What are turning centers anyways?

Posted on Jul 13, 2020

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Turning Center

Though usually being referred to as a lathe, a turning center is in fact a lathe with more advanced machining capability thanks to the incorporation with the computer numerical control (CNC) system. A CNC system controls and monitors the operation of a turning process in order to improve accuracy, precision, and overall productivity.

What Is a Turning Center?

A turning center is a modern machining tool used to manufacture or process high-precision parts. This type of machining tool is ideal for processing cylindrical workpieces. That said, a turning center can actually work with workpieces in almost any shape as long as there is a symmetrical axis to it. The basic working principle of a turning center is simple. The workpiece is clamped by a chuck that connects a spindle. The Spindle turns the workpiece at high speeds. As the workpiece is rotating (turning), a stationary cutter advances against the circumference of the workpiece to remove materials from the surface.

By cutting away materials from the surface of a workpiece, the diameter of the piece is reduced. The cutting tool moves in a linear manner to create contours or profiles on the surface of the workpiece. Generally speaking, the cutting tool moves in two directions along the radial axis and axial axis of the part. Moving in these two directions allows the turning center to change both the inner diameter and outer diameter of the part. Changing the inner and outer diameter of a part is professionally referred to as ID turning and OD turning respectively. A turning center is also commonly known as a turning lathe or a lathe.
 

Advantages of Turning Centers

Though usually being referred to as a lathe, a turning center is in fact a lathe with more advanced machining capability thanks to the incorporation with the computer numerical control (CNC) system. A CNC system controls and monitors the operation of a turning process in order to improve accuracy, precision, and overall productivity. With such a system, the turning centers can perform not only turning but also processes such as milling, facing, and drilling operations. Moreover, the CNC system allows the machine with a secondary spindle to further enhance the efficiency and machining capability. The advantages of a turning center include:

● Spindles with high torque and speed ensure fast, accurate, and aggressive metal removal
● Second spindles offer rear finishing or sequential part processing
● Rotary tool spindles ensure milling, drilling, and tapping performance in the machining center
● Double spindle and double turret configurations provide innovative parts machining options
● Full-circumference headstock brakes design
● The Y-axis function offers a larger machining range for part geometry
● Strong, built-in NC-controlled tailstock allow for automated processes
● Hybrid roller guides provide durability and reliability for long-term accuracy
● Optional deep hole drilling in boring bars ensures extremely productive machining
● User-friendly, high functionality CNC control simplifies programming and increases productivity
● Compliance of the bar feeder, gate loader, and articulated robot increases production and allows switching off lighting
 

:: Read More: Machining Center or Turning Center? Comparison and Introduction
 

The Multi-axis operation of a Turning Center

Traditional 2-axis lathe tools only regulate the workpiece diameter. They must not turn around the corners or intersect in the middle. Multi-axis CNC turning centers can move the tool to cut around the corner. This feature removes material that is out of reach of a traditional 2-axis lathe. CNC turning centers are easily drilled, drilled, and opened. These operations take place in the center of the element axis during centrifugation. There are also live tool functions that can perform these operations on items when they are stationary. The tools drill and make holes wherever specifications require. This feature eliminates the need for additional steps at different stations.
 

3-axis Lathe

The third axis (Y) is perpendicular to X and Z, allowing you to process curves. Driven by screw actuators, the Y-axis guides slide along the linear or box guides. Movement is achieved by moving the tool in additional ways. Some machines have multiple tool positions and motor-driven tool pockets on the tower. The turret is mounted on a carriage or carriage. Others may have a dedicated milling tool controller mounted on the surface of the turret. A larger engine with a capacity of up to 30 tools is required for this automatic tool changer. Still, others mount Y-axis roads on an inclined bed. Other manufacturers assemble an independent milling head with the option of changing the tool. Still, others install an independent milling head with the option of changing the tool.
 

4-axis Lathe

For live tooling to be effective, the workpiece must be accurately positioned. This is done using a spindle or a rotary C axis. Small servo motors in tooling mounted on a turret come into play when the main spindle stops rotating, turning the lathe into a conventional milling machine. The use of servomotors to maintain position will allow both positioning and contouring movement. Profiling cuts can be carried out in this way, using the simultaneous movement of the X-Y-Z axis with the C axis.
 

5-axis Lathe

The fifth axis is usually the A or B axis, so the machine has XYZAC or XYZBC tool paths. The ability of the B axis distinguishes the 5-axis machine from the previous four. The axis rotates around the Y-axis, allowing cuts with complex angles. The 5-axis machine supports the entire range of milling and turning operations, allowing you to perform all milling and turning operations in one setup.
 

Operations a Turning Center Performs besides Turning

Knurling ensures a natural tool grip. Some machined parts, especially tools, require the user to hold them well. The smooth surface makes them slippery. Knurling presses the pattern on the surface, which makes them easier to handle. Sockets and other metal tools usually have knurled handles.

Cone cutting is easy thanks to more than two axes. Think of it as sharpening a pencil. Performing this function requires an option that is not available for CNC turning. The cone makes the most sense at the end of the piece, but the technique can be used anywhere along the length of the piece.

Threading in the CNC turning center reduces machining time. In traditional lathes, threading is a separate step; the operator must remove it and apply the thread to another station. This step takes time and adds an unnecessary risk element. Precise threading keeps the element locked and can save a lot of time.

 

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