The horizontal machining centers feature in the horizontally mounted cutters, and specialize in automatic tool changing functionality. This refers that in the general arrangement, the cutter is set horizontally. In addition, there is more than one cutter available in one operation, which ensures optimal efficiency for the productions.
Before discussing the component arrangement, let’s first talk about the origin of the machining center. The invention of a machining center can be derived from the NC lathe, which is the product on the basis of a conventional milling machine. A milling machine is a machine that removes materials by advancing spinning tools through the surfaces of the workpieces. While with the fixed tool position and limited tool choices, the results this machine makes would be limited as well.
In order to deal with the limited ability of a conventional milling machine, it leads to the development of the NC lathe. A NC lathe has a numerical control system involve in the machining process, which enhances the complexity it can achieve. That is, the parameters regarding the process, such as the cutter position and the cutting speed, are programmed into numerical instructions. By following these instructions under the maneuvering of the operators, the capabilities of the machine become broader than before.
Although the NC system enables more precise control regarding the machining process, it still has to rely on the maneuver of operators. This takes not only time but also the excessive labor expenditure, which don’t seem to be profitable for the manufacturers. For pursuing the maximum practicality of this type of machine, the more advanced machining center appeared in the industry.
The term "machining centers" refers to programmed drilling and milling machines equipped with some critical but sometimes optional equipment. The additional equipment, such as swing heads, high-end spindles, cradle-like 4th axis, electric cutters, etc., thereby offers additional functions. Also, as these parts are in combination with the automatic characteristic, they compensate the existing obstacle with the former form, which refines the operation even better.
When it comes to the arrangement of components, it is the key to differentiate the vertical and horizontal machining centers. The vertical machining centers arrange the cutters perpendicular, and the horizontal ones parallel to the worktable or the ground.
Horizontal machining centers are successful high-end machine tools in the market because of two main perspectives. On the one hand, the convenient and rigid worktables can handle many types of machining tasks in a shorter time. On the other hand, the collecting of chips from the workpieces is relatively easier with the help of gravity. This explains the reason why horizontal machining centers are more commonly adopted over their vertical counterparts.
Generally speaking, the machining process of a horizontal machining center is the same as other machining centers and milling machines. By advancing the tool on one or several workpieces, the spinning cutter is able to remove the materials. As the additional functions of the equipment are involved within this mechanism, it makes the horizontal machining center at a higher level of versatility.
How the cutting tool machines on the workpiece indicates how the profile on the product is presented. One of the considerations about this principle is the design of the worktable. With the general arrangement, the cutting tool does the lateral movement on the workpiece. As the blades protrude through the surface of the workpiece, the removed materials, which are the chips, are naturally discarded.
The worktable on the horizontal machining centers helps position the workpieces and allows for angular cuts with special arrangement. The rigid worktable enables the device to machine on a wide range of workpieces, from small parts to heavy-duty mechanisms. Furthermore, if the worktable is equipped with tilting or rotary features, the tools can cut the workpieces from multiple angles.
Besides, with the assistance of the power turret as well as the stable clamping force of the worktable, the use of cutting tools on this machine can be even more effective. The power turret provides the space for tool storage, and the automation of tool replacement. By setting up the tools necessary for the machining works beforehand, it helps smooth the process of the operation. As a result, the cycle time can thus be shortened, and more complicated profiles can be achieved. Furthermore, with the computer numerical control system, it ensures the most precise and standardized control regarding the multiple tasks without the possible failures.
In the past, horizontal machining centers are designed with at least three axes, namely x, y, and z axis. Nowadays, due to the need for more intricate procedures with shorter cycle time, the machining centers are designed with the fourth axis or even the fifth axis. With the availability in adjusting the worktable and the additional functions of the equipment, they ensure increased efficiency and better product quality, which is what the manufacturers really need.
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