TURN-MILL OR MILL-TURN . . . ONE SCREEN CAN SAY IT ALL!
Innovative CNC technology can now operate sophisticated multi-task machine tools with seamless transitions from mill to turn or turn to mill or both; identical look-and-feel to screens, too!
The recent emergence of multi-tasking CNC machine tools is part of that “perfect storm” in our industry today. As more large OEMs outsource while, sorry to say, a number of supplier shops have closed, there is a growing need for more mill-turn and turn-mill machines in the job shop sector. As we all know, the history of our industry has said that an operator could run a mill or a lathe, but not both, owing to the substantial difference in so many aspects of the set-up, operational mechanics and tooling requirements.
Welcome to a new day.
The modern CNC has evolved along with machine tool technology, so that it’s now possible for a shop to run multi-tasking machines with identical look-and-feel in both the operation and the programming. Both the functionalities for milling and turning have been integrated into a single operation, including combined simulation, allowing all measurement cycles in an animated element design.
In this way, you can run a milling, turning, mill-turn or turn-mill operation on the same machine, using the same screens and set-up keys. For you tekky types, essentially what’s happened is that the graphical user interface provides an integrated milling functionality for turning and vice versa.
Likewise, turn-mill tool tables are combined altogether, so you no longer need to jump back and forth to program the spindles. Even a program interrupt, stop or change can be made seamlessly to either the mill or turn program in mid-stream, with full display simulation of each mill or turn step onscreen. In the higher-end CNC lines, full functionality for five-axis simulation and multi-axis interpolation is now possible.
Those of you manufacturing medical, aerospace, wind and other components where, for example, simultaneous two-sided blade production is the norm, will now find those operations much easier, faster and doable offline in real-time simulations. As a side note for you shop owners and estimators, think of the savings and cost control upsides of that feature.
Even engraving, grooving, slotting and other multi-axis functions can be performed without relearning a technology, for traditional mill or lathe operators. And today’s CNC can track in-process gaging and tool wear adjustment for both technologies, with turn-mill tool tables displayed altogether. This especially applies to the latest multi-tool devices.
The new measuring cycle capabilities will likewise allow you to enter new territories in your shops, as the screens here show. With the identical look-and-feel to the screens, plus the 3D display of rotary axes in position patterns, you can translate much more sophisticated CAM programs onscreen. That will save you time, maximize tool utilization and again help with improved efficiencies in job scheduling, because you’ll have a considerably better handle on the time requirements for each job.
While not a “one size fits all” situation by any stretch, these new functions in CNC technology will allow many smaller shops and special service providers the ability to expand their workload, improve the profitability on their machines and their most important asset, their operators. Furthermore, when combined on a multi-spindle machine in certain shops with particular volume requirements, the productivity of this mill-turn technology will enable them to leapfrog the competition.
About the Author: Randy Pearson is the sales support manager for U.S. dealers and OEMs of Siemens Industry, Inc., Drives Technologies, Motion Control — Machine Tool Business, 390 Kent Avenue, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007, www.siemenscnc.com. A veteran of the machine tool industry, his interest is the training aspect on CNC machine tools, which he conducts through seminars and classes at votech schools and shops, and at Siemens training facilities. For questions or comments on this column, contact Randy at 847-640-1595 or email@example.com.