Mechanical Knowledge

Suggestions when automating a lathe machine

1. Types and fixtures of different lathe machines

Lathe machines are in various sizes and specifications and use different fixtures. There is a single spindle, for example, which only allows the material to be machined on one side. A double spindle lathe machine machines the product on both sides in a single turning operation.

The most commonly used fixtures in lathe machines are the three-jaw chuck, where the product is held in the three slots of the chuck, or the collet chuck, which fits closely around the tool product and grips it tightly.

Lathe machines are commonly used to make disk-shaped or rod-shaped products, sometimes in combination with simple drilling and milling operations.

lathe machine

Single spindle and jaw chuck lathe machine---first type of lathe machine

These types of lathe machines are used to process disc-shaped products-so-called inlay work. These are relatively simple components with relatively short throughput times. Products are usually manufactured in two steps: first, the series products for the first operation, and then the series products for the second operation.

By using a robot, the product can be removed after the first operation, turned around at the turning station, and then placed back into the machine. This means that as long as the same chuck can be used, the machining of the product can be completed at once. If a different chuck is required for the second operation, complete the first operation in the series, then replace the chuck in the machine, and then perform the second operation by the robot. After clamping, put the product back into the machine and then take it out automatically for the second operation.

When using robots for product loading and unloading, double grippers are usually used. This can replace processed parts with new, unprocessed or partially processed parts in one operation.

lathe machine

Single spindle chuck lathe machine---second type of lathe machine

If the required clamping force is higher than that achieved with a jaw chuck, and the product may not be damaged, a chuck chuck is usually used in the lathe machine. This type of lathe machine is commonly used to process rod-shaped products. There are two main types of operation for rod-shaped products: manufacturing a shorter product from a long rod-shaped product, or machining on both sides.

By automating the process, the product can be taken out after the first operation, turned back, and then put back into the machine. This means that the product can be fully processed in one operation. In this way, a lathe machine with one spindle can process finished products like a machine tool with two spindles.

To process longer rod products, a two-point gripper can be used, but for shorter products, a three-point gripper can also be used. The robot can also "push and grab" the product.

Double spindle lathe machine------third type of lathe machine

In these types of lathe machines, the second operation is performed in the machine tool without a second external operation. The machine can deliver fully processed products in one cycle.

Disk and rod shaped products are processed on this type of lathe machine. When using a robot equipped with double grippers, a lot of money can be saved. This can replace processed parts with new, unprocessed or partially processed parts in one operation. This method is faster than the operator because the operator replaces parts in the same way as a single gripper. This means less downtime and more output. Using the software, you can choose to turn inside or outside the machine. If there is enough space in the machine, you can choose to turn the machine inside. This saves time and allows the machine to continue production faster.

Another advantage of using a double gripper is that the fingers on both sides of the gripper can be made into different shapes so that you can use different fingers to grip the deformed or smaller product than the fingers filled with raw materials.

2. What do I need to automate my lathe machine?

To automate your lathe machine, you need to understand the following elements, which will be very useful.

Machine connection

The robot unit control must be able to communicate with the machine. A computer connection is required for this. The robot can be connected to newer CNC machines almost effortlessly. However, older CNC machines usually require some adjustments on the machine. Nevertheless, almost all lathe machines can be connected to automation solutions.

Automatic door and chuck

Stable and manageable processes always benefit the production process: this is a prerequisite for automation. Knowledge of the production process contributes to machine optimization and higher efficiency. What should you consider for a stable and manageable process?

Ensure short chip breaking and avoid continuous chip breaking.

Rinse/purge cleaning is best done inside the machine, and the door should be closed to keep chips inside the machine. This can be done with coolant or air. You can also use a robot for purge cleaning.

Tool and material management

Lathe machines usually only provide a limited number of tools, usually limited to 8-16 positions. If properly managed, the use/deployment of optimization tools in the production process will bring many benefits. If you want to run many hours a day, every day, you need to understand how the tools stay within their tolerances and when they must be replaced.

The most suitable materials for long hours of unattended work are aluminum, brass, free-cutting steel, free-cutting stainless steel, and other materials that are very suitable for processing. Materials that are more difficult to process are also generally good, for example as long as their behavior is predictable. However, the unmanned production time is shorter.

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