Here’s how 5-axis machines are providing manufacturers the necessary flexibility that is indispensable to customers today. Article by Heller.
The manufacturing industry has continually grappled with the notion of creating products faster, better and cheaper. But the advancement of manufacturing technologies come with its own set of challenges that manufacturers have to deal with in their quest towards more-efficient and cost-effective manufacturing of high-quality products.
For example, the aerospace manufacturing industry has to continually evolve to ensure cost and weight savings, while dealing with the use of fibre composites and difficult materials, including titanium alloys or Inconel. The developments in aerospace designs are resulting to aero-engine parts with the highest demands on dimensional, shape and position tolerances.
In the automotive manufacturing industry, chief among the challenges now are the increasingly shorter innovation cycles, growing model diversity, and intense cost pressure. Automotive and parts manufacturers dealing with systems such as small, two-cylinder engines to the V12; from the light-duty passenger cars to heavy duty trucks; all the way to components for powertrains, drivelines and chassis; and engine blocks, cylinder heads, transmission housings, crankshafts, camshafts, etc.—are struggling to ensure minimal part costs, reduce idle times, maximize productivity and flexibility of their manufacturing systems, and maintain high machine availability and reliability.
Meanwhile, flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to manufacturing parts for the energy industry, where small batch sizes, high part diversity, and manufacturing on demand are the norm. Manufacturers catering to this sector need to have a high degree of standardisation, increased efficiency, high precision, high availability, and shorter setting times when it comes to their machines.
Scalability, Efficiency and Easy Integration
Now more than ever, machine tools should empower users with scalability and efficiency, and enable easy integration into flexible manufacturing systems. Sturdy machine engineering, profound process experience, comprehensive milling expertise—these are the basic characteristics of Heller machine tools. Since the 1980s, the company has expanded its machine portfolio of proven 4-axis machining centres with 5-axis machines. Despite their varied and versatile applications, all machines share the typical Heller genes of quality, productivity and reliability in day-to-day production.
With the introduction of the F series in 2009, Heller opened a new chapter in terms of the process-secure 5-sided and simultaneous 5-axis machining. The fifth axis of the F series is provided by the tool and the machines can either be equipped with swivel-head or fork-head kinematics. The series has been designed especially with those users in mind who need to accomplish a wide range of tasks on a single machine.
Meanwhile, the premise with the C series of machining centres is combined processing, since these machines do not only provide powerful milling but also turning capabilities. This machine provides economically efficient cutting data with workpiece rotations of up to 1,000 RPM for performance-oriented pre-machining and finishing true to the final contour. The swivel head or fork head and the high-speed rotary table enable hassle-free horizontal and vertical turning operations of outer and inner contours.
The modular MC 20 machining centres are ideally suited for integration into flexible manufacturing systems and for highly productive series production of light-duty automotive components, and are also available with direct loading. In standard design, they feature four axes, but they can also be equipped with a fifth axis provided by the workpiece as an option. The compact machines in modular design are scalable and can be linked to an automated manufacturing system at any time.
The latest machine development, the HF series, is the logical expansion of Heller’s product portfolio in the 5-axis range of machines. These highly productive and flexibly applicable machines provide great ease of use and are available with pallet changer or in table design. Contrary to the C and F series, the fifth axis of the HF series is provided by the workpiece. Rigidity is guaranteed due to the robust cast machine bed combined with a weight-optimised steel machine column.
At the core of the dynamic drive concept are the ball-screw driven linear axes equipped with anti-friction guideways. The NC swivel rotary table equipped with two direct driven rotary axes maintains its rigidity even under high loads due to a counter bearing combined with a YRT bearing. In short, the HF is optimally equipped for the exacting requirements of modern production processes and therefore the ideal machining centre for the manufacture of complex components.
In addition to the specific light-duty applications of the 4-axis and 5-axis machining centres and the possibility of integrating them into flexible manufacturing systems, the three series—F, C and HF—can be combined with workpiece or pallet automation without any problem, offering a wide range of options in terms of workpiece and tool management. As a result, all Heller 5-axis machining centres can be perfectly integrated into any specific manufacturing environment, thus offering the necessary flexibility that is indispensable to customers today.
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