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Machine Shop Tips Strange but True, in the Machining Industry

Strange But True, Fact #1—Meters of Memory

These days when we buy a piece of CNC equipment, they quote the memory of the CNC machine in Meters (although I’ve never seen it in yards!) Have you ever wondered what a meter of memory looks like? Or how large it will be? Nowadays we’re more accustomed to buying memory in megabytes or gigabytes—so what exactly is a meter of memory?

Meters of memory go back to the ancient days of computer technology, more than 20 years ago. These are the days when CNC machines were driven by tape drives. In those days the CNC program punched (holes) onto a long narrow piece of paper known as tape. The tape was put into the tape drive and from there the it was read with the information transferred into the CNC’s memory. The amount of memory that a CNC machine had back then was measured by the length of tape that you could transfer into the machine’s memory. While this is an interesting piece of history, the world no longer uses tape, or tape drives, any more. Why, then, are they still classifying CNC machines by how many Meters of Memory they can hold? Truly puzzling.

Are you curious how meters convert to current day measurements? For those that are interested, the basic conversions are as follows:

5120 Meters = 2 MB

2560 Meters = 1 MB

1280 Meters = 512KB

640 Meters = 256KB

320 Meters = 128KB

160 Meters = 64KB

80 Meters = 32KB

1 Meter = 400 Bytes

Even today I see many machines with 320 Meters of memory. Although this may sound like a lot, once you do the conversion you’ll discover that your expensive, new CNC machine only stores 128KB of information. Doesn’t this seem crazy when you compare it to your small mobile phone that holds Gigabytes of data and costs way less?

Strange But True, Fact #2—Optional Chip Conveyor

The next item that causes me to stop and think when I’m buying equipment is the optional “chip conveyor”. Machining generates chips (metal/plastic/etc.) and in some cases LOTS of chips. What happens if you don’t buy the chip conveyor? Do you hire someone to shovel chips out of the machine? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a job posting for a “Machine Shop Chip Shoveller”, have you? So isn’t it strange that chip conveyors are an option? I wonder if anyone can enlighten me.