Our first CNC was a small, though it seemed large to us at the time, vertical machining center. This machine could speed through drilling, tapping and milling operations much faster and more repeatable than could ever be imagined on the multiple drill presses that previously executed these functions. The next addition was a pair of machines. A larger vertical machining center and a CNC lathe with live tooling. The lathe changed the way we looked at many of our common operations. This machine allowed us to complete secondary operations on a part without the need to transfer the part to another machine and we could do things that were not even possible with our previous equipment. One operator + one machine + one handling of the part + multiple operations = higher efficiency and better throughput. We later added another similar lathe to increase capacity.
Two CNC Live Tooling Lathes
The next major update came with the addition of a horizontal machining center with an automatic pallet changer. This piece of equipment became a necessity due to our entry into the wind turbine slip ring market. The ability to be loading one pallet with parts while the other pallet is being machined keeps the productivity of the cutting tool at its highest possible level. This machine also added the capability to machine on three sides of the part in one clamping. This has eliminated having to clamp parts in four different positions to complete all operations. It is now done with two positions and with much higher accuracy than before.
Horizontal Machining Center with Automatic Pallet Changer
Automatic Pallet Changer Loading Station
Our latest addition is a dual spindle dual turret live tool lathe. This new piece is basically two lathes built in one cabinet end to end such that one spindle can actually move over and grab a partially finished part from the other spindle to do work on the back side. This allows the machine to be cutting on two parts simultaneously. In effect, two machines in one footprint. Due to our rapidly filling floor space, this is a serious consideration at present.
With the advances that I have witnessed in the last 2 decades, I can't wait to see what the next decade will bring.