5 Questions with Pat O’Neal

Advertorial - Advertorial: Ask the Experts

The lead applications engineer for Swiss-type lathes at INDEX explains machine advancements and the benefits they provide to manufacturers.

August 1, 2019

1. What features differentiate advanced Swiss-type machines from their more traditional counterparts?

There have been several significant innovations in Swiss-type machines. Pneumatically controlled guide bushings increase performance. The ability to quickly remove the guide bushing allows machines to shift between traditional and Swiss-type operation. Fluid-driven spindles eliminate wires from the work area to help with chip management. Precision-ground locating pins in turrets enable fast turnovers with tolerances in the microns. Turrets, especially those with an H-axis, increase machine flexibility. These advances are features of our TRAUB line of machines and some can be found in other machines in the industry as well.

2. For a shop that is used to traditional Swiss-type machines, what’s the most important feature to look for in an advanced machine?

A turret that has an H-axis will have a huge impact. Instead of indexing to set positions, the turret has an encoder and functions as a fully programmable radial axis. That allows up to three tools per station. Some machines use Y offsets to provide a version of this, but you lose your Y-axis. With an H-axis on the turret, you retain all Y-axis functionality with up to 24 tools on the turret.

Pat O’Neal

3. How does a turret with an H-axis increase productivity and throughput?

The most obvious impact is having enough tools on the machine to handle multiple parts. In many instances, shops can change between four or five different parts without changeover. Beyond that, there are frequently trade-offs that occur due to tooling limitations of traditional Swiss-type machines. If you need seven tools to run a part optimally and you’ve got six stations on a gang, you’re going to have to identify a tool that can perform two operations, likely with a sacrifice in performance to each. With 24 tools, you can cut cycle and setup time while boosting flexibility.

4. Beyond benefits of setup and cycle times, are there other direct cost savings with this type of machine?

Absolutely. To maintain high precision with standard guide bushings found on traditional Swiss-type lathes, you must run bar stock that’s been turned, ground, and polished. With the TRAUB line, we use programmable, pneumatically controlled guide bushings that maintain a set pressure if there are slight irregularities in the bar stock. For many manufacturers, that can cut raw material costs by 25% to 50%.

5. What other ways do advanced Swiss-type machines justify the higher investment required?

In a lot of Swiss shops, machines are spec’d out for particular jobs. For example, you might win work on a family of bone screws, so you purchase machines set up specifically for those parts. If that work goes away, drops in quantity, or has significant design changes, you’re stuck with excess capacity for a specific part. If you’ve invested in an advanced machine, you have much more flexibility. If a job changes or is discontinued, you can easily bring different work onto the machine. In today’s market, that level of flexibility provides tremendous value that is often overlooked during the purchasing process.

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