Tormach Lathe Developmentsby: Greg Jackson
After my last post, Mike commented he would like to see a stand-alone Tormach CNC lathe and wondered if we were going to market such a tool. I’ve also heard that there have been similar questions on Internet discussion groups. As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, the lathe design is well underway, although proper engineering is always a time consuming task.
[Editors note: We actually first previewed some of these images at the Tormach Owner’s Meeting over the summer during the Digital Machinist Workshop. Click on the images to see design notes about each one -AG]
The images above are from earlier this year. There was some discussion on where the ribs should be located, how deep, wall thickness, etc. This lead to doing a finite element analysis on the lathe bed, which in turn, lead to some redesign of the bed, which lead to questions of where to put ballscrews, which lead to….. you know the drill. Everything affects everything and when you design from the ground up there’s a lot to think about. When the engineering team is obsessed about getting it right, it only takes longer.
For obvious commercial reasons I can’t talk too much about the details. I can tell you it will be slant bed, it will be a size suitable to be a companion to the PCNC 1100, and it will have a variety of tooling options. Initially we hoped to have our CNC lathe developed as a derivation of some pre-existing CNC lathe. We’d be done by now if we had gone that way, but we were just too disappointed in the available options. All the CNC lathes we saw under 5000 lbs were little more than manual lathes with motors attached, not just wrong in the details, but wrongheaded from the foundation. Our design goal is to create a lathe that will work well for both light production and for prototype work. This sort of work often involves a unique combination of manual and CNC processes. This means good access to the spindle/tool for interactive prototype turning, as well as good coolant and swarf protection for production work.
We’re moving toward pouring iron for the prototype soon but the engineering team is still discussing several alternatives for the sheet metal enclosure design. We have developed several alternative designs, but I’m hesitant to show images. As soon as people see a drawing of a complete machine they assume that the shape and look of the machine is fixed.
We are still soliciting opinions on lathe tooling. What would you like to see? Please let us know, and don’t be afraid to be specific. Sure, gang tooling is great, but should it be square shank tools, round shank tools, or something else? Should it be simple bolt down blocks, or a gang of Aloris type lathe tool holders?
Here’s a short clip that shows a typical gang tooling system in operation:
This clip shows a typical turret type tooling system:
And here’s another one with some operations in process (skip ahead to around 1:55 to see the real action):
I can’t tell you what the release date will be for the product. We have a project schedule, but realize that design and engineering is an iterative process. Proper engineering takes time. What you end up with is often nothing like what you envisioned when you started the project and the time from beginning to end is highly unpredictable. I hope our readers can appreciate the dynamic nature of original design and development and give us a little leeway in the process. Stay tuned in for more.