We all know that Bruce Wayne spent years travelling the world, mastering all manner of esoteric mental and physical disciplines to become the Dark Knight. A new generation of multi-spindle automatic lathes from the Czech Republic may change the thinking about the best way to produce complex parts in small to medium volumes. An innovative drive system on these machines enables users to optimize spindle speeds for specific machining operations. The TMZ642’s inherent flexibility, combined with the short cycle times associated with multi-spindle operation, allows Trafimet to produce power supply sockets and similar parts in small batches very efficiently.
BRB completely finishes this stainless steel hydraulic sleeve in one pass on its CNC multi-spindle. Trafimet’s Ugo Simioni, a manufacturing engineer, points out some of the quick-change techniques developed to take advantage of the TMZ642’s inherent flexibility.
According to developers, the spindle drive system in the TMZ multi-spindles is the key to the precision, thermal stability and high reliability of these machines. A multi-spindle automatic lathe rotates a spindle drum to advance the spindles from station to station.
A well-equipped foundry on the premises of the ZPS plant in Zlin is capable of producing the special castings called for by the design of the TMZ machines.
Innovative developments on the TMZ line of Mori-Say multi-spindles from ZPS America LLC (Indianapolis, Indiana) promise to move CNC to a new level on this type of machine tool.
With only one driveshaft arranged from the back of the machine to the front, how can multiple spindles run at different speeds, a feat not possible on other comparable machines? The tubes are of unequal length—the innermost is the longest and the outermost the shortest.
Most machine tool users in the United States are not well-acquainted with Mori-Say as a machine tool brand.
ZPS (a Czech-language acronym that translates to "Precision Engineering Plants") is the TAJMAC group’s main manufacturing plant. Specifically, the design of the center block, which contributes significantly to the rigidity and precision of the entire machine structure, calls for a rather intricate casting that few foundries could produce reliably and economically, Michele Tajariol says. Profiles of a few early adapters of the Mori-Say TMZ642 CNC show how these machines can change production strategies for the better. Trafimet is an Italian firm that makes torches, power-supply connectors, consumable tips and other welding-related supplies sold around the world.
For years, the company relied on two contrasting types of machine tools to meet its production goals.
BRB, located near Bergamo, Italy, is a good example of a traditional screw machine shop transitioning to complex, high precision parts made of difficult-to-machine materials. Having this machine in place has allowed the shop to win orders for a complex hydraulic sleeve in stainless steel. Another critical feature is the ability of each spindle to clamp the workpiece securely for effective high-torque machining operations on the stainless steel. The drive system follows the same principles pioneered on its six-spindle little brother, the TMZ642. Comments are reviewed by moderators before they appear to ensure they meet Modern Machine Shop’s submission guidelines. Herbenick says that the Sqweel couldn’t be any better unless they pushed it up to 11 tongues, Spinal Tap-style. I just walked into a theatre to see a movie and there he was -- Alden Ehrenreich, the actor recently cast as the young Han Solo, one seat away from me.
Taking on parts like this helps this traditional screw machine shop diversify its customer base. A composite shaft links each spindle in the drum to its own motor on the other side of the machine. This type of machine is highly productive because operations at each station occur simultaneously. The motion of the tool carriers and tool slides at each indexing station are controlled by CNC servo motors under programmed command rather than by a system of mechanical cams. One of these developments is a new drive system that allows the C-axis rotational speed of each spindle to be programmed independently. The Mori-Say TMZ642, a six-spindle version, was introduced to the North American market at IMTS 2008 in Chicago last September.

According to Olaf Tessarzyk, managing partner and president of ZPS America, it is this drive system that sets these machines apart from other multi-spindle designs. The "shaft" that drives the spindles is actually an assembly of telescoping tubes—one tube for each spindle, as shown in the illustration to the right.
At the motor side of the machine, the difference in length from tube to tube is enough for the pulleys, belts and gears of each set of drive motors to be attached without interfering with the next tube. Foremost is keeping the heat created by the bank of drive motors away from the spindle drum. This foundry produces castings for the multi-spindle machines as well as for many other ZPS models and numerous outside machine tool builders. This casting allows the drum, center block and drum coupling to be assembled in a configuration that allows the drum to be rotated under power and break in the gears and bearings. Tessarzyk believes that multi-spindle machines with extended CNC capability will spark a rethinking of how this class of machine tools can be applied but they have to be cost competitive and reliable. Tessarzyk says that these mind-bending machines will appeal to two distinct classes of potential users.
On one side were the multi-spindle machines—two mechanical eight-spindle machines and four mechanical six-spindle machines, all dedicated to the production of complex parts in large production runs. Its engineers initially considered an eight-spindle automatic lathe for socket production, but they were concerned about the ability to change-over quickly from part to part and decided to consider a CNC multi-spindle machine. For example, the independence of each spindle makes it possible to perform many types of machining, including operations requiring a spindle stop or an independently oriented C-axis spindle.
The part calls for drilling several small-diameter cross holes at different angles to the part centerline.
Because these parts are not typically produced on multi-spindle machines, the shop believes it can be highly competitive with companies seeking to produce this kind of part on CNC lathes. Rising production costs and other factors are making it less favorable to source many components from off-shore factories. Tessarzyk believes this unfolding situation presents a remarkable opportunity for companies that are quick to adopt new machining developments. The high nickel and chrome content of the workpiece material calls for high torque at the spindle. The TMZ867, however, can accommodate barstock as large as 72 mm in diameter and operate as an open-front chucker. Each of the machine’s eight spindles is linked by a composite shaft to its own motor into the spindle drum, which employs a precise Hirth coupling. Girls, time for a new toy in your arsenal for just $US55 plus shipping from distant Albion. It is possible to perform a range of non-turning operations such as milling, drilling, tapping and hobbing at each station, in addition to all the turning operations for which these machines are noted.
The Mori-Say TMZ867, an eight-spindle version for larger parts and heavier cuts, will be introduced at the Precision Machining Technology Show (PMTS) in Columbus, Ohio in April, 2009. The drive system utilizes one composite driveshaft to power all of the spindles in the rotating drum, yet each spindle can be set to run at a different speed. TAJMAC (pronounced TIE-mack) is a multinational group of machine tool building, distribution and sourcing companies headquartered near Milan, Italy. For years, ZPS has been producing various types of machine tools for private labeling by a number of well-known U.S.
Having a foundry that is particularly adept at pouring machine tool castings is a key asset to the group. These components are finish machined as an integral assembly only after this run-in period. The other is a traditional screw machine house that has branched out into more complex workpieces in difficult-to-machine materials. This plant produces millions of parts a year, the majority of which are connectors, sockets, adapters and torch tips made of copper or brass. All of the company’s mechanical multi-spindles had been provided by ZPS, so it was natural to consider this builder’s TMZ642, which had just been introduced in Europe. Because the tolerance on these angled cross holes is tight, the machine’s rigidity is especially important.

Buyers will be looking for capable producers back home that can take advantage of new technology, simpler logistics, lower transportation costs and better communication to fill this gap. Of course, the part processing strategies he has in mind leverage the flexibility and capability of his company’s multi-spindles, but this is just one example of a shift in technology that calls for a shift in outlook and thinking. One recently tested part exemplifies the capabilities of this machine and reinforces the point that applications for multi-spindle processing are moving in a new direction. Three variable speeds running on three AAA batteries which, according to the hands-on by our own Dr. It makes CNC operations more flexible and efficient while further simplifying setup and change-over. The drive motors are servo driven so that the corresponding spindle will rotate at the speed set in the CNC program for the operations performed. In addition, this design ensures that the spindles always remain connected to their respective drive motors without requiring complex power supply contacts that must be disconnected or re-connected at the end of each indexing cycle. This includes final steps on the spindle bores, which are finished in a large, high-precision jig boring machine while the drum with its Hirth coupling is in position in the casting.
It appeared to be an appropriate machine to handle a diverse product mix in runs of 10,000 to 50,000 pieces.
With a little planning, we found that we could do the same part economically in batches of 5,000—12-second cycle times—with three change-overs per week on the new machine." The Trafimet engineers had already determined that a 15-second cycle time would permit it to produce lots of 10,000 to 20,000 pieces economically. However, no saw blades could handle the stainless steel at the cutting speeds needed to meet cycle time requirements. However, they will still need to come close to matching the "China price" to remain competitive in their global markets. Screw machine shops will have to become providers of CNC production in short runs with short turn-around times. Moreover, setups and change-over are greatly simplified because tool motions can be reprogrammed rather than changed by producing and installing a new set of cams.
More importantly, developers say, new classes of parts can now be produced efficiently and economically on a multi-spindle.
The user can choose the speed best suited for the operations performed at each station, thus avoiding compromises in cutting tool performance, surface finish or overall cycle time that result from applying a single speed to every spindle as dictated by conventional multi-spindle designs. The tubes are likewise "stepped" in length at the cutting side of the machine, where gearing at the end of each tube delivers rotational motion to its particular spindle.
This means that the drum does not have to "unwind" to its home position to avoid wrapping any power cables around the drive shaft inside the drum. ZPS-America, initially formed in mid-2000, constructed a new technical center in Indianapolis to house a showroom, training facilities, a spare parts inventory and a service organization. The challenge for them will be to grasp how parts requiring a lot of non-turning operations can be completed in one setup on these machines. In fact, cycle times on these parts are so short that the company developed a special gaging station so that operators could perform adequate part sampling and document the high Cpk numbers specified for this part. Likewise, CNC shops will have to transition from a reliance on simple machines that make complex cutting maneuvers to more complex machines that get the most out of simple motions. The result is highly accurate positioning as the spindles index, enabling the machines to perform high-precision machining of complex workpieces. The new Mori-Say machines are likely to challenge shops once again to wrap their minds around new possibilities for efficient part production. Complex parts requiring a variety of high-precision turning and non-turning steps can be finished in one pass, and high-volume runs are not necessary to achieve this economical operation. This type of machine has been largely overlooked because setups are assumed to be complicated and time-consuming.

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