An easier life thanks to LFV technology


These days when turning and milling components less than 38 mm in diameter, it is difficult to justify using a fixed-headstock CNC lathe, such is the high level of capability, productivity and flexibility of modern sliding-head turning centres (sliders). This is the view of Martin Lock, owner of 55-years-established subcontract machining firm PES Engineering, who recently took delivery of a Cincom L32-XLFV slider from Citizen Machinery.

PES Engineering has over the years developed a reputation for supplying components in small to medium size batches, typically 3,000- to 5,000-off. Larger quantities are often produced and stocked at Burnham-on-Crouch for Kanban call-off by customers. Materials range from stainless steels, which account for half of throughput, to plastics, which make up another 20 percent. Both tend to generate stringy swarf when machined on the subcontractor’s fixed-head lathes.

Such problems are not encountered on the Cincom slider, as it is equipped with Citizen’s programmable low frequency vibration (LFV) software in the operating system of the Mitsubishi control that breaks the swarf into smaller chips. Launched five years ago, the three modes of LFV developed to improve turning, grooving, drilling, boring, threading and parting-off not only avoid bird’s-nesting, but also reduce or eliminate the need to use expensive and energy-hungry high pressure coolant equipment.

Mr Lock continued, “LFV has removed much of the aggravation of turning stainless steels, which gives us a much easier life. We can machine efficiently everything from 304, which is billed as free-cutting but really is not, through to highly alloyed marine grades.

“With LFV, oscillation of the spindle relative to the axis feed motion momentarily and repeatedly lifts the tool clear of the component surface. It has the effect of breaking the swarf before it has a chance to form a string and also lowers the temperature at the point of cutting, reducing work hardening of the metal and preventing built-up edge on the insert.

“We have LFV switched on permanently when machining plastics and it works perfectly, even on nylon. When processing stainless steel, for nine out of 10 components we produce it is engaged for typically half of the cycle and always for parting-off. Programming the function to stop when it is not needed limits the milliseconds of slightly decreased metal removal rate when the tool is air cutting.”

Strategies that Mr Lock previously used to control swarf length included introducing peck feeding and dwells, which extended cycle times and accelerated tool wear, and experimenting with different chipbreaker designs on the insert. None of this is needed any more, as he says most materials chip like brass simply by selecting cutting parameters out of Citizen’s LFV manual.

At the end of last year, two 40 mm capacity fixed-head lathes producing 304 stainless steel medical parts broke down on the same afternoon, prompting Mr Lock to look for a replacement. As sliding-head technology had advanced sufficiently to consider it, he decided to go down this route. He was in regular contact with another subcontractor with which he occasionally shares work, and that company operates 10 Citizen lathes including LFV Cincoms that have proved to be reliable and accurate over the years.

It therefore made sense for PES Engineering to opt for the Citizen brand. An L32-XLFV was duly ordered with a conversion kit that allows stock up to 38 mm in diameter to be fed from an Iemca three-metre bar magazine. Immediately apparent was the sheer speed of the machine, with many parts coming off more than twice as quickly compared with the output from one of the ageing fixed-head lathes. In one extreme case when turning a plastic part unattended, 400-off were produced in two hours instead of over a full manned shift.

In the first three months of operation, the slider produced 20,000 parts of around three dozen varieties, all but one of which were in length less than 2.5 times the diameter. The majority were therefore not classical sliding-head work, so Mr Lock plans to take advantage of the ability on most Cincoms, including the L32, to remove the guide bush. The main advantages are the ability to use less expensive bar, as straightness and dimensional variation are not so much an issue, and a four-fold reduction in remnant length at the end of each bar, leading to significant material savings.

Want to know more about this article?
Ask us below...

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.