The demands made on machine tools are multilayered. Expectations today are for a flexible, highly productive and technologically sophisticated production tool. And in economically difficult times the pricing pressure increases. Taking all these factors into account, the resulting requirement profile is one that the conventional machine concept no longer meets. The answer is a platform concept that can be customized to suit individual machining requirements at the same time as it offers a possibility to easily reconfigure the machines and thus accommodate future demands.
EMAG: VLC 250 – universally configured to suit the production requirement
01/15/2010 - Oliver Hagenlocher
The first step – and surely the most advantageous one when it comes to acquiring machine tools – must be to focus on a particular technology. But what if machining requirements change? If, for example, turning alone no longer suffices, and the new jobs also require some grinding work? In most cases, this means having to invest in an additional machine. But it starts to become problematic when the new workpieces are only produced in small or medium batch sizes and the new investment results in manifest overcapacity. One way out of the dilemma would be a combination machine capable of carrying out turning and grinding work in a single machining area and a single set-up. However, there are not many who would invest straight away in a combination machine when the original job only calls for a single-technology machine. From a commercial point of view neither of the two are optimal solutions. This raises the question of whether there are other alternatives.
Guaranteeing the future with technology modules
For EMAG customers there is a sensible alternative: reconfigurability! This allows for machines to be adapted, during the whole of their life cycle, to changing requirements. Never before has this idea been implemented with such consistency as in the newly developed VLC 250. The VLC 250 is part of a machine platform defined by its chuck size of 250 mm. This means that a great many components and technology modules are the same on the VL 5i, VSC 250 and VLC 250 machines. “The idea behind it all is a simple one. We have standardised a set of technology modules to such a degree that they can be used in almost every machine. And the basic machines too contain a large number of the same components. For instance, the overhead slides on all machines are of the same design. Only performance- and quality-defining components, such as the bearing and the motorisation components of the main spindle – or the guideway for the main spindle quill - are designed to suit individual machining requirements“, explains Dr Guido Hegener, Managing Director of Technology at EMAG Salach Maschinenfabrik GmbH. This offers EMAG customers the unprecedented opportunity to individually configure their vertical manufacturing systems. The modular concept lets the user choose from four different spindles: a standard universal spindle, a spindle for heavy-duty work, one for high-precision applications and one with greater C-axis precision for multi-technology applications. For the Z-axis (quill) guideway there is a choice of linear motion or hydrostatic guideways. There is also a choice of different turret locations and automation equipment components, to satisfy individual application requirements. The concept also offers a wide range of machining technologies: turning, drilling, grinding, milling, multi-technology modules with tool changer, ... After all, the objective is to offer the customer a machine that can be adapted to suit his particular manufacturing requirements and to ensure that, at any time in the future, he can add further technology modules or replace existing ones with suitable alternatives.
The emphasis is on Universal Application
The VLC 250 has been designed as a cross-operated pick-up machine of console-type construction. As on all EMAG machines automation forms an integral part of the system. A recirculating conveyor transports the workpieces to the pick-up position, where they are taken up by the chuck. This makes for fast, fail-safe workpiece changeovers. To check given workpiece tolerances, a measuring probe – located outside the machining area – can be integrated into the process. The workpieces are measured while still in the main spindle chuck, with the relevant offset data being logged by the CNC. This ensures constantly maintained accuracy and component quality, even during unattended operation. To be able to machine chucked components in a single set-up the VLC 250 can be equipped with Y-axis and additional drilling, milling or grinding spindles. The lengthwise construction of the machine offers enough space for the use of up to three tooling systems, emphasising the universal nature of the machine’s application.
The multi-technology machine
The VLC 250 rises to today’s challenges. Where a manufacturing enterprise may start with a VLC 250 featuring just a turret, a change in requirements will allow the company to add a grinding unit, for instance. It is also possible to add a multi-technology module, which includes a suitable milling spindle with B-axis and a 48-station tool magazine, transforming the machine into a 5-axis turning and milling center.
ILS (InLineSystem) – compact automation
The engineers from Salach are also breaking new ground when it comes to automation. That is how the EMAG ILS (InLine System) cam into existence. The system allows for a number of VLC machines to be sited close together. Amply proportioned maintenance and service openings on front and rear still guarantee ease of access to the individual machines. This arrangement is ideal for batch production. Component flow can be ensured “in line” across two or three machines, with the connecting points featuring small optional component buffers or docking stations. In fact, the ILS-System allows the user to construct complete manufacturing systems on the smallest possible footprint.
The Platform 250
The new EMAG Platform 250 provides the customer with an opportunity to use a standardised modular building block system to adapt his machines to changes in requirements. Production machines can now be tailored to individual jobs with even greater attention to detail. The three machines VL 5i, VSC 250 und VLC 250 leave nothing to be desired with regard to design, productivity rates, universal application and applied multi-technology.
The machines of the Platform 250 – A summary
The VL 5i in its standard configuration has been designed with the subcontractor and the turned part manufacturer in mind. The VSC 250 can, as always, be used as a front-operated production tool adaptable to suit individual machining requirements. And the VLC 250 is a cross-operated vertical manufacturing system with emphasis on universal use, which makes it ideal for multi-technology applications.