Toolholder ID as the basis for transparent tool management in Industry 4.0

Transparent tool management is the key issue in the development toward networked production for Industry 4.0. SCHUNK, the competence leader for clamping technology and gripping systems intends to push the development with the capability of unique toolholder identification by means of a data matrix code. Individual laser coding of all SCHUNK toolholders is already possible today. As part of its Industry 4.0 initiative, SCHUNK even offers the data matrix code free of charge with TRIBOS polygonal clamping components and TENDO hydraulic expansion toolholders (except TENDO E compact).


Smart toolholder identification: the data matrix code is used for the unique identification and allocation of SCHUNK toolholders.

SCHUNK intends to pave the way for the digitalization of tool management through the consistent use of modern technology by “replacing paper labels with high technology.” In the future, toolholders will be uniquely identified by a code and then, regardless of the manufacturer, assigned exactly in connection with corresponding database systems of different suppliers. In combination with data from the higher level cloud, users can then obtain precise information on locations, the tools used and their tool life, the machining parameters and the overall life cycle of the toolholder in order to assess the efficiency of the single components. This increases transparency significantly in comparison with conventional solutions. “The data matrix code can be defined individually according to the particular documentation system in use or it can be generated by SCHUNK based on a neutral numbering system,” explains Heinold Kostner, Head of Product & Portfolio Management for Clamping Technology at SCHUNK in Lauffen. “It is permanently applied to the toolholder by a laser, with no effect on the balancing grade.

Process knowledge on the rise


The toolholder and tool are coupled by the tool presetting device and stored in the database via the data matrix code as a digital twin with all required data.

The advantages of the unique ID are convincing: it eliminates the possibility of the loss or mix-up of paper labels containing tool settings, in addition to typographical errors when data is transferred. It also reduces the time spent at the machine and the tool presetting device. “The important thing is that the generated data increases the users’ knowledge of the process,” Kostner emphasizes. The clamping technology specialist adds: “It is possible to document and evaluate the entire life cycle of all tools and toolholders. This provides very precise information on the cost effectiveness of the single cutting edges and mountings.” It will also be possible to define wear limits for the replacement of tools and inspection of toolholders.

At the SCHUNK Tec-Center in Lauffen SCHUNK demonstrates the process in combination with a tool management system that is already available on the market: the data matrix code of the SCHUNK toolholder is scanned by the tool presetting device and the toolholder is coupled both physically and virtually with a tool. This generates a digital twin in the database, for storage of all related data during the course of its use. The toolholder is scanned whenever it is mounted in or removed from a machine. The employee proceeds in the same manner for tool presetting. During the scanning process, the essential tool data needed for machining, such as tool type, diameter and radius, is automatically sent by the tool presetting device to the database and from the central database to the machine. Manual input of tool data is completely eliminated. Likewise the management of data cards or labels. The database system makes it possible to determine the location of a particular tool and toolholder at any time. This minimizes the time needed for searching and eliminates the expense of double investments for tools or toolholders that are used only infrequently.

Advantages over RFID solutions


… The tool presetting data is then automatically sent from the database to the machine control system.

The data matrix code in combination with a database offers significant advantages over tool identification by means of an RFID chip. For example, RFID chips can become damaged, resulting in loss of data. In pilot applications with the data matrix code, however, it has been shown that even in constant, large-scale use, reliable scanning of the data is ensured, since there is hardly any wear. The scanning process is also faster and less trouble-prone. Much is to be said for the data matrix code also with regard to costs. Although all machines and presetting devices first have to be connected with the database system, any additional costs for the toolholders are minimal or non-existent. Equipping a toolholder with an RFID chip can result in additional costs of 10% to 20%. RFID scanners likewise involve relatively high investment costs.

Industry 4.0 initiative at SCHUNK

SCHUNK is a pioneer in clamping technology and gripping system components for Industry 4.0. In an Industry 4.0 assembly cell the company demonstrated how pick & place units, 3-axis gantries, robots and mobile platforms can cooperate autonomously during assembly, inspection, packaging and transport to allow a smart production process. Each single process step is then monitored in detail by the sensors and signaled to the higher level handling system, or even to the master control system and the ERP. With the smart networking of clamping devices SCHUNK is now transferring this know-how to the area of clamping technology. In addition to the data matrix code on toolholders, it also includes networked chucks, clamping blocks, magnetic clamping plates and pallet-loading systems, as well as fully automated quick-change solutions for versatile production.


As part of the Industry 4.0 initiative at SCHUNK the data matrix code is included with TRIBOS polygonal clamping components and TENDO hydraulic expansion holders (except TENDO E compact).


More information

On SCHUNK’s official website.