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Classification Of Automatic Tool Changer In CNC Lathe Machining Center


Computer Numerical Control (CNC) technology has revolutionized the manufacturing industry, providing a high level of precision and efficiency in various machining processes. CNC Lathe Machining Centers are essential machines in modern manufacturing, capable of producing complex parts with minimal human intervention.

One critical component of CNC Lathe Machining Centers is the Automatic Tool Changer (ATC), which plays a pivotal role in enhancing productivity and reducing downtime. This article will explore the classification of Automatic Tool Changers used in CNC Lathe Machining Centers, their functions, advantages, and the benefits they bring to the manufacturing process.

Manual Tool Changers


To understand the evolution of Automatic Tool Changers, it is essential to look back at the manual tool changing systems. In the early days of CNC machining, tool changes were performed manually. This process involved stopping the machining operation, manually removing the existing tool, and replacing it with the required tool. While this method was sufficient for simple machining tasks, it was time-consuming, prone to human errors, and significantly impacted productivity.

Basic Automatic Tool Changers


The need for improving efficiency and reducing tool change times led to the development of basic Automatic Tool Changers. These ATCs were designed to hold a limited number of tools and operated using mechanical or pneumatic systems. Basic ATCs provided a significant improvement over manual tool changing as they allowed for quicker tool changes and reduced downtime. However, their limited tool capacity made them suitable for relatively simple machining operations.

Carousel Tool Changers


The next advancement in Automatic Tool Changers was the introduction of carousel-style systems. Carousel Tool Changers featured a rotating circular tool magazine that held a larger number of tools compared to basic ATCs. The carousel mechanism allowed for faster tool selection and retrieval, further reducing tool change times and improving machining efficiency.

Carousel Tool Changers come in different configurations, such as single-arm or double-arm types. In the single-arm configuration, a single arm moves along the carousel, selecting and retrieving the desired tool. Double-arm configurations, on the other hand, use two arms that work in tandem, minimizing tool change time even further.

Drum Tool Changers


Drum Tool Changers are another type of ATC used in CNC Lathe Machining Centers. Instead of a carousel, these systems use a drum-shaped tool magazine to hold a large number of tools. The drum rotates to position the required tool in the machining position. Drum Tool Changers are known for their high tool capacity and are well-suited for machining centers that require a wide variety of tools for complex parts production.

Umbrella Tool Changers


Umbrella Tool Changers, also known as swing-arm or fan-style ATCs, feature a vertical arm that moves in an arc, resembling an opening umbrella. The tools are mounted on the arm, and as it moves, the required tool is positioned in the machining area. Umbrella Tool Changers are widely used due to their compact design and ease of integration into CNC Lathe Machining Centers with limited space.

Random-Access Tool Changers


Random-Access Tool Changers represent a significant leap in ATC technology. Unlike carousel, drum, or umbrella ATCs, which follow a sequential tool selection process, random-access systems have the ability to directly access any tool in the magazine without the need to traverse through the entire tool set. This drastically reduces tool change times, as the machine can quickly retrieve the required tool from its storage location.

Random-Access Tool Changers often use advanced servo-driven mechanisms, making them highly efficient and reliable. They are commonly found in high-end CNC Lathe Machining Centers, where rapid tool changes and versatility are essential for meeting demanding production requirements.

Chain-Type Tool Changers


Chain-Type Tool Changers, as the name suggests, use a chain-like mechanism to hold and transport tools. The chain is driven by a motorized sprocket, allowing the tool holders to move along a predetermined path. Chain-Type Tool Changers offer an intermediate solution between carousel and random-access systems, providing faster tool changes than carousel ATCs but without the full random-access capability.

Chain-Type Tool Changers are known for their robustness and are often preferred in heavy-duty machining applications where reliability and tool stability are crucial.

Dual-Arm Tool Changers


Dual-Arm Tool Changers utilize two arms working in tandem to perform tool changes. This design further reduces tool change times, as one arm can be loading a new tool while the other arm is unloading the previous tool. Dual-Arm Tool Changers are commonly found in high-speed machining centers, where minimizing non-cutting time is of utmost importance.

The automatic tool changer of the machining center can be divided into: rotary tool holder type automatic tool changer, turret head type automatic tool changer, no manipulator type automatic tool changer and manipulator type automatic tool changer according to its structure. Among them, the rotary tool holder type and the turret head type do not have a tool magazine, and the latter two have a tool magazine.

Rotary Tool Post Type Automatic Tool Changer


The rotary turret type is used in various CNC lathes and turning center machine tools, and it is a simple automatic tool changer. Various tools for different purposes are installed or clamped on each tool seat of the rotary tool, and the tool change is realized by the indexing of the rotary tool holder. The rotary tool holder can install tools in the radial and axial directions of the rotary shaft. The rotary turret type is used in various CNC lathes and turning center machine tools, and it is a simple automatic tool changer. Various tools for different purposes are installed or clamped on each tool seat of the rotary tool holder, and the tool change is realized by the indexing of the rotary tool holder. The rotary tool holder can install tools in the radial and axial directions of the rotary shaft.  

According to the processing requirements, the rotary tool holder can be designed as a square, hexagonal or disc type tool holder, and 4, 6 or more tools can be installed accordingly. The more the number of stations, the smaller the angle between the tools, and the greater the possibility of interference between the tool and the workpiece in the non-processing position.   Therefore, consideration should be given to the tool placement in the tool holder to avoid interference. The rotary tool holder must have good strength and rigidity in structure to withstand the cutting force during rough machining, reduce the displacement and deformation of the tool holder under the action of the cutting force, and improve the machining accuracy. The rotary tool holder should also choose a reliable positioning scheme and positioning structure to ensure that the rotary tool holder has high repeat positioning accuracy after each indexing.

  • The knife holder is raised. When the numerical control device sends out the tool change command, the hydraulic oil enters the right cavity of the hydraulic cylinder 1, and the central axis 5 of the tool rest is pushed by the piston to move the tool plate 6 to the left, so that the tooth plates 7 and 8 of the positioning auxiliary end are disengaged from the meshing state, which is the indexing position. Get ready.
  • The knife holder turns. When the toothed plate is in the fully disengaged position, the engagement state travel switch ST2 sends out an indexing signal, the hydraulic motor drives the indexing cam 2 to rotate, and the cam pushes the indexing pin 3 on the rotary disc 4 in turn, so that the rotary disc drives the central shaft and the central axis through the key. The cutter head rotates by indexing. Each time the cam rotates, a pin is dialed to make the cutter head rotate by one station. A cam with N teeth is fixed at the end of the central shaft of the tool rest. Whenever the central shaft rotates one station, the cam presses the counting stroke switch ST1 once, and the switch sends this signal to the control system.
  • Tool holder positioning. When the cutter head rotates to the predetermined station, the control system sends a signal to brake the hydraulic motor, the index cam stops moving, and the cutter rest enters the pre-positioning state. At the same time, oil is fed into the left cavity of hydraulic cylinder 1, the center shaft of the cutter and the cutter head are pulled back through the piston, and the end stop disc is engaged, and the cutter head completes the precise positioning and clamping action. After the cutter head is clamped, ST2 is pressed down by the end of the central shaft of the cutter holder, and the indexing end signal is issued.

The evolution of Automatic Tool Changers in CNC Lathe Machining Centers has significantly contributed to the advancement of manufacturing technology. From manual tool changes to the sophisticated random-access systems, each type of ATC offers distinct advantages in terms of speed, efficiency, and tool capacity. Manufacturers can now choose the most suitable ATC based on their specific machining requirements and production goals, leading to increased productivity and reduced production costs.

As technology continues to evolve, we can expect further improvements in Automatic Tool Changers, enabling even more efficient and versatile CNC Lathe Machining Centers to meet the demands of the future manufacturing industry.


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