Multi-Tasking machine tool technology has revolutionized manufacturing and continues to play a critical role in today’s truly progressive machine shops. Besides the amazing gains in productivity, Multi-Tasking technology has catapulted machine shops, especially smaller ones, to levels where they can easily machine the most complex parts in the world and do so cost-effectively.
Current Multi-Tasking machine configurations can incorporate a veritable slew of components and capabilities – from twin turning spindles, multiple tool turrets with rotary tool stations and Y-axis off-centerline capability to tilt/rotary B-axis milling spindles, rotary/tilt tables and large capacity tool magazines. And while some machine shops may believe the technology has levelled off, quite the opposite holds true as machine tool builders refine and improve upon the designs of Multi-Tasking machines every day.
Some of these design advancements in Multi-Tasking machine tool technology include integral-motor roller cam-style turrets, enhanced lower turrets, direct-drive milling spindles and servo drilling tailstocks. Additional advanced capabilities include simultaneous milling with upper and lower machine turrets and long drilling operations.
Integral-motor turrets that use roller gear cam drive systems deliver smooth, high-speed, high-accuracy digital indexing as well as expandability. Such versatile turrets typically house 12 tool positions with the ability to expand up to 24. Increased tool capacity equals longer uninterrupted run times and the ability to use more common tooling, which helps reduce overall tooling inventory.
This innovative turret design eliminates the need for curvic/index couplings, and expandability is possible because the turret indexes digitally to any position without changes to its housing. And once in position, integral hydraulic clamping systems are typically used to ensure maximum rigidity.
As is the case with their upper counterparts, lower turrets on Multi-Tasking machines also continue to evolve and expand in terms of capabilities as well as their tooling capacities. Lower turrets are now more robust and powerful and typically offer up to nine tool positions with options for live milling spindles. For increased productivity and part processing versatility, lower turrets can work simultaneously with upper turrets on the same workpiece. Or, lower turrets can work in combination with a machine’s milling spindle that can be applied to either side of the machine’s headstock to further reduce machining cycle times.
Today’s Multi-Tasking machine turrets sport rotary tool spindles that are faster and more powerful than their predecessors thanks to new direct-drive technology. Direct-drive mill motors deliver up to 24 percent faster spindle rpm and 60 percent higher torque levels. All of which equates to boosts in processing versatility, productivity and tool life along with improved part surface finish quality.
The latest NC servo-driven tailstocks further enable automated processes on today’s Multi-Tasking machines. These tailstocks are fully programmable and run on their own AC servomotors and ball screws. Through part programs, the tailstocks can extend to known positions and with specified approach feed rates and make contact with workpieces at consistent holding pressures. Because of their positive independent drive systems, these tailstocks can also drill holes on shaft centerlines, which adds versatility to the jobs a Multi-Tasking machine can process.
As an increasing number of machine shops face longer, larger and more complex shaft-type workpieces, current Multi-Tasking machines can offer extended bed lengths teamed up with innovations such as long drill/tool stockers. These machines significantly boost processing speed and efficiency for those challenging parts.
For deep hole operations, long-tool stockers allow machines to handle and store multiple tools – typically as many as three and each about 40" in length. Stockers are located above the machine’s second spindle or, depending on machine version, its tailstock to keep tools well out of the way, yet quickly and easily accessed automatically.
On the control side of Multi-Tasking, Mazak’s SMOOTH Technology functions such as SMOOTH Corner Control and Variable Acceleration Control optimise cutting paths, while Mazak SMOOTH Link makes it possible to sync a machine with a mobile device to monitor and manage its status at any time from a smartphone, tablet or laptop computer. Designed to sync with MAZATROL Smooth CNCs, this digital tool captures real-time information from the control and securely transfers the information to a mobile device via Wi-Fi.
The most recent Multi-Tasking innovation is Mazak’s HYBRID Multi-Tasking Series of machines. Because the part-processing needs of manufacturers are driving machine tool technology beyond today’s levels, Mazak has sought to change everything once again with HYBRID Multi-Tasking. In terms of Mazak’s Five Levels of Multi-Tasking, HYBRID Multi-Tasking represents Level 5.
An example of Level 5 technology are Mazak's Integrex Auto Gear machines that offer new ways to perform skiving, hobbing, honing, grinding and broaching – innovations that will transform small to medium-volume gear production.
When machine tool builders refine and improve upon Multi-Tasking, as with Mazak’s HYBRID Multi-Tasking machine designs, processing versatility increases, and the core benefits of Multi-Tasking are further enhanced. Combining operations reduces inaccuracies that can occur when moving parts across multiple workstations, as well as eliminates work-in-process inventory that might otherwise linger between standalone machine tools. For today’s shops, Multi-Tasking machines allow them to accomplish more with less and boost competitiveness.