Simplification for the Sake of Productivity

Here's a B-axis multitasking machine designed to simplify the setup process so that more people on the shopfloor will feel comfortable running it.

Columns From: 1/19/2010 Production Machining, ,

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Chris Felix

Super NTMX

The Nakamura-Tome Super NTMX uses twin magazines to offer 48 ATC tools in a compact machine.

It’s a challenge that high technology has come to embrace. For years we watched the conveniences that technology sought to bring to life muddled by the operational complexities that users of the technology had to deal with. Remember the well-known anecdotes about attempts to set the clock on a VCR? Lately, technology has begun to swing back to the importance of addressing the needs of the user. Not only are engineers trying to provide products that are faster and more effective, they are making an effort to simplify product use.

I have noticed a theme running through the marketing of the new Microsoft operating system, Windows 7. This latest version does not seem as focused on new features as it is on making it easier for the user to take advantage of many features that already existed in the previous versions. Some of the most significant updates that are being marketed with this operating system include improved desktop navigation, the ability to start programs faster and more easily, and simplified network connectivity and communications. It’s about ease of use.

At a recent multitasking seminar at Methods Machine Tools Inc., I saw the introduction of the company’s latest B-axis multitasking machine, the Nakamura-Tome Super NTMX. Billed as a fusion between a five-axis machining center and a lathe, this machine is designed to simplify setup and tool change by providing twin 24-tool ATC magazines.

According to Richard Parenteau, director of application development at Methods, a lot of the company’s customers have B-axis machines with only a limited number of people who can operate them. “The technical degree of the machine and the complexity of the programming make it difficult for some people to step up and run those platforms,” he explains. “So they have one, two or three key people who run those machines, and when they aren’t there, the machine might just sit idle.

“We're simplifying the understanding of the machine, but not the complexity of the parts that can be run,” Mr. Parenteau continues. “This design gives the operator a better comfort level to be able to run the complex parts and know exactly what is going on. The ATC on the left is dedicated to the left side and the one on the right is dedicated to the right side.” That’s not to say tools can’t be taken from one side to do work on the other. The complexity is there for the user that needs it, but it can be simplified to a level that more people can understand how it operates.

For either a complex or simple part, most of the time 24 tools will be in each ATC. From the operator’s perspective, a tool comes out of the left, works on the left and is returned to the left. On a conventional B-axis machine, the tool comes from the magazine in the back of the machine and works on either the left or right. It’s the offset adjustment the operator must deal with that can cause problems, not knowing how a change on one side will affect the other. The NTMX segregates the tools on the left and right. An offset is made just as it would be on a vertical machining center.

The front location of the ATC magazines also helps to simplify operations, and the ability to change inserts without stopping the machine allows faster tool change time. The Fanuc 31i-A5 control requires minimal programming and checking for increased ease of use.

To learn more about the features of this multitasking system, read Twin-ATC B-Axis Turn/Mill.

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