Choosing the Right CNC Cutting Machine: Automatic Lathe or Multi-Spindle Lathe

CNC lathe machines come with great features.

Due to technological advancements, Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines have been integrated into different industries. The CNC machine can effectively produce symmetrical objects of various cuts, shapes, and details on a rotating workpiece.

CNC machines are considered as the “mother of all machine tools” because of their amazing features and benefits over traditional lathes, including:

  • Lower Labour Cost – Manual lathes require a skilled machinist to operate every machine. CNC lathe machines only need one qualified technician to run a number of machines.

The CNC machine is designed to produce large quantities of products.

  • High Production – It can produce ultra-precise and consistent results in large quantities of items that conventional machines can only provide with multiple machines such as a grinder, router, centre lathe, vertical miller, or shaping machine.
  • Easy to Setup – CNC lathes are quick and easy to set up.
  • Flexible – It can be used in various industries, such as power generation, textiles, plastics, medical, automotive, and so on.

The operator feeds to the machine with crucial details of the product.

  • Automated – It makes complicated tasks easier and quicker as it is guided by a computer program. The machine operator inputs the dimensions of the finished product in the specified machine program, and the actual cutting process automatically starts with a high level of speed and accuracy. With this process, you no longer need a worker who knows a great deal about the machine or computer program, unlike the older machine models.
  • Repeatability – This is extremely beneficial for mass production. The CNC machine is designed to produce identical parts and components. Additionally, it can also be used effectively for smaller quantities and shorter runs.

Automated machines reduce workplace injuries.

  • Lower Risk of Injury – Since the machine is automated and requires minimum human effort, the possibility of your workers getting injured is significantly reduced.

How Does It Work

The CNC lathes are rapidly replacing the conventional production lathes due to its ease of setting up and operation. Designed with the most modern processes and carbide tooling, it allows you to create mechanical parts, programming tool paths using a computer-aided design and manufacturing software (CAD/CAM) for customization or manually upload the file to the machine. Once the program is set, the machine will begin work with minimal supervision. Additionally, you can also modify and display the program, along with a simulated view of the process.

The CNC lathes can be designed in various ways, depending on the machine manufacturer. However, all CNC lathes have significant similarities in their composition, including:

  • Turret – Holds the tool holders and indexes them accordingly
  • Spindles – Designed to hold the workpiece in place
  • Slides – Part of the machine that allows the turret to move in multiple axes simultaneously.

This modern machine comes with a complete enclosure to ensure industrial safety standards. With the advancement of technology, manufacturers of CNC lathes are continuously upgrading the system by incorporating various types of user interfaces. Hence, it is incredibly vital that all machine operators are properly trained to keep up with the latest updates and reap the maximum benefits of using the machine.

The precision of CNC lathe machine cannot be underestimated.

Automatic Lathe

CNC automatic lathes are closely related to NC lathes. This type of machine is designed to produce loads of product without human hands involved. It has two types of work materials used:

  • Bar Work – The operator supplies the lathe machine with a long bar. After the completion of part, the device pushes the bar forward and grips it in the next position, allowing the metal products to be sliced from the bars like bar cakes or candles.
  • Chuck Work Machine – Unlike the bar work, the operator feeds the machine with bars one at a time. Each workpiece is carefully examined before it is put in the machine. However, you should be extra alert when working with the chuck work machine. The workpiece can easily sag when it is done further away from the chuck. Make sure to always place the workpiece near the chuck, where it is being held. This type of automatic lathe machine also consists of different kinds of machine constructions, including:
    • Guide Bushing – This device is used when machining long and thin workpieces to support them out ahead of the tools and prevent them from sagging.
    • Sliding Headstock-Type Lathes – This machine uses a guide bushing to hold the workpiece in place while the chuck or headstock side moves.
    • Fixed Headstock-Type Lathes – It is best used for thicker, shorter pieces. It keeps the headstock in place while the tool moves.

Multi-spindle lathe has faster cycle times than a single spindle NC lathe.

Multi-Spindle Lathe

The multi-spindle automatic lathe can be used in turning, boring, chamfering, grooving, threading, and drilling by moving the workpieces between six to eight machining positions. Overwhelmingly fast cycle times can be delivered by this machine by dividing the operation into six to eight processes. Additionally, this machine is four to five times faster than the single spindle NC lathe. However, its speed can change depending on various conditions.

Choosing the Right Cutting Machine

Precision machining company managers are usually faced with this type of dilemma: choosing between the standard CNC automatic lathe or the multi-spindle lathe machine. As managers, you have to think of ways to stay competitive by selecting the right machine with the best productivity and reliability for their parts. That is why it is crucial to compare tool cost, installation time, coolant costs, floor space, and energy savings.

To give you a clear picture, we have analyzed and compared each cost one by one:

  • Productivity – As stated earlier, multi-spindle lathes are four to five times more productive than single-spindle lathes. It has six main spindles, while single-spindle turret lathes only have one spindle and one sup-spindle. Most sophisticated single-spindle machines can make four operations simultaneously (one front and one cross operations per spindle). However, multi-spindle devices can work two operations per spindle, making a significant difference for productivity. Aside from having six spindles, it can effectively work with one more pick-up attachment as a sub-spindle.
  • Tool Cost – There is no significant difference between the automatic lathes and the multi-spindle lathes when it comes to tool cost. The operations performed depend on the machine parts, and not on the machine. The same goes for the tools used in the machine.
  • Energy and Coolant Cost – The unitary energy consumption is higher in multi-spindle automatic lathes than the standard CNC automatic lathes. However, unitary energy consumption is not enough. To compare the cost between the two machines, you need to make a precise calculation by comparing five single spindles and one multi-spindle. By obtaining each machine’s cycle times, you will see how many automatic lathes you need to achieve the production of a single multi-spindle. Fewer devices with the same output equals lower costs.
  • Floor Space – If you do not have enough floor space available, choose the multi-spindle machine. Calculate the productivity per square metre, and the result is evident. This eliminates the need to install more automatic lathes. This does not only help you save space, but also money.

Whatever type of CNC lathe is best for your business, make sure to buy it from a reputable seller to ensure that the unit is of high quality as this prevents the machine from breaking down from time to time. Operating a business in a competitive environment means choosing the best machinery for your workshop. Also, make sure to install oil mist collector systems to ensure the health and safety of your workers while achieving accurate and speedy results.

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