants in Melbourne, Australia, and in Rayong, Thailand, as well as offices in the UK, Germany, China, India, Japan, Brazil, and the United States.

READ: Five Ways To Enhance CNC Machine Manufacturing With The Cloud

Pat Boland is the co-founder and joint managing director of ANCA. In an interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News (APMEN), he talked about how their industry has changed over the past decades, trends driving the cutting tool industry, and the latest technologies in CNC machines.


Pat Boland (PB): It’s been an interesting 45 years that ANCA has been operating, starting with some very simple four-axis machines, up to complex multi-axis machines today.

One of the key enablers for our machines is software. ANCA has pioneered several aspects of  CNC tool, cutter and grinder technology, and in particular, key software features. We were the first company to integrate in-machine measurement using a probe—measuring the geometry of the cutting tool and adapting the program to regrind it.

READ: ANCA Motion’s Multi-Axis Servo System Conserves 96 Percent Of Energy Wastage

We were the first to introduce full 3D simulation, which generates an accurate 3D model of the tool to be produced. This revolutionised the operation of machines because previously, people had to grind the part, look at it, and then make adjustments. With the simulation, it is possible to completely do that offline and be very confident of what you are going to produce in the machine.

ANCA is known for its innovation. We have our own unique form of servo motors to drive all our machines. We call them tubular linear motors—the introduction of which increased our technological capabilities significantly.


PB: There are many changes in the sector, which have broad impacts in the wider industry. The pending move to EVs is one of those items. In some ways, the machine tool industry is going to be affected very significantly by the simplification of the drive train of the EV compared to internal combustion engine. That will impact us in terms of demand for cutting tools.

However, there are some aspects in EV manufacturing, such as a large number of very accurate, small gears required for the electric gear boxes where efficiency is absolutely critical. Among those are the internal gears. Traditional methods of manufacturing internal gears such as shaper cutters are relatively slow and have geometrical limitations. But an old concept, called skiving, is becoming very popular to manufacture these internal gears.

READ: EMO 2019: ANCA To Launch Latest Generation Of ToolRoom Software

However, the difficulty with skiving is that every gear design requires a special cutter design, and for Class A, AA cutters, the accuracy of the cutters is extraordinarily tight.

The GCX is based on our TX7, but we have undertaken several developments such as improving the accuracy and efficiency of the machine for manufacturing skiving cutters. With software, we have a complete solution for the design and simulation of the skiving cutters, and the actual simulation of the skiving process.

So, the cutter can be designed, and the actual grinding path for that design can be generated. On the machine, we have redesigned several elements to really step up the accuracy. There is a new headstock, a new dressing technology, and other technologies such as an acoustic emission monitoring system. We also have  motor temperature control or MTC (patent pending), which we developed for skiving gear tool grinding, where we actively measure and control the temperature of all the rotary motors in the machine—the dressing spindles, the grinding spindles, the axis turning the cutter.

I am proud of MTC – our constant temperature spindle control because from an engineering point of view, it is very simple, but it has a big impact on the performance of the machine. And it is something different, and to my knowledge, something unique. Just by changing the firmware and the drive system for the spindle, we were able to hold the temperature, and really have quite a significant impact on the actual stability and performance of the machine. I think it is a breakthrough.


PB: What we did is, when you run an electric motor, by changing the parameters, you can change the losses in the electric motor. And by changing the losses in the motor, we can regulate the temperature. You set a set point, say 27 deg C: if the temperature is 26 deg C, the machine will deliberately increase the losses in the motor to heat it up until it gets to 27 deg C. Then, if the temperature is over, the machine can reduce the losses to regulate that temperature.

READ: ANCA Motion Challenges The Conventional Approach To Cylindrical Grinding

As far as I know, it is unique. The spindle is a key component. When you get a temperature rise, you will get dimensional variation in the position of the wheel, the grinding wheel, or the cutting tool. Maintaining a very accurate temperature improves the basic dimensional accuracy of the machine.


PB: Typically, you must warm up a machine by running it through a cycle to get to a working temperature. That takes around half an hour. With this technology, heating the spindle up can reduce that half an hour to maybe 10 minutes. That’s cost saving. And then of course, while you are grinding, you reduce the dimensional variation.

READ: CNC Market Outlook: 7.3% CAGR During 2019-2023

This offers users improved accuracy and stability. We are talking about lights out manufacturing. Everything you can do to keep things stable in that lights out environment is a benefit. We are currently using it in some of our machines: the CPX and GCX Linear. When this technology goes through the rest of our machines, I think it will be highly popular with our customers in terms of improved dimensional stability.


PB: By nature, I am always a bit of a pessimist, and there is a lot happening in the world to cause worry. But the world changes so quickly. China is such a large and diversified industrial market that I think business is going to be tougher there, but nevertheless, it will still be very significant business. Meanwhile, I see ASEAN countries still have a lot of opportunities for growth.

Overall, I expect probably a continuation of the cyclical downturn—but I don’t know how long that cycle is actually going to last. However, we will continue to provide innovative solutions for our customers who may be looking to diversify in response to market trends.


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Lumenium To Cut Product Development Time By 25 Percent

Lumenium To Cut Product Development Time By 25 Percent

Virginia, US: Lumenium LLC, the internal combustion engine developer, collaborates with Desktop Metal—which offers metal 3D printing systems—to analyse the use of its metal Additive Manufacturing Studio System during the product development stage, with timeline reduction of 25 percent.

Switching from computer numerical control (CNC) machining to additive manufacturing for prototyping of its components, further cost and material reduction are some of the benefits.

The company had stated that rapid prototyping is particularly crucial to allow the quick iteration of part features and designs required for continued improvement of engine performance.

For example, to produce the prototype parts for its Inverse Displacement Asymmetrical Rotational engine, the firm relies on an in-house CNC machine and wire electrical discharge machining. This method of prototyping is time consuming and costly, as full product development timescale ranges between three and five years.

Alongside Google, the US Navy and Built-Rite Tool & Die, Lumenium was among Desktop Metal’s first wave of customer to receive the Studio System in December 2017—in a bid for a more efficient and cost-effective approach towards product development.

Components produced by the engine developer have to adhere to stringent performance requirements. Besides the ability to withstand high heat and stress inherent to engine operation, each part requires high dimensional accuracy, low thermal expansion, and strength under dynamic loads.

To maintain the overall power density and efficiency of the engine, part weight is also an important consideration. This move to additive manufacturing can potentially enable the company to reduce the weight of its parts, while conforming to the engine’s performance needs.

In a case study to compare the production of a steel prototype engine part using a traditional CNC machine and the Studio System, Desktop Metal and Lumenium found that the latter saved 74 percent of cost, 43 percent of time, and a weight reduction of 39 percent.

Cutting the one-year concept phase by 25 percent, design phase by 33 percent, and fabrication phase by 50 percent, the overall product development timescale could be down by 25 percent.



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Micro Tooling, Maximum Benefits

Micro Tooling, Maximum Benefits

What are the benefits of using ultra-high speeds when machining non-ferrous metals with micro tooling? Contributed by Datron

With a trend towards miniaturisation in manufacturing, work piece sizes are decreasing and part versions are increasing. So, the use of micro tools is becoming more and more prevalent. However, efficient and cost-effective use of these small tools requires both the foresight to employ equipment specifically designed for them and a willingness to deviate from standard machining practices.

This is primarily due to the fact that the spindles on conventional CNC equipment cannot achieve the higher rpm speeds required for small diameter tools. Even if they can, it puts undue stress on the equipment by constantly red-lining their spindles. As an example, a conventional CNC machining centre running tools smaller than 1.5 cm in diameter at 10,000 rpm or less will result in unfavourable feed rates and costly tool breakage.

Often this tool breakage is blamed on operator error, incorrect machining parameters, or worse yet, simply the nature of small tools. The reality is that it is due to the force of a conventional machine’s heavy spindle and its inability to reach the high RPM speeds required to effectively evacuate chips from the cutting channel.

Available technology

The best approach to efficiently machine with small tooling is a three-fold process. The three interrelated elements are:

  • High-speed machining technology
  • Optimised micro-tool design
  • Low-viscosity coolant

High-Speed Machining Technology

The smaller the tools, the higher the spindle speed you will need to efficiently machine quality parts and avoid tool breakage. High-frequency spindles with speeds of 40,000 rpm and above are ideal for milling, drilling, thread milling and engraving using micro tools.

High-speed machining technology uses high rpm rates, taking a smaller stepover, but with significantly increased feed rates. Move your hand through the flame of a burning candle. If you move too slowly, there is enough time for the flame to cause damage. But if you sweep your hand swiftly through the flame, there is insufficient time for the fire to damage your skin.

The same principle applies to high-speed machining with micro-tooling. Move fast and there is insufficient time for heat to feed back into the part and cause issues.

During the machining process, the tool continually carves a chip out of the work piece. The generated heat develops approximately 40 percent from friction on each side of the tool, and 20 percent from the deformation (bending) of the chip. Therefore, about 60 percent of the heat is inside of the chip.

High-speed machining tries to evacuate the bulk of the heat with the chip, providing for a cleaner cut. The better machining quality is based on cooler tooling, lower machining forces, and therefore less vibration.

The high spindle speed reduces the chip load, significantly dropping the forces between the tool and the material. High-speed/low-force machining yields less heat, reduces tool deflection, and allows machining of thinner walled work pieces.

This all results in cooler machining, superior surface and edge quality, better accuracy and, as a by-product (of low force), easier workholding — since modular vacuum tables can be employed for quick set up and job changeover (particularly with thin flat substrates).


Optimised Micro-Tool Design

Scaling down the tool geometry of larger diameter tools to a smaller format yields unacceptable feed rates and unsatisfactory finishes. Tooling requirements change when tool diameter is decreased and spindle speed is increased. Conventional tooling using inserts is not appropriate for micro-tooling applications. This is primarily due to the high rpm rates rather than the tool diameter. Increased rpm rates require properly balanced tools with significantly increased chip room to assure proper chip removal and to prevent chip burn up.

Efficient machining with small tools requires the tools to be optimised specifically for high-speed machining applications. The proper geometry of micro-tooling, together with high-speed spindles and the ideal coolant, can totally eliminate de-burring and de-greasing as secondary operations.

Low-Viscosity Coolant

While high-speed machining inherently reduces heat, the task of cooling a rapidly moving micro tool often requires coolant. Those dedicated solely to high-speed machining with small tools understand that coolant used with conventional CNC equipment is not optimal—and this is a example of where thinking “out-of-the-box” is necessary when undertaking applications that require high-speed machining .

A small tool with intricate geometry turning at an extremely high rpm calls for a cooling and lubricating agent with a lower viscosity than water. Lower viscosity is needed because the coolant needs to make it to the cutting edge of the tool despite the high spindle speeds involved.

Emulsion-based coolants have a higher viscosity than water, and thus are ineffective as a lubricant for high-speed machining with micro tooling.

But some micro-volume coolant spray systems can use ethanol, a form of alcohol which occurs naturally in the sugar fermentation process and exhibits a lower-than-water viscosity. The low evaporation point of ethanol makes it an extremely efficient cooling and lubricating agent for high-speed machining operations.

Plus, while conventional flood coolant is petroleum based and needs to be properly disposed of, ethanol simply evaporates. This eliminates the costs associated with disposal. In addition, ethanol as a coolant does not leave any residue on the machined parts, thus eliminating the costly secondary operation of de-greasing parts.

Please note that ethanol coolant should only be used for machining of non-ferrous materials and not for machining steel-based materials.

Machine Dynamics

Using small micro tools just is not as easy as finding an adapter to hold a tiny tool in a 40 taper spindle on a conventional CNC machine. Because that spindle was designed for large tools like a 7.5 cm fly cutter intended to “hog” out deep cuts in dense substrates.

As such, it has so much torque and force that it just breaks small tools which is both inefficient and very costly over the long haul. The only option an operator has in this situation is to slow the rpm and feed rates down to a crawl—and this is not efficient either because it results in unacceptable cycle times.

A vivid, and perhaps comical, analogy is the hemi-powered pick-up truck versus the sports car. The reality is that you would not compare the two or even consider racing them against one another. Why? Because the truck was designed with the power and force to haul or tow enormous mass, while the sports car was designed for speed and manoeuvrability.

Well, just like you cannot put a spoiler and racing stripes on a sports utility vehicle and expect it to perform like a sports car, you cannot retrofit a high-speed spindle onto a clunky conventional machine and expect it to efficiently accomplish high-speed machining with micro tooling.

When designing a machine, you can go in one of two directions. You can build your machine with a big motor and heavy mass to provide the force and torque to drive large tools. Or you can build a lighter machine with a high-speed, low-force spindle specifically designed for micro-tooling.

Certainly both types of machines can be multi-purpose and perform a variety of functions—like milling, engraving, drilling, and tapping. But that is where multi-function ends. In the end, if efficiency and quality are important to you and you need to produce both large and small parts, you will end up with both types of machines working side by side on the same shop floor. While this may seem like duplication in terms of equipment expenditure, the costs are quickly recouped through the return on investment achieved through efficiency and versatility. You will produce better parts, quicker, at a lower cost.


The Solution

In consideration of high-speed machining centres exclusively, the best means of tackling micro tooling applications is to employ equipment that exhibits the key attributes detailed above (high-speed machining technology, optimised micro-tool design and low-viscosity coolant) all working together synergistically.

If applied together, this three-fold process can provide you with improved manufacturing speeds and product quality. But the benefits do not stop there. In addition, this process can totally eliminate secondary operations like de-burring and de-greasing.


Here are two examples of high-speed machining, as done on machines by manufacturers such as Datron. A 6.35 mm single flute cutter in 6061 aluminium, going 3.18 mm deep. The machining runs at 45,000 rpm and is cooled by ethanol. The feed rate is 6350 mm/min.

Secondly, using a 3.18 mm double flute high-speed cutter (HSC+) with low helical angle to machine through a 3.18 mm” 6061 aluminium sheet. The machining runs at 50,000 rpm and is cooled by ethanol. The feed rate is 5080 mm/min.

There are certain rules of thumb for high-speed machining. First of all, avoid red-lining your spindle, as this increases wear and tear on it and significantly reduces its lifetime. Machine with maximum half the tooling diameter in the Z-axis. Machine with a smaller step-over but with higher feed rates. And finally, move fast and evacuate the heat with the chip.


It all comes down to the right tools for the right job. A golfer would not use a driver on the green, nor tee off with a putter. Conventional machines with low-speed, high-force spindles cannot meet the criteria for efficiently machining with small tools.

Only a machine built from the ground up, for the sole purpose of high-speed machining with micro tooling, will deliver the efficiency and quality needed to manufacture most intricate, small parts.

High-speed machining with micro tooling offers lower force, less tool breakage, no thermal growth, better surface finish, elimination of de-burring and de-greasing operations and less tool vibration. Spindle speeds between 25,000 and 60,000 rpm result in efficiency with small tools, better part quality and improved cycle times.



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The Right Coolant Becomes A Liquid Tool

The Right Coolant Becomes A Liquid Tool

If you want to be successful as a contract manufacturer and as a supplier to businesses, working on reliability, flexibility and precision count most. By Blaser

Otto Ackermann AG from Lachen specialises in machining manufacturing of ultraprecise parts. As an important partner of renowned industrial companies, the Swiss company has in the past 48 years made its name in the field of CNC machining of aluminium, non-ferrous metals and plastic, and this name stands for the highest quality and precision. “However, we primarily specialise in aluminium machining”, says Otto Ackermann, chairman of the board and founder of Otto Ackermann AG.

Tool Life Twice As Long

The heads of production at Otto Ackermann realised there were quality fluctuations in the coolant used up to that time, which led to problems — especially in the case of thread cutting. In order to improve the quality of the manufactured precision parts, the safety and the stability, attempts were made to find a perfectly suitable coolant for the needs of Otto Ackermann.

“In the case of aluminium processing, it is also important to make sure that the workpiece does not become wet, as it has to remain clean and stainless for further processing. We were only able to achieve all of this by using Blaser Swisslube’s coolant solution,” says Otto Ackermann.

Simplified Monitoring And Performance

The installation of a 17 cubic metre central system simplifies coolant monitoring and maintenance. “Our production is spread over several buildings and various levels. By means of the central system, we can achieve the same temperature on all machines, which also helps to strongly improve the precision of the parts. Furthermore, this significantly simplifies the maintenance, as everything can be found in the same place,” Otto Ackermann adds.

The result of the coolant changeover is rather impressive: Blasocut 2000 Universal, the coolant recommended and used by the Blaser specialists, was able to double the tool life. Apart from that, employees rarely had to cease their work due to allergic skin reactions.

“I care very much about the health of my staff. This is why it was so important to me to find not only the best coolant for the machines, but also a skin-friendly solution for our employees, because let’s be honest – the greatest potential of any company are the people working there, and you have to take care of them,” Ackermann says.

Customised Maintenance, Servicing Concept

Furthermore, in cooperation with Blaser, a simple maintenance and servicing concept for the production facility was developed and implemented, and systematic and regular monitoring of the coolant was introduced.

“An employee checks the concentration of the emulsion on a weekly basis using a refractometer measures the pH-value and checks the entire central system. Once a month we send a sample of the coolant to Blaser Swisslube’s customer service laboratory, after which we receive an e-mail containing an evaluation of the laboratory examinations. This is an important point for us, as in this way we are always on the safe side and – if necessary – receive recommendations from specialists”, Otto Ackermann explains.

“A coolant which is ideally suitable for the customer’s requirements must be regularly monitored and maintained, as this is the only way it can become a Liquid Tool and can let machines and tools develop their full potential,” says Blaser Swisslube’s application engineer in charge.

Continuing Optimisation Together

“Thanks to our company-owned technology centre, we have the ideal prerequisites for simulating and testing the most diverse machining operations of our customers. After we achieved very good results in aluminium processing using our B-Cool 755 coolant, I recommended this product to Otto Ackermann last year.

I was certain that we would achieve even better results using B-Cool 755,” Blaser’s application engineer explains.

Otto Ackermann adds: “We changed over to B-Cool 755, and the results were convincing. The consumption was reduced yet again thanks to the lower top-up rate, the machines have become even cleaner, and the tool life has increased, too. Ultimately, I can only say that the cooperation with Blaser is going brilliantly. We have never regretted this step. It was a close cooperation from the very beginning, and Blaser constantly supports us, so that in the future we can be even more productive and economical.”

The Liquid Tool

Blaser Swisslube’s goal is to optimise its customers’ manufacturing processes with the Liquid Tool and to improve their economic efficiency, productivity as well as the machining quality. In close cooperation with the customers and based on a holistic view of the manufacturing process, Blaser Swisslube presents the possibilities to fully exploit the potential of machines and tools by using the right metalworking fluid which becomes a Liquid Tool.

This promise is backed by excellent products, customised services, competent experts and its long experience in the metalworking industry.

The Right Coolant Becomes A Liquid Tool

Cubic milling part

Spring Technologies: NCSimul Optitool

Spring Technologies: NCSimul Optitool

Developments have been made to Spring Technologies’ NCSimul Machine, a CNC machine verification software for simulating, verifying, optimising, and reviewing machining programs.

The added capabilities include algorithms that transform working feed rates into rapid feed rates or specified maximum feed rates for approach and retract motions in both circular and linear toolpaths. The software’s Air Cutting Optimisation mode can enable users to reduce machining times by minimising air-cutting motions and optimising entry and exit feed rates.

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Renishaw: Sprint System On-Machine Contact Scanning

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Renishaw’s Sprint system with SupaScan for CNC machine tools records a constant stream of 3D points across the part surface, and analyses this data in real time on the CNC machine tool controller for automated in-process control.

The new system utilises existing SPRINT system hardware and includes the DPU-1 data processing unit, which has been designed to simplify system integration and which requires minimal control options and machine connections. Supplied macro cycles allow the offset and alignment of components from lines, circles and plane measurements.

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