Getting to Know Your Machine Tool
When looking to purchase a machine tool for your shop, it is vital to choose a machine tool supplier that designs, engineers and builds its own components. That way you are ensured of optimum performance at greater accuracies. And—if something should go wrong—your supplier can quickly get to the root of the problem since they were in charge of everything that went into that machine.
So before you buy, here is what you need to know about the six core components of a machine tool.
1. Automatic Tool Changer (ATC)
It is important that the ATC exchanges tools within the spindle as quickly as possible. By matching the drives and the motors the ATC arm hands off the tool to the spindle accurately. A good ATC system has the ability to decrease downtime and increase productivity.
Once again, if you are having parts move, you need to match the best motor for that machine, and the best drive, and the best way to achieve this is to ensure your supplier is not using any outside components. They should design and build all of the electronic drive boards, electric motors, and absolute encoder systems that provide feedback to the control. Sophisticated communication within the system allows the machines to deliver some of the highest metal removal rates alongside positioning repeatability in the single digit micrometer range.
3. Base Casting
Since the base casting is the foundation of the machine center, the heavier and more rigid, the better. It may cost more, but the strength and durability will minimize vibration. If you have vibration, you are not controlling where the waves are going to be mounted. Tough machines will absorb the toughest horsepower cuts with the greatest accuracy.
The control is the heart of the machine tool. It is telling the machine what to move, where to move, and how exactly to achieve the optimal cutting time, speed and feeds that you need. The blend of electrical and systems engineering give the controls a full range of power, heightened accuracy and ease of operation—turning data quickly from a CAD source into finished parts at the least cost per component. The machine tool supplier needs to be in control of their design for optimal matched control with the optimal matched machines.
The machine tool supplier should create each turret to match a specific machine and should capitalize on available horsepower and efficiently remove material without sacrificing accuracy. A durable turret increases the strength of the cutting process. Suppliers that design their own turrets enable them to only require one drive for the turret and milling function on the tool. Once again, if you have parts that are moving, who better to control it?
The spindle is one of the most critical elements of the machine tool. A stable spindle incorporates the drive motor with the spindle—taking into account rigidity, lubrication and power, and also ensures consistently accurate finished parts and predictable productivity. Again, its design—with the optimum rpm rotation in mind—will give you the best cut and accuracy for that machine. Machine tool suppliers who design their own spindles can rebuild and support the spindles, extending the life and productivity of your machine.
Make sure the supplier designs, engineers and builds all of the machine’s key components so the system can be matched better. By using one source you can ensure the communication will be correct between drives and motors and the control itself.
Stability, spindle speed and software are essential consideration for your moldmaking machine tool.
The alternative you choose to achieve five-axis machining benefits will be application driven and can have a significant effect on your bottom line.
In the last two years, there have been many exciting developments in high-speed machining relative to machining centers and controls, tooling and CAD/CAM systems.