Questions with Sergio Tondato

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Methods Machine Tools’ Nakamura-Tome Product Manager offers insight into multitasking machining.

August 27, 2021

1. How do you define multitasking machining?

Many machines are limited to one type of operation, such as turning, milling, drilling, or grinding. As the name implies, multitasking machines can perform several processes on a single machine or operation.

2. How do multitasking machines work?

Many multitasking machines use multiple tools, sometimes three or more tools simultaneously. Depending on the machine, the tools are loaded on separate automatic tool changers, turrets, or tool magazines. Some models are equipped with a milling spindle that rotates around its axis, generally referred to as the B-axis. These models can machine complex shapes using 5-axis interpolation and high-speed machining techniques.

Most multitasking CNC machines, depending on size, allow you to equip dozens of tools on a single turret or possibly hundreds of tools on a tool change magazine.

3. What are the benefits of multitasking machining?

If you’re consolidating several processes into one machine, the most immediate benefit is floor space. Rather than having two or three machines, you can replace them with one machine.

With fewer machines comes less setup time. Instead of wasting time moving one part from a lathe to a mill, you can complete all your operations on a single multitasking machine.

Not only does using a multitasking machine reduce setup time compared to using several machines, it also removes the possibility of an operator error. Every time you stop a machine, remove a workpiece, and set it up in a different machine, you’re introducing an opportunity for a mistake, costing you time and money, and pushing your scrap rate up.

Multitasking also enables greater accuracy. By keeping a workpiece in one machine, you don’t have to worry about any variables associated with repositioning the workpiece or gripping it again. Even with advanced automation systems, gripping and positioning a single workpiece repeatedly could result in error. At the end of the day, the less you move parts between machines, the better.

4. How do you integrate automation into a multitasking machine?

Multitasking machines are well suited for automation. It’s easy to add automated components such as a bar feeder, gantry, or robot. While multitasking machines cut down on changeover compared to mills or lathes, adding a robotic arm can reduce changeovers even more by swapping out workpieces or tools.

Nakamura-Tome’s Flex Arm does just that. The robotic arm allows you to swap out chucks, jaws, and workpieces automatically. Extra chucks, jaws, and tools are loaded into the tool stocker, and you can control the arm directly from Nakamura’s Smart X HMI Panel.

5. How are multitasking machines used in medical manufacturing?

The medical manufacturing sector is evolving. Medical components are becoming more complex and diverse, driving the need for smaller lot size production runs. Medical shops are looking for machines that are easier to program and operate, minimizing setup time. Materials are also evolving, enhancing overall product durability, which requires a stable and rigid machine platform such as Nakamura-Tome.

Multitasking machines with a B-axis milling spindle enable 5-axis contouring work by combining simultaneous rotation of the B-axis head and C-axis turning spindles during a cut. Nakamura-Tome machines capitalize on this by building the shortest B-axis spindles available, which allows the machine to provide a shorter arc travel for the tool tip, resulting in greater accuracy. The short spindle length also optimizes part and tool length, resulting in better overall cycle times and flexibility while preserving tool rigidity.