With as many as eight stations, the ATC spindles are capable of milling, turning, grinding, tapping and other metalcutting operations.
For a variety of reasons, electrospindles are a popular choice for specialty machine tools and robot arms equipped for light milling or trimming. According to developer ITI Tooling, the new ATC series spindle offers similar advantages and drawbacks as any other quality electrospindle, with one notable exception: It doesn’t require a toolchanger to perform tool changes.
Not in the traditional sense, that is. Rather than relying on arms, carousels and other external systems, the ATC series ships with a built-in, multistation tool carrier. This design is said to enable swapping one tool for another in only 1.5 seconds, compared to as many as 5 seconds for traditional tool changers, without compromising the traditional benefits of an electrospindle. This brief article provides more information.
Metal fabrication company Wiley Metal says that laser cutting is its “go-to” process for small quantity work. It’s fast and accurate, and the cut edge is square and generally smooth. But laser cutting can’t handle every job. Reflective metals and textured surfaces can bounce the laser light back at the machine, causing damage. There are limits to the thickness of material that can be cut because of how the laser focuses to a point. Lasers also generate a heat affected zone that can pose problems for plastics, rubber and certain other materials.
In these cases, Wiley Metal turns to its waterjet. Waterjet cutting is slower than laser cutting, only about half the speed, but offers comparable accuracy. Like laser cutting, the cut edge is square and smooth. But unlike laser cutting, there is no heat-affected zone and nearly any material can be cut.
Manufacturers now succeeding with additive manufacturing have begun to see what its ultimate impact might be. I had a chance to speak to that here. This video summarizes some of the ideas and promises related to AM that were not clear at first, but now are becoming apparent.
Minimum quantity lubrication (MQL) has great potential for assisting in machining a wide spectrum of materials. As manufacturers continuously seek to reduce manufacturing costs, waste and improve health and safety profiles, this technology can help in the drive to get there.
So says Optis, a joint venture between TechSolve and Castrol. According to Optis, flood coolant uses as much as 60,000 ml of fluid per hour, while MQL typically uses less than 500 ml per hour. This is due to the coating of the interface between the tool and the material being cut with a thin film of lubricant, preventing heat build-up caused by friction. This significantly reduces the amount of fluid that needs to be procured, maintained and disposed of, saving money, manpower, and health and safety issues associated with residual fluid and contaminated chips.
When properly applied, whether externally or through the tool, MQL can lead to improved surface finish and increased tool life. It also has a positive impact on emissions and waste, boosting a facility’s overall health, safety and environmental profile.
According to Optis, the cumulative cost of cutting fluid can total as much as 15 percent of a part’s total production cost. Therefore, minimizing its use has major cost-efficiency implications for manufacturers. Also, there are many routes to doing so with many cutting operations primed to benefit from MQL, including turning, milling, drilling, circular and band sawing, reaming, tapping, routing and broaching.
However, despite the opportunities and benefits MQL machining can offer, there are still challenges to overcome and some key considerations in implementation:
MQL does not have comparable chip evacuation abilities to those of wet machining.
MQL is still not well suited for deep-hole drilling, energy-intensive processes such as grinding, special operations like honing and small-hole drilling, or for difficult-to-machine materials such as titanium and nickel-based alloys.
MQL still produces a very fine mist, which can be more difficult to filter.
MQL implementation may require changes to the machine tool and processing strategy.
Despite these challenges, Optis says MQL provides a cleaner, greener alternative to classic fluid supply, on which could take manufacturers forward in embracing sustainability initiatives and implementing “Factory of the Future” capabilities. However, industry update has been relatively low so far. This reticence may be due to how counterintuitive it seems that using less fluid will yield the same cooling and lubricating properties as traditional flood or high-pressure systems. The fluid itself must be carefully selected based on the material that’s being cut, and its application must be carefully considered based on tooling , type of operation, cutting parameters and machine tool being used, the company says.
Recently I was invited to attend a talk on additive manufacturing hosted by the local chapter of the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA). My email invitation included a link to the Cincinnati PDMA Meetup group, which the organization used to set up and coordinate the details for this event.
If you’re not familiar with Meetup (I wasn’t), it’s a social network that allows users to create virtual groups based on interests that get together in the real world. Once you join a Meetup group, you can RSVP for its events, connect with other members and even contribute to crowdfunding to help pay for things like refreshments. It’s an interesting mix of social media and real-world networking and learning opportunities.
What struck me most about the PDMA Meetup was the free exchange of knowledge among the people at the event. Attendees ranged from manufacturers currently using additive manufacturing to those just learning about this technology or seeing it up close for the first time. The Meetup was a way for those newcomers to learn from others with direct experience, ask questions, and make contacts for follow ups. Maybe some of those relationships will lead to contracts or collaborations.