When referring to machine tool processes, the terms multi-function, multi-tasking, and hybrid, only hint at true capability. My earliest recollection of a machine tool that could handle both the turning and milling process in an integrated manner was in the early 80’s. Simple as it was, the concept quickly garnered a hard-core fan base of early adopters. So many advantages were obvious from the outset. From minimizing setups, handling, error, and total machine cycle time, to maximizing profit, efficiency, quality, and lean manufacturing benefits.
It seems that design light years have passed as multi-function machines have proliferated. The following short descriptive terms elaborate on just how capable these flexible machines have become;
For lathes: Twin spindle, C-Axis, Y-Axis, B-Axis, A-Axis, Twin-Turret, Tri-Turret, ATC, Auto-Load, Multi-Tool Simultaneous Machining, Additive, and the list goes on.
These terms essentially describe adding function to enable the completion of more operations with less handling (with plenty of additional side benefits). But one of the long-time challenges of machine tool design has been the ability to handle large parts in small machines and small parts in large machines. Why can’t a low horse power machine, for example, handle large parts as long as stock removal is within the range of the power rating? Sure, many parts have an envelope to horse power relationship that dictates requirements. But part materials are changing as rapidly as any element in manufacturing, and I see many parts that require less and less horse power to cut, that only need envelope (the space within the machine to maneuver them and the tools around them).
When I recently reviewed the Nakamura-Tome NTRX-300, the envelope of the machine, when compared to the horse power, caught my attention. The machine is capable of machining a 10” square on the face of the part without using the C-Axis, because the Y-Axis travel is considerably greater than most other machines in its class and its B-Axis adds even greater range. And this capability does not sacrifice other aspects of this truly multi-functional machine. It’s a true twin spindle, equipped with ATC to include up to 120 tools for the most complex parts.
This Modern Machine Shop Online article elaborates further on the machine capabilities.
Bottom line: new technology doesn’t need to sacrifice basic needs and this machine brings that important point home.