Photo: Zoller

Where machining centers and tools come together for efficiency and security

»Data communication between individual elements of production is the basis for Industry 4.0.« Upon hearing this statement, most people will nod and think: Nothing new there! But that's not everything: With »cora«, ZOLLER, a leading supplier of setting and measuring devices and software solutions, is presenting a system for automated tool handling and tool changes in cooperation with the CHIRON Group. It communicates directly with machining centers like the CHIRON FZ 16 S five axis, enables the secure transfer of data and guarantees clear increases in productivity – around the machine and in the machining process.

read time: 9 min

The CHIRON Group first presented the FZ 16 S five axis machining center at AMB in Stuttgart, Germany in September 2018. An important factor for high productivity is the fast, automated change of the up to 162 tools in a pick-up process. But what about the path of the tools in and out of the machine? How can we ensure that the right tool is equipped? How can tools be changed with the maximum level of security and efficiency?

These are questions which ZOLLER and the CHIRON Group have investigated and for which they have found convincing answers as part of a cooperation project true to the motto »better together«. The approach: Integrating the CHIRON FZ 16 S five axis machining center into the ZOLLER Smart Factory in Pleidelsheim, Germany to jointly test innovative procedures for moving tools into the machine and develop these for series production.

Traditional and critical: Manual data entry
This is the traditional way of doing things: The operator prints a label at the setting device, walks to the machine with the tool and enters the data. However, statistics indicate that every 20th keystroke is a typing error, with a 4 quickly becoming a 1, or a 5 turning into an 8. It sounds harmless, but during production this can lead to machining problems and even a machine crash. 

»In the Smart Factory, we combine the know-how of machine manufacturers like the CHIRON Group with our expertise. This enables us to expand on issues like connectivity, digitization and automation, develop these further in real circumstances and also experience them live.«
Bernd Schwennig
Head of Sales Automation at ZOLLER

Smart solution, part 1: Secure data transfer to replace paper chaos
A core competence of ZOLLER is setting and measuring prepared tool assemblies. The first step of the smart solution is connecting setting and measuring devices to machining centers. The data can be transferred via RFID tags, which is very secure but also quite costly. Just as secure but easy and affordable to implement for small companies is the new data transfer via DataMatrix code.

The process is incredibly simple: The code on the tool holder is read with a hand scanner at the setting device, the tool is measured and the actual data is stored in the central tool database. There is another code reader on the machining center which is used to clearly identify the tool. The machine control system then obtains the measuring data including all other required tool information directly from the tool database and inputs these into the machine – clearly, automatically and free from errors.

Secure data transfer is just one of the benefits: The »flash« production analysis software offered by the specialists from Pleidelsheim makes it possible to check the tool service life in real time based on a traffic light concept. If the tools reach the warning limit, a message is generated in the tool setting space, the new tool can be prepared and equipped in good time.

Smart solution, part 2: Communication, protection and dynamic action via ProtectLine
Another result of the cooperation between ZOLLER and the CHIRON Group is the integration of the full tool modeling data in ProtectLine. The digital machine twin is supplemented with the complete tool data – including tool geometry and tool holder geometry – fully automatically. This creates a highly efficient process for generating digital twins, which forms the basis in the system for preventative collision protection for the machine via ProtectLine. »The fully automatic integration of tools therefore creates significant added value,« explains Pascal Schröder, Development Coordination Digitalization at the CHIRON Group.

A 3D scan is generated for the digital tool twin on the Zoller pre-setting device and automatically provided to the CHIRON Group machining centers in the right data format. 

»The fully automatic integration of tools in ProtectLine creates significant added value. On the one hand, it significantly increases user convenience. On the other hand, a main source of errors – wrong or faulty tool data in the digital model – is excluded.«
Pascal Schröder
Development Coordination Digitalization at the CHIRON Group

Smart solution, part 3: Automated tool handling with »cora«
When working with difficult-to-machine materials, such as Inconel or titanium, the tools need to be changed in a quick rhythm. Frequently changing order sequences also require correspondingly frequent set-up processes. This takes up work and machining time – just a few minutes each, but these add up over time and across all machinery. With »cora«, the cooperative robot assistant from ZOLLER, in combination with the CHIRON Group machining centers, potential for rationalization can be exploited and clear gains in efficiency can be achieved.  


  • Save time thanks to automated tool handling on the setting device

  • Optimized production thanks to automated tool logistics

  • Continuous data transfer for maximum security

  • Data and stock transparency

  • Avoid tool-related spindle downtime

  • Highly productive even with small tool magazines

Excellent solution, pioneering, super digital …
… great tool, many application options: This is just a small selection from the all-positive feedback received for the webinar led by Bernd Schwennig on behalf of the CHIRON Group Sales department.

Would you experience the solution for yourself? Make a personal appointment for an online presentation or stop by for a visit at the Smart Factory in Pleidelsheim. To do so, please contact your responsible sales employee from the CHIRON Group or contact ZOLLER.

As an alternative, you can also have a first look at the OPEN HOUSE ONLINE during the innovation talk of ZOLLER on the topic »Increase efficiency, ensure quality - integrated tool management and innovative data transmission in practice«.

»At ZOLLER, we generally look at tools with a systematic approach that includes identification, pre-setting, measurements, inspection, automation, storage systems, software, data transfer and digital twin solutions. All this is perfectly implemented in the cooperation project with the CHIRON Group.«
Bernd Schwennig
Head of Sales Automation at ZOLLER

Expect great measures
That is the motto of E. Zoller GmbH & Co. KG, which offers innovative setting and measuring devices, software for measurements, inspection and management of machining tools and automation solutions.

Founded in 1945 by Alfred Zoller, the company remains an independent family business to this day and focuses on solutions for greater profitability in machining.

There are currently around 42,000 setting devices and software solutions deployed worldwide, supported by service and sales branches in the most important markets and partners in 59 countries. Development and assembly are completely »Made in Germany« and based at the headquarters in Pleidelsheim near Stuttgart. Here, ZOLLER opened a new building right in time for its 75th anniversary in 2020, and now operates on an area of 37,000 m2. The building is equipped with geothermal energy, solar power, water power and a green roof and therefore designed for sustainability. It offers ideal conditions for around 400 employees and for training courses held at the ZOLLER Academy. At the heart lies the innovative technology and customer center, the Smart Factory.