CNC Multi-Spindles: New Technology Plus


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In the last few years, lot sizes have decreased dramatically as many manufacturing firms have adopted the just-in-time manufacturing philosophy. As a result, the suppliers of machined parts—both captive machining departments and contract machine shops—to these firms have required machine tools that can be set up faster for the next job. They have required machine tools that enable them to respond faster to customer orders and at the same time more readily accommodate part design changes. We as machine tool manufacturers have had to fulfill these customer requirements in order to stay competitive. What follows is a look at some of the major improvements that have been made to CNC multi-spindle screw machines as a result.

The setup of high-production, multi-spindle screw machines has always been a time-consuming process. However, controls for CNC multi-spindle screw machines have improved tremendously in the last decade. An important benefit of these improvements is a marked reduction in setup times. Today’s CNCs are as powerful as the newest and best PC. In fact, the PC has become an integral part of the machine.

Great strides have also been made on the software side. The Windows operating system used with open-architecture controls has changed the operation, productivity and use of machine tools. One key to this success was the implementation of standards. The growth in the complexity of today’s machine tools, new machine design concepts, high speed drive systems and the integration of different processes all required the development of standard hardware and user friendly software to optimize the use of the machines.

Today’s PC-based control allows the machine to be operated, programmed, diagnosed and updated from remote locations through CAD/CAM systems and online service and support software. The open architecture enables the machine to inform the operator about any changes in production data. These are powerful tools to monitor and control the uptime of the integrated system.

One result is that modern CNC multi-spindle screw machines can be set up faster and more easily than mechanical multi-spindles, making the production of smaller lot sizes on such machines more cost effective. The combination of the more powerful control capabilities and the use of off-the-shelf tooling instead of more expensive, specially designed form tools has brought about a marked improvement in production efficiency.

The current generation of CNC multi-spindle machines has all of the features commonly found on single-spindle lathes and more. For example, integrated, synchronous spindle motors allow different rpm to be run at each spindle position, optimizing the cutting parameters for the part. This technical innovation, integrated in the basic machine design, provides capabilities such as spindle stop, angular spindle position and C axis—capabilities that have been optional on mechanical machines but have not been as flexible.

Fully CNC two-axis slides provide maximum flexibility in OD turning. Linear drives provide the highest dynamics currently available in the machine tool industry.

Powerful twin CPU controls take care of more than 30 CNC axes to ensure the highest productivity, accuracy and process reliability.

Given today’s global competitiveness, the machine tool builder not only must provide equipment incorporating the latest technology but also must be able to work with the customer to develop a total solution to ensure the success of the project. The relationship between the builder and the customer has moved in the direction of becoming a true, long-term business partnership that involves not only the technology and application engineering, but also such things as training, service cooperation and maintenance programs.