Title:
MACHINE HAVING REMOVABLE TOOL SYSTEM
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A tool system is disclosed for a machine. The tool system may have a first adapter configured to removably connect with a first side of the machine, and a second adapter configured to removably connect with a second side of the machine opposite the first side. The tool system may also have a frame member with a first end pivotally attached to the first adapter, and a second end pivotally attached to the second adapter. The tool system may further have a tool pivotally connected to the frame member between the first and second adapters, and at least one hydraulic actuator disposed between the frame member and each of the first and second adapters.



Inventors:
Parker, Jeffrey M. (Fuquay Varina, NC, US)
Petterson, Doug Earl (Fuquay Varina, NC, US)
Renfrow, Jay Holloman (Kenly, NC, US)
Farmer, Todd Rowland (Apex, NC, US)
Application Number:
14/871510
Publication Date:
03/30/2017
Filing Date:
09/30/2015
Assignee:
CATERPILLAR INC. (Peoria, IL, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E02F3/76; E02F3/96
View Patent Images:
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20090288848TINED PRY BAR HAND TOOLNovember, 2009Post
20090084564Ergonomic Trenching ChunkerApril, 2009Buck et al.
20060108129Hole Coring ApparatusMay, 2006Van Denham
20110284253DISC CULTIVATORNovember, 2011Stevenson
20140060870MULTIPURPOSE GARDEN TOOLMarch, 2014Scarpati
20140345893COULTER BLADE WITH VARIED TEETH AND INSERTS AND METHOD OF USING SAMENovember, 2014Christie et al.
20060260827Ground tending deviceNovember, 2006Clouston



Primary Examiner:
BEHRENS, ADAM J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CATERPILLAR/FINNEGAN, HENDERSON, L.L.P. (WASHINGTON, DC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An adapter for a tool system, comprising: spaced-apart plates each with an upper end and a lower end, the lower end of each of the spaced-apart plates having a leading edge and a trailing edge; aligned apertures formed in the upper ends of the spaced-apart plates; a female engagement feature located at the lower ends of the spaced-apart plates; and a protrusion located between the spaced-apart plates and extending from the leading edges to pivotally engage a frame member of the tool system.

2. The adapter of claim 1, wherein the female engagement feature is a hook with an opening oriented away from the upper end.

3. The adapter of claim 2, wherein: the protrusion is a first protrusion; and the hook is formed in a second protrusion located between the spaced-apart plates and extending from the trailing edges.

4. The adapter of claim 1, wherein the spaced-apart plates are separated at the upper ends by an internal spacer.

5. The adapter of claim 1, further including a pin located between the aligned apertures and the female engagement feature to receive an actuator of the tool system.

6. A tool system for a machine, comprising: a first adapter configured to removably connect with a first side of the machine; a second adapter configured to removably connect with a second side of the machine opposite the first side; a frame member having a first end pivotally attached to the first adapter, and a second end pivotally attached to the second adapter; a tool pivotally connected to the frame member between the first and second adapters; and at least one hydraulic actuator disposed between the frame member and each of the first and second adapters.

7. The tool system of claim 6, wherein the at least one hydraulic actuator is generally parallel with an upper surface of the frame member when the tool is lowered to its lowest position.

8. The tool system of claim 7, wherein the at least one hydraulic actuator becomes about 10° out of parallel relative to the upper surface of the frame member when the tool is lifted to its highest position.

9. The tool system of claim 7, further including a protrusion extending away from the upper surface, wherein the at least one hydraulic actuator extends from the protrusion to a corresponding one of the first and second adapters.

10. The tool system of claim 9, wherein: the frame member is generally C-shaped, having first and second legs that terminate at the first and second ends; the protrusion is a first protrusion extending away from the upper surface at the first leg; the tool system further includes a second protrusion extending away from the upper surface at the second leg; and the at least one hydraulic actuator includes a first hydraulic actuator connected between the first adapter and the first protrusion, and a second hydraulic actuator connected between the second adapter and the second protrusion.

11. The tool system of claim 10, further including at least a third hydraulic actuator extending from each of the first and second protrusions to the tool.

12. The tool system of claim 11, wherein the at least a third hydraulic actuator is also generally parallel with the upper surface of the frame member when the tool is lowered to its lowest position.

13. The tool system of claim 12, wherein the at least a third hydraulic actuator is located gravitationally lower than the first and second hydraulic actuators when the tool system is connected to the machine.

14. The tool system of claim 12, wherein the at least a third hydraulic actuator is located between the first and second hydraulic actuators.

15. The tool system of claim 11, further including a fourth actuator connected between a center of the frame member and a top of the tool.

16. The tool system of claim 15, further including a third protrusion extending away from the upper surface of the frame member at a C-shape center of the frame member, wherein the fourth actuator is connected to the third protrusion.

17. The tool system of claim 16, wherein the tool is a dozing blade.

18. The tool system of claim 16, wherein the first and second ends of the frame member are connected to gravitationally lower ends of the first and second adapters, respectively.

19. The tool system of claim 18, wherein the first and second adapters are each generally L-shaped, with the first and second ends of the frame member being connected to horizontal portions of the L-shapes.

20. A machine, comprising: a body having a front end and a rear end; traction devices located at opposing sides of the body; an opening formed in each of the opposing sides of the body at a location above the traction devices; a protrusion rigidly connected to each of the opposing sides of the body and extending outward; first and second adapters configured to removably mount to the opposing sides of the body, each of the first and second adapters having spaced-apart plates with apertures configured to align with the opening of the body, and a hook configured to receive the protrusion; a generally C-shaped push frame having a first end pivotally connected to the first adapter, and a second end pivotally connected to the second adapter; a tool pivotally connected to a center of the C-shaped push frame; lift cylinders connecting the first and second adapters to the generally C-shaped push frame; and a pitch cylinder connecting the generally C-shaped push frame to the tool, wherein the first and second ends of the generally C-shaped push frame are located between the opposing sides of the body and the traction devices.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present disclosure relates generally to a machine and, more particularly, to a machine having a removable tool system.

BACKGROUND

A construction machine operating at a typical worksite is often required to perform a variety of different functions, for example, digging, leveling, grading, hauling, lifting, trenching, hammering, compacting, etc. These functions are most efficiently conducted using tools specifically designed for each of the different functions. A tool coupler is a common way to connect the tools to the machine. A tool coupler attaches to existing linkage structure and hydraulics of the machine, and functions as a generic adapter for interchangeable connection with an assortment of different tools.

While a tool coupler may increase the versatility of a machine, the tool coupler also has its limitations. In particular, some tools require physical support, power, range of movements, etc., that are different from other tools. By connecting all of the different tools to the same generic coupler (and same associated linkages and hydraulics), movements, speeds, and/or forces of the tools may be inhibited. It may also be possible for the machine to sustain damage when a particular tool is connected to a tool coupler not designed to handle the movements, speeds, and/or forces normally experienced by that particular tool. In addition, some tools, because of the associated linkage and/or hydraulic requirements, may not be connectable to the tool coupler and/or may not function when connected to the tool coupler.

One attempt to address the issues discussed above is disclosed in U.S. Patent Publication No. 2002/0102154 (the '154 publication) by MULLER et al. that published on Aug. 1, 2002. In particular, the '154 publication discloses an attachment system for coupling a plurality of work tools to a single machine. The attachment system includes a base module that is either integrally formed with or attached to the front frame of the machine, and an adapter that is permanently secured to the particular work tool. The adapter is configured to engage and mate with the base module. Bolts are then used to retain the adapter connected to the base module. Each of the plurality of work tools has a unique linkage arrangement associated therewith, including appropriate power providers for controlling operations of that particular tool. Exemplary tools include a loader bucket and a dozer blade.

While the attachment system of the '154 publication may provide some improvement over a generic tool coupler, it may still be problematic and have limited application. In particular, the different tools and adapters may be difficult and time-consuming to attach to the base module. In addition, the linkage arrangements disclosed in the '154 publication may not provide a desired level of support, motion, and force for some applications. Further, the attachment system may only be applicable to articulated machines.

The machine and tool system of the present disclosure address one or more of the needs set forth above and/or other problems of the prior art.

SUMMARY

One aspect of the present disclosure is directed to an adapter for a tool system. The adapter may include spaced-apart plates each with an upper end and a lower end. The lower end of each of the spaced-apart plates may have a leading edge and a trailing edge. The adapter may further include aligned apertures formed in the upper ends of the spaced-apart plates, a female engagement feature located at the lower ends of the spaced-apart plates, and a protrusion located between the spaced-apart plates and extending from the leading edges to pivotally engage a frame member of the tool system.

Another aspect of the present disclosure is directed to a tool system for a machine. The tool system may include a first adapter configured to removably connect with a first side of the machine, and a second adapter configured to removably connect with a second side of the machine opposite the first side. The tool system may also include a frame member with a first end pivotally attached to the first adapter, and a second end pivotally attached to the second adapter. The tool system may further include a tool pivotally connected to the frame member between the first and second adapters, and at least one hydraulic actuator disposed between the frame member and each of the first and second adapters.

Yet another aspect of the present disclosure is directed to a machine. The machine may include a body having a front end and a rear end, traction devices located at opposing sides of the body, an opening formed in each of the opposing sides of the body at a location above the traction devices, and a protrusion rigidly connected to each of the opposing sides of the body and extending outward. The machine may also include first and second adapters configured to removably mount to the opposing sides of the body. Each of the first and second adapters may have spaced-apart plates with apertures configured to align with the opening of the body, and a hook configured to receive the protrusion. The machine may further include a C-shaped push frame having a first end pivotally connected to the first adapter, and a second end pivotally connected to the second adapter. The machine may additionally have a tool pivotally connected to a center of the C-shaped push frame, lift cylinders connecting the first and second adapters to the C-shaped push frame, and a pitch cylinder connecting the C-shaped push frame to the tool. The first and second ends of the C-shaped push frame may be located between the opposing sides of the body and the traction devices.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIGS. 1 and 2 are side-view illustrations of an exemplary disclosed machine equipped with different removable tool systems;

FIG. 3 is an isometric illustration of an exemplary tool system that is removably connectable to the machine of FIG. 1; and

FIG. 4 is a side-view illustration of the exemplary tool system of FIG. 3.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIGS. 1 and 2 both illustrate an exemplary machine 10 equipped with different front tool systems 12 and different rear tool systems 14. Machine 10 may be a machine that performs some type of operation associated with an industry, such as mining, construction, farming, transportation, or any other industry known in the art. In the disclosed example, machine 10 is a general track-type-tractor capable of accepting any number of different front and rear tool systems 12, 14, thereby becoming an application-specific machine. In the example of FIG. 1, front tool system 12 is a loader system having a loading-type bucket tool 16, while rear tool system 14 is a trenching system having a trencher tool 18. In the example of FIG. 2, front tool system 12 is a dozing system having a blade-type tool 20, while rear tool system 14 is a back-hoe system having a excavating-type bucket tool 22. In general, front tool systems 12 of FIGS. 1 and 2 may be interchangeable with each other (and with other front tool systems that are not shown) and removably connected to machine 10. Likewise, rear tool systems 14 may be interchangeable with each other (and with other rear tool systems that are not shown) and removably connected to machine 10. Front tool systems 12, however, may not be interchangeable with rear tool systems 14. For the purposes of this disclosure, removably connected may be defined as connected without the use of threaded fasteners or welding, and connected in such a manner that cutting, bending, or another destructive process is not required for removal.

It should be noted that, while machine 10 is depicted in FIGS. 1 and 2 as a track-type-tractor, machine 10 could be another type of machine, if desired. For example, machine 10 could be a wheeled machine. It is also contemplated that machine 10 may have a fixed or integrated tool system, in addition to front and/or rear tool systems 12, 14 that are removable. For example, machine 10 could be a haul truck having an integrated bed, in addition to or instead of one or both of front and rear tool systems 12, 14.

Machine 10 includes, among other things, a body (“machine body”) 24, a power source (e.g., an engine) 26 mounted to machine body 24, one or more traction devices 28 driven by power source 26, and an operator station 30 supported by machine body 24. Operator station 30 may house any number and type of input devices 32 for use by the operator in controlling front and rear tool systems 12, 14, power source 26, and/or traction devices 28.

An example of the dozing-type front tool system (“system”) 12 is illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4. As shown in these figures, system 12 may include two adapters 34 located at a proximal end (i.e., proximal relative to machine body 24), tool 20 located at a distal end, a linkage arrangement 36 disposed between adapters 34 and tool 20, and one or more actuators 38 connected between adapters 34, components of linkage arrangement 36, and tool 20. Adapters 34 may function as anchors, which are used to connect the rest of system 12 to machine 10. Actuators 38 may be selectively activated (e.g., in response to operator commands generated via input devices 32) to move linkage arrangement 36 and tool 20 relative to adapters 34.

Each adapter 34 may have a general L-shape, with a horizontal portion and a longer vertical portion (i.e., horizontal and vertical relative to an installed orientation on machine 10). The vertical portion may be fabricated primarily from two separate plates 40 that are spaced apart from each other. In the disclosed embodiment, plates 40 are substantially identical to each other and parallel. It should be noted, however, that plates 40 may be different in other embodiments and angled relative to each other, if desired. The horizontal portions may be located between plates 40. One or more webs 42 may interconnect plates 40 to provide structural integrity to adapter 34, and function as internal spacers.

Each plate 40 may have an upper end 44 and a lower end 46, as well as a leading edge 48 and a trailing edge 50. An aperture 52 may be formed in upper end 44 of each plate 40, and aligned with the corresponding aperture 52 of the other paired plate 40 of each adapter 34. In some embodiments, a boss may be formed around each aperture 52 and extend partially or completely between plates 40. The aligned apertures 52 of each adapter 34 may be configured to align with a corresponding opening (not shown) located in a side of machine body 24. Once apertures 52 are aligned with the opening, a locking pin (not shown) may be inserted through the apertures 52 and the opening to retain these features in alignment with each other. In this manner, upper end 44 of adapter 34 may be connected to machine 10, such that pivoting in a vertical plane (i.e., a plane generally aligned with the side of machine body 24) is possible.

An additional aperture 54 may be formed within each plate 40 at a location between apertures 52 and lower end 46 (e.g., about midway therebetween). Like apertures 52, apertures 54 of both plates 40 may be aligned with each other. In some embodiments, a boss may be formed around each aperture 54 and extend partially or completely between plates 40. The aligned apertures 54 of each adapter 34 may be configured to also align with a corresponding aperture of a first actuator 38 (e.g., an eye located at a head-end of a hydraulic lift cylinder 38a). Once apertures 54 are aligned with the cylinder eye, a pin (not shown) may be inserted through the apertures 54 and the cylinder eye to retain these features connected with each other. In this manner, lift cylinder 38a may pivot vertically relative to adapter 34.

The horizontal portion of each adapter 34 may be formed from another plate 56, which protrudes in opposing directions from the leading and trailing edges 48, 50 of plates 40. A female engagement feature (“feature”) 58 may be formed within a rearward protrusion of plate 56, while a clevis 59 having aligned apertures 60 may be formed within an opposing forward protrusion. In the disclosed embodiment, feature 58 may be a hook having an opening facing downward (i.e., opposite upper end 44). Feature 58 may be configured to receive a pin 62 (referring to FIG. 1) that is rigidly connected to and extends outward from the side of machine body 24. Pin 62 may be located in general vertical alignment with and below the bore hold formed in the same side of machine body 24. With this configuration, adapter 34 may be placed over pin 62, and feature 58 lowered thereon. After feature 58 is resting on pin 62, pin 62 may function as a pivot shaft for adapter 34. That is, adapter 34 may be rotated about pin 62 until apertures 52 align with the opening in the side of machine body 24. This alignment may facilitate manual placement of the above-described locking pin. In the disclosed embodiment, plate 56 is welded to one or both of plates 40 of the same adapter 34. It is contemplated, however, that plate 56 could alternatively be integrally formed with one of plates 40, if desired.

In the disclosed embodiment, pin 62 is retained within feature 58 by the hooked shape thereof, by the weight of tool system 12 resting on pin 62, and by the pinned connection of apertures 52 with the openings in the sides of machine body 24. This may be a secure connection for most applications. However, it is contemplated that an additional retention mechanism may be employed, if desired. This additional retention mechanism may take the form of a commonly known wedge-type lock that can be remotely activated by the operator. Specifically, in response to operator input, a wedge (not shown) could be electrically, hydraulically, and/or mechanically moved to close off the open side of feature 58, with pin 62 locked inside. In this manner, pin 62 may be mechanically blocked from exiting feature 58.

Clevis 59 formed at the front end of plate 56, having aligned apertures 60, may be used to connect linkage arrangement 36 to adapter 34. Specifically, a portion of linkage arrangement 36 may pass through opposing sides of clevis 59, such that an eye of linkage arrangement 36 aligns with apertures 60. Thereafter, a pin (not shown) may be inserted through the apertures 60 and the eye to retain these features connected with each other. In this manner, linkage arrangement 36 may pivot vertically relative to adapter 34.

Linkage arrangement 36, in the disclosed embodiment, includes a single monolithic frame member 63 connected between both adapters 34 and tool 20. Frame member 63 may be a hollow beam having a general C-shape, with a square or rectangular cross-section. For example, frame member 63 may be a welded fabrication consisting of a bottom plate 64, a top plate 66, an inner side plate 68, and an outer side plate 69. Bottom and top plates 64, 66 may be substantially identical and arcuate, opening towards machine body 24. Side plates 68, 69 may be oriented generally orthogonal to bottom and top plates 64, 66 and follow the general curvature of bottom and top plates 64, 66. Inner side plate 68 may have a shorter length than outer side plate 68. Frame member 63 may have two straight ends 70 located generally parallel to each other and at opposing sides of machine body 24 (i.e., when assembled to machine 10), and a curved center portion 72 located between ends 70 and in front of machine body 24. Each of ends 70 may pivotally connect to plate 56 of a corresponding adapter 34 via apertures 60, such that vertical pivoting of frame member 63 may be possible relative to adapters 34.

Multiple supports may protrude upward away from an upper surface of top plate 66 along the length of frame member 63. In particular one protrusion 74 may be located adjacent each end 70 (e.g., on the straight potion of frame member 63, between end 70 and the curved portion of frame member 63), while another protrusion 76 may be located at the center of the curved portion of frame member 63. Protrusions 74 and 76 may function as mounting points for actuators 38. In particular, each of protrusions 74 may have an upper aperture 78 and a lower aperture 80. Upper apertures 78 may be configured to align with a rod-end eye of corresponding lift cylinders 38a, such that a pivot pin may be inserted therethrough. Lower apertures 80 may be configured to align with head-end apertures of corresponding yaw cylinders 38b, such that a pivot pin may be inserted therethrough. The opposing rod-end of yaw cylinders 38b may be pivotally connected to outer edges of tool 20. Protrusion 76 may include a ball 82 formed therein at a distal end that is configured to align with a head-end socket of a pitch cylinder 38c, such that ball 82 may be inserted into the socket. The opposing rod-end of pitch cylinder 38c may be pivotally connected to a top edge of tool 20 by way of another similar ball joint.

Tool 20 may additionally be connected to outer side surface 69 at the center of the curved portion of frame member 63, for example via a ball joint 77. With this configuration, tool 20 may be allowed to pitch fore/aft, yaw left/right, and also roll clockwise/counterclockwise. The rolling may be initiated by way of an additional roll cylinder 38d that extends between protrusion 76 (e.g., at a location below pitch cylinder 38c) to a side edge of tool 20.

The motion of actuators 38 may function to raise/lower, yaw, pitch, and roll tool 20. Specifically, as lift cylinders 38a retract, rearward forces may be generated at the tops of protrusions 74 that result in an upward raising of frame member 63 and tool 20. In contrast, as lift cylinders 38 extend, forward forces may be generated that result in a downward lowering of frame member 63 and tool 20. Yaw cylinders 38b, being located at opposing sides of frame member 63 (and machine 10), may function in tandem with each other to cause desired left/right yawing of tool 20 about a vertical axis relative to frame member 63 and machine 10. For example, to yaw tool 20 to the left (i.e., when viewed from an operator's perspective), the yaw cylinder 38b located on the right side will extend, while the yaw cylinder 38b located on the left side will retract. And to yaw tool 20 to the right, the yaw cylinder 38b located on the right side will retract, while the yaw cylinder 38b located on the left side will extend. During the extensions and retractions of yaw cylinders 38b, reactionary forces will be transmitted down through protrusions 74 to frame member 63. Yaw cylinders 38b may be generally located inward (e.g., between) and gravitationally lower than lift cylinders 38a, although other configurations may also be possible. Extensions and retractions of pitch cylinder 38c may function in a manner similar to the other actuators 38 to create forward and reverse pitching of tool 20, respectively. Extension of roll cylinder 38d may result in a counterclockwise rolling of tool 20, while a retraction may result in a clockwise rolling. Reactionary forces generated during pitching and rolling will be transmitted down through protrusion 76 to frame member 63.

Lift and pitch cylinders 38a, 38b may be oriented to handle high forces during engagement of tool 20 with a ground surface below machine 10. That is, when tool 20 is moved to a lowest position, at which the ground surface is engaged by a lower edge of tool 20, lift and pitch cylinders 38a, 38b (e.g., an axis or plane of symmetry of cylinders 38a, 38b) may all be generally parallel (e.g., within +/−20) with top plate 66. In this configuration, forces generated by the engagement may be transmitted substantially evenly through the cylinders and through frame member 63 back to the sides of machine body 24. This even distribution of forces may help to reduce a likelihood of damage to the components of tool system 12, to increase a load capacity of tool system 12, and/or to improve a stability of tool system 12 during the engagement. As frame member 63 and tool 20 are raised to a maximum height position, lift and pitch cylinders 38a, 38b may move out of alignment relative to frame member 63 by about 10° (e.g., within +/−2°).

The tool system 12 disclosed in FIG. 1 may have connection features similar to those of tool system 12 shown in FIG. 2. In particular, tool system 12 of FIG. 1 may include apertures 52 configured for pinned connection to the openings in the sides of machine body 24, and feature 58 configured for engagement with pin 62. The rest of tool system 12 shown in FIG. 1, however, may be different from that of FIG. 2. The common features may allow interchangeability of the two systems with each other and with other similarly configured systems.

INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY

The presently disclosed tool systems are applicable to any mobile machine to increase the functionality of the machine. For example, a general-use machine may utilize the disclosed tool systems to selectively connect a front loading bucket (and associated linkage arrangement), a dozing blade (and associated linkage arrangement), or another tool to the machine, such that the machine can be used for many different purposes. This increase in functionality lowers capital costs for the machine owner, and/or allows for increased business opportunities. Connection of tool systems 12 will now be described in detail with respect to FIGS. 1 and 2.

The first step in connecting a particular tool system 12 to machine 10 is to drive machine 10 forward toward tool system 12, until feature 58 is resting over the top of pin 62. It should be noted that, during this movement, ends 70 of frame member 63 may pass between the sides of machine body 24 and traction devices 28. That is, enough space may exist between frame member 63 and the sides of machine body 24 to accommodate the ends of frame member 63, allowing linkage system 12 to sit low on machine 10. When feature 58 is resting over the top of pin 62, the operator of machine 10 may exit operator station 30 and connect appropriate hydraulic hoses between a source of fluid pressure onboard machine 10 and actuators 38. Thereafter, the operator may re-enter station 30 and manipulate input device 32 to cause an extension of lift cylinders 38a. An extension of lift cylinders 38a, at this point in time, may result in a lowering of adapters 34 onto pin 62, and the engagement of the hook shape of feature 58 with pin 62. Further movements of lift cylinders 38a may result in the rotation of adapters 34 about pins 62, and the corresponding alignment of apertures 52 with the openings in the sides of machine body 24. Once apertures 52 are sufficiently aligned with the openings, appropriate pins may be placed therein to inhibit further rotations. The placing of the pins through apertures 52 and the openings may complete the connection process. The connection process may be reversed to disconnect tool system 12 from machine 10.

Several advantages are associated with the disclosed tool system. In particular, the disclosed tool system may be easy and quick to attach to machine 10. In addition, the disclosed tool system, because of the angular configuration of lift and pitch cylinders 38a, 38b relative to frame member 63, may be robust for even high-force applications. Further, the disclosed tool system may be applicable to both articulated and non-articulated machines.

It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications and variations can be made to the machine and tool system of the present disclosure without departing from the scope of the disclosure. Other embodiments will be apparent to those skilled in the art from consideration of the specification and practice of the machine and tool system disclosed herein. It is intended that the specification and examples be considered as exemplary only, with a true scope of the disclosure being indicated by the following claims and their equivalent.