Machinists are awash in a plethora of software applications, apps, and cloud based platforms that offer help. Unfortunately for the tech savvy machinists, many apps come and go. Buzz surrounds something new, excitement builds, then they are used a couple times and never opened again. There’s far more in the digital scrap heap cluttering up desktops than there is useful utilities that persist over time.

Part of the problem is vendor based tools, which are rarely as useful as they could and should be (with notable exceptions below), and this is partly by design. Tools made by vendors are often self promoting. They work within their own ecosystem, but not outside of it. And this doesn’t hold up since almost all shops are brand agnostic. Machinists need software that can work with any vendor, software and machine. What’s worse is that these self promoting tools are often poorly designed and supported. Big brands rest on their lock in factor, and do the minimal amount to serve client’s needs rather than innovating. The purpose of these tools is just for finding products to order from them, and everything else that’s offered, like the calculators, resource materials and community tools are filler material so they can say, “Us too.”

Don’t waste time on poorly built apps, here’s what you should use instead:

Machining Calculator

Perhaps one of the most popular categories of machining software, so we sifted through dozens of solutions and came upon one of the best CNC Machinist Calculators we could find, CNC Machinist Calculator. The app is kept up to date, well supported by it’s developer and feature rich.

1. Turning Calculators for lathe operators
2. Milling Calculators for mill operators
3. Drilling Calculators
4. Gun drilling Calculators
5. Thread Calculators

And 20+ more functions. Don’t settle for second rate calculators when there’s applications in this space that are still innovating. Notable runners up, GW Calc and HSM Advisor are also worth checking out.

Cutting Tool Apps

NOVO and MachiningCloud are powerful digital tools that link:

● Process planning;
● Inventory availability and purchase;
● CAM Tooling Data Research;
● Cost-per-part management; and
● Productivity improvements – such as manufacturer recommended feeds and speeds.

NOVO is the Kennametal specific platform while MachiningCloud is cutting tool vendor agnostic, partnering with over 30 of the most popular machining brands. Plenty of vendors offer specific platforms where their catalogs are listed and quoting is available, but none of them come close to the features, integrations and ease of MachiningCloud.

Machine Apps

The Okuma App store is available for shops that use Okuma machines in order to give their machines new abilities. For example, there’s MTConnect Apps for offloading machining data onto the local network to do IIoT related activities like managing a digital thread. You can set up notifications for weather events, downtimes, and other machine diagnostic parameters so you are always in the loop. The foundation of the Okuma App Store is an open API that allows programmers and tinkerers to access and control deep machine functions through writing custom software in the shop or at home. The question it’ll leave you wondering is why all machines don’t have open APIs for upgrading features without needing expensive upgrades or integrations.

Monitoring and Diagnostic Apps

Motionics Smart Tools provides monitoring and diagnostics of machinery that’s well ahead of the competition when it come to application development. For each piece of smart monitoring and diagnostic hardware, there’s cross platform applications that access the data, providing visually rich information and controls. These apps can be setup to trigger notifications for programmed events and just about anything else you can imagine. The entire manufacturing industry can learn from their hardware with application interfaces customized for each device and screen.

For all the talk about the Digital Thread, Industry 4.0, and Smart Manufacturing, there’s nothing in manufacturing that comes close to being as usable, affordable and feature rich as something like the most basic email application on your phone. Slowly, that’s beginning to change. There’s plenty of room for innovation, especially in manufacturing software, but you still have to sift through the noise to find the metaphorical needles in the marketing haystack. If you’ve seen other awesome software innovations for machinists, let us know.