Machine tools are hands down an essential component of a CNC machine. They make the manufacturing process possible, helping us craft perfect custom machined parts and products. Simple structure or super-complex, 3D shape or 5D, 2mm piece of 200mm- there is nothing apt CNC machine tools can’t create.
Simply put, if the CNC machine is the brain, machine tools are the limbs- converting instructions into actual action.
While CNC machine tools are fairly new, two-three decades-old- machine tools have existed for a long time. They were there even before CNC or anything computer machinery came into existence. Like everything machine-related, machine tools have gradually evolved with time. The manually handled tools have now transformed into computerized ones that decrease our workload by a hundredfold. We can now repeat sequences and create millions of similar pieces with an accuracy of a marksman.
In order to achieve machined parts of different shapes, a CNC machine utilizes several different types of CNC machine tools. Additionally, there are several other types that work exceptionally well with certain materials like wood, metal, and more. Some work on different speeds and feed in order to get perfect custom machined parts.
All in all, there are several types of CNC machine tools, each of them with their unique properties and functionalities. Here’s your guide to the popularly used machine tools:
Turning Centers (Lathe): Turning centers or a lathe tool is undoubtedly the most popular one of the lot. Best used for producing cylindrically shaped parts, a lathe tool contains a tube-like workpiece that holds the material while the cutting tool shaves it into the desired shape. The resultant is a cylindrical piece generally with straight sides and circular sides.
Lathes are quite versatile with the ability to produce a wide range of products including the super-complex ones with close tolerances and specifications. A lathe tool is further subdivided into the Horizontal Turning Lathes and the Vertical Turning Lathes. The former is a more commonly used lathe tool generally used to develop light and medium-weight pieces while the latter is used when dealing with the heavier workpieces when cannot be sprawled on the floor.
Swiss Style Turning: This type of lathe tool is typically used for high-production components. Swiss Style turning tool is fast and highly reliable, giving out millions of complex pieces with utmost perfection that a regular turning tool cannot achieve.
This particular machine tool is perfectly accurate owing to the feeding technique used. The material here is fed via the rigid guide bushing, thus providing a firm base for faster speeds.
Due to its extremely detailed functioning, Swiss Style turning machines are generally used in highly delicate industries such as in Aerospace and Medical fields.
Bridge Mills & Gantry Machines: The functioning of the Bridge Mills and Gantry machines is highly similar to vertical machining tools except these machine tools are used to develop extremely large parts such as automobile and aviation frames.
Turn-Mill Centers: As the name suggests, a turn-mill tool offers the best of both CNC turning and milling. Extremely versatile in nature, this machine tool is pretty popular amongst manufacturers who don’t have to buy separate machine tools for both turning and milling.
A turn-mill merges multiple operations giving us highly intricate machined parts in no time. Additionally, using this tool cuts down on setup and operation time, further enhancing the quality of the product.
Metrology Machines: An advanced version of a quality checking machine, metrology utilizes new-gen 3D technology to inspect and detect any anomaly in the CNC machined parts. This helps the manufacturer achieve a higher accuracy level and strict tolerances without much hassle. More accuracy directly translates to reduced rejected parts, high profits, and lower expenditure costs.
Shaper: Generally smaller in size, a shaper tool is used to machine a linear tool path. In this particular tool, the cutter is placed above the fixed workpiece giving it the freedom to move freely in line. A shaper tool utilizes straight or linear motion between the one-point cutting tool and the workpiece.
Broaching Machine: A broaching machine utilizes toothed tools to remove excess material- namely a rotary broaching tool for developing rounder machined parts and a linear one for cylindrical or straighter products.
5-Axis Machines: Last but not the least, we have 5-axis machines that have the ability to move in five different axes in one stretch giving us products with the highest accuracy levels in record time. Another plus point with this machine tool type is that it has a very low setup time even for the most complex parts.