Why choose ASH for my 7-Axis CNC Needs?
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There are a lot of different part production methods out there, but one of the oldest is still arguably one of the most effective - and that's machining. CNC, or computer numerical control, machining is a metal part production process. It's a subtractive process, meaning that a bar stock of metal is fed into a machining center, which then works to remove metal until the final intended part is produced. CNC machining is performed in machines that operate on a variety of axes. Generally speaking, the more axes a machine uses in its production operations, the more intricate and detailed the part.
So where exactly does the Swiss lathe come into the picture in terms of 7-axis machining? Swiss lathes are automatic machines best used to create long, slender parts. The bar stock is then turned around the cutting tool, working until the part is complete. Swiss machines have roots dating all the way back to the 1800s, yet didn't gain more widespread traction until the 1960s. In the 1970s, Swiss lathe machines with CNC became available and soon became a popular technology for product developers in the manufacturing stage of development. They became the method of part production at first for the electronic and semiconductor industries. As technology progressed, it wasn't long before they became viable options for all industries, from automotive to aerospace to consumer products.
Seven-axis CNC machining on the Swiss lathe is a common process for not only creating long, slender parts, but long and slender parts that are very detailed. The process is used to produce parts for a variety of industries and holds advantages over other processes like metal injection molding, or MIM, in that the end part is a 100 percent dense metal. While processes like MIM and additive metal making processes have made strides in terms of part fabrication, many experts agree that the best method for getting 100 percent metal parts is via machining.
Every process has its pros and cons. Here's a look at the advantages of ASH™ Swiss machining with a 7-axis CNC:
- Efficiency: Swiss lathes are somewhat compact machines, so cutting operations take place quickly. Tool switch is done quickly and chip to chip time is often very fast too, allowing parts to be made faster. What's more is that such machines can be programmed to work autonomously, so they can produce parts at night or without 24/7 supervision.
- Part Quality: Post fabrication finishing is often unnecessary when parts are created via Swiss lathes and 7-axis CNC machining. That's because the surface finish is of such quality immediately after part fabrication that no secondary finishing is necessary. The precision of such machines also allows extremely detailed parts to be fabricated.
- Tooling: Many Swiss lathes can contain up to 20 different tools, which help create the part and also assist machinists in the first two advantage points that we listed here. Many lathes also come with rear sub spindles, which exist in the back of the machine and work away at other parts of the bar stock while the main spindle does its work.
- Fast Setup Times: Set up times are generally very fast via this process, which - again - helps speed part fabrication.
Here's a look at some of the disadvantages of Swiss lathes with 7-axis CNC:
- Cost: These machines are expensive. In fact, a Swiss lathe can cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range for larger units. That cost makes it difficult for many product developers to do in-house machining, meaning that contracting with a provider is often necessary. While this isn't always a bad thing, it's one more person in product development that must be held accountable during part runs.
- Waste: One big deterrent of subtractive manufacturing processes, such as this one, is that they're more wasteful than additive or injection molding ones. That's because material is cut away from bar stock - so there's bound to be metal scraps. While technology has advanced to the point where such metal scraps are becoming recycled to use for future product runs, the material waste is still perceived as a key con to the process.
- Product Runs: Finally, another key disadvantage to this process is that it's not ideal for large product runs - it's best for short runs. That's because while the process is fast, larger parts are being manufactured and these larger parts take longer to fabricate.
Swiss lathe machines come in various different sizes, but generally speaking are best used for longer, slender parts. For example, if your part diameter is 1.25 inches or less, then your part would likely qualify for this process. Other than size considerations, there's not a whole lot that this process can't do. It can create very detailed, intricate parts and it can create them well, as evidenced by the fact that little to no secondary operations are necessary after part creation.
The materials are plentiful for machining with Swiss lathes and 7-axis CNC. Materials like aluminum and steel are the most common, but more exotic materials can also be machined.
For more information on ASH™ Swiss lathes with 7-axis CNC and to determine if the process is right for you and your next part run, contact one of our specialists today. While this article is designed to give you an overview of the process, there's a lot more to subtractive manufacturing and this process specifically that you should know about when determining if it is the best for your next part run. Contact us today for more information.