Useful information

Tooling machines / machine tools

- History, processes, applications and future -

The processing of various materials has a long history. For a long time, tooling machines were mainly associated with metalworking. But this is only part of the spectrum. We will try to illuminate the range of machines and illustrate the most diverse areas of application.

The development of processing machines began with the industrial revolution. Unlike today, where each machine has several auxiliary drives in addition to the main spindle drive, the first machine tools only had one drive. It was usually a steam engine. The steam engine powered several different machines via a central shaft. Drive belts connected the central shaft with the individual machines

As the name suggests, the machine tools are characterized by the fact that it has to be equipped with the most varied of tools for the processing of materials.

If we consider the main processes in metalworking machines, these are forming, joining and cutting. If you reduce these processes to the tooling machines, they mainly serve to cut a wide variety of materials, primarily metals, of course.

Tooling machines are available for a wide variety of cutting processes. In terms of technology, we distinguish these machines as follows:

This list does not claim to be complete.

In the widest sense, the drilling machine is already a special form. A lathe can also be used to drill holes or cut threads. Since these operations occur very often in production, a separate machine category has been developed over time. From the column drilling machine to automatic drilling machines to the hand drill, there are many variants of this type.

Let's come to the machining centers. These are primarily characterized by the fact that different processes are combined with one another. One of the best-known types is the turning and milling center. Drilling and grinding centers are also very common. Machining centers are characterized, among other things, by the most varied types of axis arrangement and the number of axes. The best known arrangements are the horizontal and the vertical. There are also further rotatable or swiveling axes. This is not necessarily just about the tool axes. Machine tables can also be driven, both in linear form and in rotatable and pivotable form.

The multitude of possibilities is almost unlimited. In addition to the machine tools that are offered as standard, there are many special structures that are geared towards the optimal production of special workpieces. The more specific a machine is, the more restricted the area of application, the larger the batch sizes and the longer the time required for conversion and retooling.

A good example of specialization are the machines for making gear wheels. They are also based on the basic functions such as turning, slotting, milling and grinding, but can only be used for very few other products due to the arrangement of the axes.

As we can clearly see here, there are many different combinations of processes in tooling machines. The greater the number of pieces of a workpiece to be produced, the more special the machine designs and the higher the degree of automation. A separate essay could be produced on this subject.

Drive technology and control also play a major role. Mechanically controlled tooling machines (e.g. cam control, changing belts on pulleys) have been replaced more and more by CNC machines. This increases the number of electric motors. Complicated mechanical gears are gradually being replaced by servo geared motors. These are space-saving and can be used flexibly. In addition, electric motors are relatively low-maintenance and, thanks to their torque curve, have ideal conditions.

However, there are still mechanical, cam-controlled lathes available for purchase. These are still used to manufacture simple machine elements such as adjusting rings.

Furthermore, an extensive range of accessories as an independent category of tooling machines should not be missing. The accessories include, for example:

We also follow this division of machine tools and machining centers in terms of control and function when structuring the categories on our platform.

Modern tooling machines are not only capable of performing pure mechanical processing. Automation is also becoming more and more popular here. The automation spans i.a. the following important areas:

Many tooling machines that were previously known as pure metalworking machines are no longer used only for metalworking. Finally, plastic, carbon or wood can also be machined using machine tools by changing the tools and the setting parameters.

What about the future of the machine tools?

Evolution will not stop here either. Modern tool materials (carbide instead of tool steel), fast controls and increasing demands on the products to be manufactured will determine the development steps. The further automation and linking of work steps in the production of larger quantities will continue.

Procedures will change. As a result of the fact that many workpieces can be cut out and provided with holes using water jet technology, laser cutting technology and plasma cutting technology, turning, milling and drilling work is no longer necessary.

Thread cutting has very often been replaced by thread rolling or thread pressing in mass production. In addition to the fast cycle times, the deformation processes also have the advantage of increasing the strength of the product.

Other processes that will change the future and the processes of tooling machines are the development steps of casting techniques and not to forget 3D printing.

Ultimately, the only option left for the machine tools manufacturers is to adapt their products to the growing demands of the market. But this also includes the fact that the market continues to demand simple machines (universal machines). This should secure the future of the machine tools in all its forms.

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