With proper machine, tooling, and fixturing, shop owners can see a significant return on their investment in quick-change equipment.
Adding live tooling to a lathe allows milling to be done in the same process as turning, minimizing work-in-process time.
The type of work you do and your anticipated volume are important considerations when deciding on the best live tooling for your machine.
A primary reason shops opt for live tooling is to reduce the number of setups and machining operations per work piece. This translates into lower machine, labor, and overhead costs.
In addition to cost savings, reducing the number of tool changes leads to better process stabilization and less downtime. This results in higher production rates and fewer errors or scrap, providing more consistent delivery of finished parts out the door.
When choosing a live-tool system, look for a direct-drive motor and transmission system to power the tool turret. Bick ham says this eliminates the need for a separate indexing motor and enables faster speeds.
Consider using a quick-change system that allows an operator to remove the current tool and install a new one in 30 seconds or less (versus the 3-5 minutes it takes to handle a traditional one). This helps maximize productivity by minimizing downtime and improving quality.
Implement lean manufacturing principles such as Kaizen and Kanban to improve productivity further. Kaizen is a strategy that empowers employees to make regular, incremental improvements. On the other hand, Kanban is a method for regulating the flow of inventory, eliminating waste, and improving customer responsiveness by reducing inventory levels to match actual demand.
When work pieces are turned, they must be transferred between the lathe and milling machines for secondary machining operations like drilling and tapping. However, when using a live tooling setup, these operations can be performed on the same device, thus significantly decreasing the processing time and opening up capacity for other jobs in the shop.
When we look into the basics of live tooling, they are specialized tool holders designed to clamp various standard cutting tools in different adaptations and configurations. They are offered in straight and angled versions to provide axial milling, bore, drill, tap, or other machining capabilities. They are available for most CNC lathes and can be added to multitasking or live-tool turrets, as well as powered sub-spindles in multitasking machines.
A typical live-tooling setup includes a set of tools. Still, it can consist of additional holder configurations and adapter systems for various tool outputs, including collet chuck, arbor, Weldon, polygon machining, whistle notch, hydraulic, HSK, CAT, or ABS. They can also be equipped with a multi-coupling system to reduce tool change times, which improves worker safety and drives productivity.
High-volume shops can realize immediate cost savings by reducing the number of machine and labor changes during production. Additionally, they can increase throughput by eliminating bottlenecks in production through continuous flow – a manufacturing method that eliminates work-in-process buildup and allows all jobs to be completed simultaneously.
A common mistake a shop may make is assuming standard live tooling packages with CNC lathes are right for every application. The reality is a more flexible setup with multifunctional capabilities, such as a driven tool may be more appropriate, especially for shops that produce families of parts and need to perform milling, drilling, tapping, and other operations in addition to turning.
When you use a driven tool, you insert an end mill within the lathe component that can move across your part and create flats, holes, and other cuts. That gives you a lot of flexibility that you might not have with just the standard lathe and some canned programs in Mastercam.
In addition, a driven tool can monitor and adjust its feeds and speeds on the fly, improving accuracy versus a manual setup. This also allows the machine operator to increase cutting speed without compromising the work piece surface quality or cutter life, further boosting productivity.
Another feature that increases productivity and improves the bottom line is a quick-change system. These systems reduce the time it takes to change a tool, saving valuable production and labor time. Plus, they can help you avoid costly mistakes and improve safety for the operator.
In manufacturing, downtime is more than a nuisance; it is expensive. Deloitte estimates that unplanned downtime costs industrial manufacturers $50 billion each year. This includes direct labor for troubleshooting, repair and restarts, worker overtime, outside contractor costs, depleted inventory, lost revenues, and lower capacity. In addition, downtime is also associated with longer-term operating and capital expenses such as equipment depreciation, operational costs for resuming operations, and facility capital expenses.
While downtime is inevitable, many shop-related downtimes can be prevented. Among these, live tooling is a crucial factor. This technology add-on increases a lathe’s versatility by allowing operators to mill, bore, tap and perform other operations on work pieces that could have been turned.
Additionally, a well-implemented preventative maintenance program can significantly improve tool life, resulting in lower cost per unit production and enhanced confidence in lights-out operation. The preventive maintenance program should include a five-point inspection that can easily be accomplished in minutes and should track tool performance and condition over time. This is a simple practice that should be implemented by every operator who uses a live tool.
One example would be an ER 32 output, an internal collet nut design used to machine titanium, which requires high cutting speeds and a short cycle time. In this application, the company compared two hours of cutting titanium to ten hours of cutting graphite on a Eurotech lathe using an identical setup and found that they saved over $45,000 yearly.