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Posted on Jul 30, 2020
A chucker lathe is also called an automatic chucker or automatic chucking machine. If you ever get the chance to work with one of these machines, consider yourself lucky because not many machinists get this kind of opportunity. These CNC machines belong to a larger family of machine tool known as automatic lathes – a very essential equipment category in the manufacturing industries. Now a chucker lathe indeed still has its use in the market, but not as popular as you might think. We’ll explain why.
Chucker lathes are used in a small portion of production facilities, most notable OEM part productions in the automotive industry. You’d normally not be able to see one in a regular production line or any small shops. Chucking machinery feature multiple-spindle design that can efficiently handle the holding and feeding of material being processed. They are used to perform all kinds of chucking work, more so than the conventional bar work. You can also use an automatic chucker to form tools and dies in other applications as well.
As you may have already guessed, automatic chuckers are specialty machines that require a lot of time to set up initially. But once they are set up, everything else is a smooth ride. In fact, they most likely require very little oversight and intervention once they begin to produce parts. With that being said, these machines still remain to be uncommon in most industrial settings because they only specialize in producing large turned parts. While they can do this efficiently, mass production of large parts is often not possible.
Cam-controlled chuckers were one of the earliest forms of chucking machines. But it went down in history faster than most other classes of non-CNC machine tools. This is because the few companies that have them are forced to constantly adapt to the latest technical solutions (currently all CNC) to compete and survive. Cam-op chucks may be more susceptible to scrapping than other types of non-CNC machine tools. Unlike "South Bend's grandfather lathe" or "Dad's old Bridgeport knee mill", virtually no one can afford to maintain and use them for sentimental reasons alone.
Chucker lathes are often compared with automatic screw machines because they both use spindles for drilling, boring, and cutting which can all happen simultaneously. Automatic screw machines are fully-automated metalworking equipment that excels at producing small and medium sized parts in a large quantity, a major difference compared to the modern chucking machinery.
As for Mechanical screw machines, they have more or less been replaced by CNC lathes (turning centers) and CNC screw machines. While still being used, they are used in particular sectors in the industry just like chucking machines, particularly in large-scale production of turned parts. Under some circumstances, a mechanical model may be more profitable than the CNC models.
In the hierarchy of production machines, the screw is at the top when large quantities of product are needed. The engine lathe is at the bottom, which takes the least time, but the most qualified labor and time to produce parts. A turret lathe has traditionally been one step higher than a motor lathe, requiring a longer set-up time, but able to produce a larger volume of product and usually requiring a less qualified operator after the setting process. Screw machines may require extensive configuration, but after starting one operator can monitor the operation of several machines.
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