C-axis turning and live tooling are common techniques used by high-level CNC machine shops to deliver accurate parts at a rapid pace. Commonly called “mill-turn” processes, they merge the most convenient elements of milling and lathe machines to churn out intricate geometries in much less time. Thus, they’re frequently use by skilled machinists to increase productivity and decrease lead times.
What are live tooling and c-axis turning?
Live tooling is a complicated method because of the different calculations required for precision machining. Most often, it involves high-tech software and skilled technicians to complete. Basically, the process uses a CNC turning center with a milling component to create complex geometries on varied materials.
Different pockets on the turret feature independently functioning motors or sources of power for precision grinding, drilling, or milling. However, live tooling isn’t the same as having an extra axis for machining. It simply means that machinists can insert rotary tools into the turret for better precision.
As a matter of fact, there are numerous benefits to using c-axis turning and live tooling for complex geometries. On the same token, those benefits are only available to those who understand how the process works. Thus, it’s crucial to combine forces with a team of CNC machinists who know exactly what they’re doing.
What are the3 benefits of c-axis turning and live tooling?
In the best-case scenario, c-axis turning and live tooling can be performed on the same machine. Those CNC machines work in a two-part process to manufacture precision parts regardless of size, complexity, or tolerance. A skilled machinist will then fabricate the part based on specifics from the software they’re using. Usually, high-performance CNC machine shops utilize industry-leading software like ProShop ERP to ensure maximum accuracy and production speeds.
There are actually several benefits to using c-axis turning and live tooling to create strategic parts. Here are the top 3 advantages to consider:
#1. Better Positioning
C-axis turning machines can treat the spindle-like it’s an additional axis, thereby allowing for easier positioning of parts, components, and workpieces. That, in turn, can make complex machining processes faster and more efficient for everyone on the team. In fact, c-axis turning and live tooling are what allow Pioneer Cuts to service high-standard clients in the aerospace and automotive industries.
#2. Expanded Machining Options
Live tooling machines give machinists more choices when they’re manufacturing a new part. These machining techniques also allow for off-center, secondary processes prior to finishing. Operators can perform tapping, drilling, and end milling of a surface and/or around the diameter of a part for more accurate manufacturing without the common setbacks, hiccups, and delays.
#3. Cost-Effective Machining
The dual functionality of live tooling and c-axis turning can significantly reduce the cost of a CNC machining project. That’s because both processes can handle varied types of materials while simultaneously delivering accurate, complex geometries with tight tolerances and even tighter deadlines. That, in turn, can cut production times and prices in half.
These sophisticated machining processes may be beneficial in several ways, but there are still a number of crucial considerations when integrating CNC live tooling and c-axis turning into your existing project.
C-axis turning techniques and tips
This type of machining process is the best suite for an experienced machinist from Pioneer Cuts. That’s because experts understand the fundamentals of live tooling and c-axis turning, specializing in complicated projects, and well-versed in the following tips, tricks, and techniques:
Using Coolants Responsibly
Some machining processes require coolants, and those processes are generally benefitted from live tooling because coolants can be applied throughout. However, it’s important to make sure that all live tool holders are properly plumbed for coolant delivery. Also, try to figure out whether the live tooling process is rated to withstand the project’s appropriate level of coolant pressure.
NOTE: Most exotic alloys require a coolant pressure of between 1,000 and 2,000 psi.
Setting Up Turret Stations
Working with a two-axis machine means monitoring turrets closely. So first, ensure there are enough turret stations to accommodate the total number of live tools needed for the process. Next, keep in mind that many dual-axis lathes are limited in the number of live stations allowable. Thus, diligently planning all tooling needs is a must before manufacturing.
Selecting the Axis Types
The type of operations planned may dictate the kinds of axes uses in each project. For example, off-center operations usually require a Y-axis machine while centerline operations can be complete with an X-axis or Z-axis lathe. Most standard live tooling lathes can complete milling and/or drilling processes but there must be a c-axis present to create more complex geometries.
Calculating Axis Numbers
CNC machinists also need to know the right number of X-axis and Z-axis live tool holders, but that number can change based on the project’s specifications. It’s also important to consider tool clamping techniques, as each one should coordinate with the tool shank’s design and the project blueprints. Typically, the engineering team can help calculate the appropriate axis numbers.
Managing the Interference
Remember, adjacent tooling stations can be interfered with when the necessary number of static and/or live tools are added to the turret. That’s especially true when creating centerline cuts on parts. It’s also a major factor when part sizes are close to the machine’s turning diameter. Thus, it’s crucial to manage interference when using c-axis turning and live tooling processes of any kind.
Keep in mind that c-axis machining accuracy is almost always measured in arcseconds. Therefore, it’s vital to any project that machinists also check the relationship between a part’s unique features. For example, C-axis part positioning errors can drastically increase when the tool starts moving away from the centerline.
Live tooling can help save time and money on precision CNC machining projects big and small. For more information on how to integrate different techniques into your project, contact an expert from Pioneer Cuts today.