The wheel lathe is made for turning locomotive (a railroad car) and automotive wheels. By turning these wheels, the lathe is able to align, straighten, finish, refurbish, polish, copy, and maintain a wheel, etc. The modern CNC wheel lathes can process a wide range of vehicles, such as tram, metro, computer train, high-speed train, and more. Based on the way the lathe process the wheels and the type of wheel they process, there are three types of wheel lathe in general: car wheel lathe, above-floor wheel lathe, and under-floor wheel lathe.
The primary functions of a car wheel lathe are to repair, maintain, straighten, and re-align the wheels. It is an indispensable machine tool in the wheel –remanufacturing industry. Just like most turning lathes, it comes in two styles, the vertical one and the horizontal one, with the former being used more often. The vertical lathes are the better option for straightening, aligning, and other correction-related works.
The advantage of vertical car wheel lathe is better clamping. In addition, the balance is better. These advantages ensure the precision of the process. On the other hand, horizontal lathes are used for applications where rapid operation is required. Below is a video showcasing a car wheel diamond cutting operation performed by a horizontal car wheel lathe. Diamond cuts provide an extremely fine and smooth yet glittering surface texture.
Alloy Wheel Lathe, Z-Mat Official
The above-floor lathe is used for locomotive car wheel processing. It has double chucks on two ends to clamp a locomotive wheelset. While the wheelset is turning, the cutting tools (for both wheels) approach to remove materials. Since the lathe cuts the wheels simultaneously, the measurement and alignment of the wheels are important.
This above-floor style wheel lathe has now been gradually replaced by the under-floor style. The reason is that the above-floor lathe requires dismantling the wheelset before processing while the under-floor style does not. The other reason is that it takes more time to process the wheels. Below is an on-site video clip showing how the lathe cuts the wheelset.
Above-floor Wheel Lathe, NSH USA
The under-floor style is a good choice for re-profiling not only the wheels but also the disc brakes. The biggest advantage of it is that the process does not require detaching the wheels off the train. It works as if the train makes a brief stop at a station, and the wheelsets are maintained during the stop.
As aforementioned, the advantages of the under-floor style include full automation, less time-consuming. Since the process does not involve human labor, the overall efficiency and precision are greatly improved. Below is a video breaking down how the under-floor lathe works in 3D animation. As you will see in the video, there is a post-machining measurement in the process. This step has been standardized in most of the modern locomotive underfloor maintenance stations to further ensure the precision of the work.
Under-floor Wheel Lathe, NSH USA
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