Multi-Function Turning/Milling Centers have been produced and actively marketed by many machine tool builders for over 30 years. I do remember former machine tool builder, Jones & Lamson’s introduction of a lathe with milling capability back in the late 70s. I remember, but less clearly, their legal efforts to prevent other companies from selling these types of machines. Well, for all intents and purposes, J&L is out of business, but there are probably three- or four-hundred machine tool builders that sell multi-function style machines of one type or another, today.
But there are still only a handful of builders that offer turning capability on machines that are primarily classified as machining centers. Because almost all off-the-shelf, multi-function machines on the market today, are classified primarily as turning centers, Techspex includes most of these models in our turning model database.
Three builder’s of true machining centers with turning function are Mazak, Hermle, and Heller. Why are these machines so rare? In simple terms, it’s easier to machine a stationary part in a lathe chuck than machine a rotating part affixed to a table. To take it a step further, machining centers are designed for prismatic parts, while lathes are designed for cylindrical parts. Rotating prismatic parts at high rates of speed introduce engineering concerns that increase the cost to build the machine. The relationship between the milling and turning operations performed on a part can help justify the higher cost of combining the operations compared to investing in multiple setups. While eliminating multiple setups has always been a key reason to use a multi-function machine, true machining centers that can turn are more expensive than turning centers that can mill.
Consequently, only the right types of parts can justify the investment. But if a shop has volume in larger prismatic parts that also need to be turned and the re-setup step is costly, then shops should consider the Heller CP 2000 and CP 4000, the Hermle C42, 50, and 60 U MT models, and the Mazak Variaxis 630-5X II T and Integrex Series. Mazak refers to these types of machines as “level 4” multi-function machines. Visit the Multi-Tasking Knowledge Center to learn more.