Designing the Precision Into Machine Tools

Machine tools make the metal parts that go into everyday items. To do that, they cut, drill, grind and polish. Engineers designing these high-precision devices have to make highly rigid cutting heads and incorporate sensors to maintain optimum distance from the cutting surface. In this episode, Vince and Allison look at common design challenges with several machines.


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Designing Precision Machine Tools - Grinders, Lathes and Milling Machines

This week, we're looking at machine tools and how they work. Machine tools make most of the (things÷ in our life. They shape metal or plastic by drilling, cutting, bending or grinding. In fact, our new machines were made by our old machines, which were made by even older machines. For the most part, the machine tools in use today serve the same functions as machines a hundred years ago. The biggest development is that today's machines are working faster and making fewer errors. That means greater productivity.

EMCO, for example, makes state-of-the-art, multifunctional tools that combine lathes with milling machines. With several shaping functions, EMCO's Hyperturn 665 is the company's most complex tool to date. To minimize errors, the Hyperturn 665 comes with a tool monitoring system that measures the load on the various axis drive motors. Excessive load means a tool is worn or broken, and low load indicates that a tool is missing. The Crash Prevention System installed in the machine runs a virtual simulation of the steps that the Hyperturn will go through in the next production run. This simulation reduces the risk of machine parts colliding with each other, a problem experts call (crashing,÷ EMCO's products like the Hyperturn are immensely complex, some made up of more than 10,000 parts. To ensure that the finished products won't have any parts colliding when they get to manufacturing, engineers at EMCO use a Direct 3D Modelling system.

Grinding machines grind tools down to extremely precise measurements and smooth the surface to achieve a polished finish. Tools are typically placed in the grinding machine after they have been cut and shaped by a lathe. Jig grinders also do hard milling - grinding down metals that are too hard to be cut by a lathe. Kellenberger has recently introduced a new jig grinder - the HAUSER 45. What makes this particular jig grinder special is a new wheelhead. A wheelhead is the part of the machine that rotates the grinding bit. Vibration in the grinding process can lead to a choppy finish or broken tools. This new wheelhead is very rigid, so it really resists vibration.

Engineers at Bystronic design machine tools that use waterjet technology to cut and shape materials. Abrasive waterjet cutting uses a precise mixture of water and sand for optimal cutting power. Engineers at Bystronic design machine tools that use waterjet technology to cut and shape materials. Abrasive waterjet cutting uses a precise mixture of water and sand for optimal cutting power. The head of the cutting machine - the part that shoots water and sand - is equipped with a sensor to measure the distance between the head and the material. This distance is kept consistent throughout the cutting process to avoid bumps and to increase precision.