Automating mill/turn operations

Automating mill/turn operations

The simultaneous machining work of multitasking centres typically includes the turning and multisided milling of complex parts with tight tolerances. Secondary spindles and large-capacity ATCs give this type of machine tool the ability to completely finish a part in one setup.

The addition of automation enables this work to continue unattended, freeing up operators to work on several machines at once, rather than having them spend all of their time on load/unload tasks at a single machine.

Automation traditionally has been viewed as a requirement for high-volume production runs of one particular part. However, the manufacturing industry is changing, and the high-mix production common in multitasking now is becoming the norm.

Manufacturing technology has been forced to keep pace with these changes. But automation comes in many forms, and while complex robotic installations have their place, simpler options also are available.

“Automating a machine doesn’t necessarily mean putting a robot in front of it,” explained Kevin Smith, turning products manager for Elliott Matsuura Canada. “The word automation gets everybody excited, but they also can get scared about it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be such a complicated process. Shops can get introduced to automation on the simplest scale, like a bar feeder or parts catcher, and go from there.”

Simple, in-situ automation includes conveyors and parts catchers integrated into a machine tool by the builder or distributor. It’s often beneficial for shops to understand that these common, well-understood accessories are, in fact, a type of automation and can lead to further, more complex automation being installed in the future.

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