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Unattended Machining

The ultimate goal in the trend toward greater automation in machine shops is unattended machining. Here is a review of some of the latest integrated machine tool systems that can help shops achieve that goal.

Posted: June 3, 2014

This automated machine-tending package, designed by Gosiger Automation, features a Fanuc M-10iA six-axis, industrial robot integrated to a Hardinge T-51 CNC multi-function sub-spindle lathe and a Renishaw Equator™ programmable comparative gage.
PALLETACE-C from Okuma America is a complete flexible manufacturing system in a container that is configured specifically for Okuma machining centers. This compact container system is an advanced and cost effective alternative to conventional pallet pools. This system can be configured with up to two containers, two Okuma machining centers, and two load stations, handling as many as 24 pallets. 
GFM single machine with small magazine capacity.
GFM Extended rails for more machines and capacities.

Hardinge Inc. (Elmira, NY), a leading international provider of advanced metal-cutting solutions, demonstrates automated production of hydraulic spool valve housings on their T51 MSY SP SUPER-PRECISION® Turning Center.

The automated machine-tending package, designed by Gosiger Automation (Dayton, OH), features a Fanuc M-10iA six-axis, industrial robot integrated to the T-51 CNC multi-function sub-spindle lathe and an Equator™ programmable comparative gage from Renishaw Inc. (Hoffman Estates, IL) that provides high-speed scanning with rapid moves between features, and has impressive repeatability. This package demonstrates the effectiveness of robotic automation when coupling a machine tool with an automated gaging device for process control. “Extended periods of unattended operation are possible with complete assurance that quality, close-tolerance parts will be produced, all in a small footprint,” states Brad Devon, the sales manager at Hardinge.

The automation system uses minimal floor space and allows easy, ergonomic access to the machine tool for part-to-part changeover and routine tool service. The Fanuc robot is positioned close to the front of the lathe and offset to the left-hand side of the T-51 machine door to maximize operator access to the machine tool. This machine and setup will accommodate a wide variety of parts with quick changeover features for relatively small production lot sizes.

A demonstration of the Hardinge T51 SP turning center, equipped by Gosiger Automation with a Fanuc M10-iA robot and a Renishaw “Equator” comparative gauging system.

The T-51 MSY SP turning center, released earlier this year, is the culmination of many years of company expertise in SUPER-PRECISION® and high-performance turning. The turning center has a 2 in capacity, collet-ready main spindle allowing the cutting location to be closest to the spindle bearings. “This exclusive spindle design, along with our patented HARCRETE®-reinforced cast iron base, provides an extremely rigid machining process with unmatched stability,” says Devon.

The main spindle has thru-spindle coolant and part present detector. The A2-6 sub-spindle is equipped with a Sure-Grip® expanding collet with true parallel gripping. The Hardinge-designed BMT 55 turret has 12 stations that are tooled for turning, boring, drilling, grooving and milling. The sealing surfaces on the housing need to be “super precise”. High-precision surface finishes, part roundness, and size control is critical, making this an ideal part for a SUPER-PRECISION machine. The housing ID is held to a close tolerance to mate with the spool valve. Linear glass scales on each axis of the machine assure high machining accuracy and repeatability.

Gosiger Automation provided automation integration for this application. Hardinge Custom Solutions engineers are also available for part process development, machine modifications, custom-designed machines, machine re-deployment/part re-processing, automation and training.

Hardinge is a global designer, manufacturer and distributor of machine tools, specializing in SUPER- PRECISIONTM and precision CNC lathes, high performance machining centers, high-end cylindrical and jig grinding machines, and technologically advanced workholding and rotary products. The company is also the world’s largest manufacturer of collets for all brands of machine tools, including custom engineered solutions, and has manufacturing operations in the United States, Switzerland, Taiwan, and China.

Hardinge Inc., One Hardinge Drive, PO Box 1507, Elmira, NY 14902-1507, 800-843-8801, Fax: 607-734-8819,,

Okuma America Corporation (Charlotte, NC), a world leader in CNC machine tool manufacturing, offers the PALLETACE flexible manufacturing system for advanced technology, reliability and efficiency in linear pallet pools. The company also has an online calculator that allows manufacturers to estimate savings that can be achieved with the PALLETACE system through increased productivity and quick return-on-investment. This online calculator can be accessed at

Time-lapsed demonstration of an installation of the Okuma PALLETACE-M modular pallet system at a job site.

The PALLETACE flexible manufacturing system enhances the productivity of an Okuma horizontal machining center by allowing for unattended runs, lights-out CNC machining, and reduced non-cutting time due to setups and changeovers. The system is expandable and available in a variety of sizes and configurations.

The PALLETACE-M pallet magazine is a standard flexible manufacturing system for one or multiple Okuma machining centers. It consists of a high-speed stacker crane, two or three levels of pallet storage locations, user-friendly load stations and the easy to use Okuma cell controller system. The Okuma PALLETACE-M offers expandable capacity to 300 pallet locations, ten machines and four workstations.

Contact your local Okuma distributor for pricing and availability. To see PALLETACE in action, visit the Okuma Tech Center at Morris Midwest in Chicago or Partners in THINC in Charlotte.

Okuma America is the U.S.-based sales and service affiliate of Okuma Corporation, a world leader in CNC machine tools that was founded in 1898 in Nagoya, Japan. The company is the industry’s only single-source provider, with the CNC machine, drive, motors, encoders, spindle and CNC control all manufactured by Okuma.

Okuma America Corporation, 11900 Westhall Drive, Charlotte, NC 28278, 704-588-7000,

GF Machining Solutions (Lincolnshire, IL) offers the System 3R TRANSFORMER, a modular automation system designed to integrate with a wide variety of technologies. With TRANSFORMER, manufacturers can begin by simply automating a single machine and then easily expand to include up to 12 machines within the cell.

A TRANSFORMER cell accommodates a wide range of machining technologies and allows components from different manufacturers to be included within the same call. This open architecture approach allows end users to create an automation cell where each individual component decision is optimized, as opposed to having choice constrained by compatibility.

A wide range of System 3R tooling systems allow palletization of workpieces and electrodes of a tremendous range of sizes. The TRANSFORMER system can handle all of these, as well as different tooling systems, allowing it to be incorporated into production systems with existing tooling systems.

For maximum flexibility, TRANSFORMER offers additional in-process accessories that can easily be integrated into a cell, including:

  • Multiple loading station that can be used without stopping production
  • Draining station for emptying workpiece cavities after machining processes
  • Washing machine to clean workpieces
  • Coordinate measuring machine (CMM) for pre-setting and/or part inspection

The TRANSFORMER system provides user-friendly cell management software whereby all production data is entered in a structured manner or imported through a data exchange interface for major enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. The software then controls every aspect of the cell, from automatically loading jobs to machines to recording and monitoring cycle times for each job. The core of the system is an efficient database that uses chip identification of the pallets to ensure that correct data is used for every part in the cell.

GF Machining Solutions in the world’s leading provider of machines, automation solutions and services to the tool and moldmaking industry and manufacturers of precision components, with a portfolio of EDM machines, high-speed and high-performance milling machines, clamping and palletization systems, 3D laser texturing machines, automation solutions, spare and consumable parts and other customer services. A division of Georg Fischer Group (Switzerland), the company maintains a presence of 50 sites around the world, employs 2,873 team members and generates annual sales in excess of $985 million.

GF Machining Solutions, 560 Bond Street, Lincolnshire, IL 60069, 847-913-5300,

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