Swiss Turn Lathe vs. Conventional CNC Machines

Posted on Jun 15, 2021

Swiss Turn Lathe

Turning has always been a probable solution for machining small mechanical parts in a wide range of industries. As technology continues to advance, manufacturers are always looking for ways to produce highly engineered parts with cutting-edge Swiss turn lathes. 

With the improved motion control technology and advancement in material science, the Swiss lathe is gradually becoming the gold standard for turning projects, capable of producing cost-effective small precision components. Read on to find out how conventional CNC machinery is overshadowed by Swiss turn lathes.

:: Read more : Who Uses a Swiss CNC Lathe?

Guide Bushing on Swiss Turn Lathes

The most notable advantage of Swiss turning over conventional turning is the use of guide bushings. On a conventional lathe, the tools hold the workpiece firmly at the collet of the main spindle as it spins. This makes machining longer workpieces unsuitable because of deflection – the displacement of an object under a load caused by fracture.

Swiss turn lathes, on the other hand, have guide bushings that support the workpiece at a distance from the collet. This enables the cutting tool to always cut close to the point of support no matter how long the workpiece is. Such a configuration significantly reduces deflections, maintaining precise dimensions and allowing parts to be produced at the desired tolerance.

Figure 1. Linear Guide Bushing on a Swiss Lathe

Better Cycle Times and Productivity

Compared with conventional lathe machines, Swiss turn CNC lathes are particularly suitable for producing a large volume of intricate precision parts. With a single setup, a Swiss turn lathe can easily perform multiple operations which greatly increases productivity. This is possible because of the multi-axis configuration. 

While a conventional CNC machine typically has three to four axes, a Swiss turn lathe can have as many as thirteen. A project that would require multiple operations or even multiple machines to complete can now be accomplished in one single cycle. Such a repeatable and automated process not only saves time and money, but also maintains exceptional accuracy.

Offset Programming 

The unique programming also differentiates a Swiss turn machine from conventional lathes. Generally, the tuning tool of a conventional lathe can move in both the X and Z direction to make contact with the workpiece. In conventional lathes, the direction at which the part faces the collet is the “minus” (Z) direction. In Swiss turn lathes, the direction at which the part faces the guide bushing is viewed as the “plus” (Z) direction. To start turning, both types of machines require the respective offset. The fact that the Z-direction configuration often leads to machining failures is why more and more machinists switch from a conventional lathe to a Swiss turn lathe.

Coolant Type

Generally, a conventional lathe requires water as a coolant liquid, while a Swiss turn lathe uses oil. Since the heat capacity of oil is lower than that of water, the oil heats up faster than during the turning process. This means that the heat is dissipated from the cutting tool more easily. The use of oil coolant is also what contributes to the superior machining tolerance because of reduced dimensional deformation from thermal expansion.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, Swiss-type lathes come out on top because of their superior accuracy, production capacity, machining tolerance, and the ability to machine small parts. You will be able to run a Swiss-type lathe at much faster cycle times for extended hours unattended. Due to the better turnaround and throughput, Swiss-type machines tend to be more expensive than conventional CNC machines. We advise that potential buyers review the cost structure of their production to see if the return on investment justifies the upfront cost.


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