The Value of Angle Heads in the Age of Multi-Axis Machines

March 8, 2018 11:52 am


With the proliferation of multi-axis machinery, it was once thought that an add-on accessory like an angle head would be rendered obsolete. But we’re finding quite the opposite to be true. In fact, we’re seeing as much interest as we ever have in this accessory. Here are four examples of why.

Adding an additional axis to existing equipment
We have an aerospace customer that commonly makes a part with a flange that tips backwards, or down slightly. No matter how they position their massive five-axis machining center, or how they locate the part on the table, they could never line up the spindle properly to machine the slot feature in the flange. By using an angle head, they were able to add one more axis to the interior equipment to make the cut.

In another example, replacing small end mills with a slitting saw to produce deep parallel slots can save some serious time. By performing a run or two with a multi-tooth slitting saw, instead of using several light milling passes, the operation can be done 20 times to 30 times faster.

Eliminating multiple setups
An example from an aerospace customer involves a half-ton part with a scallop that’s machined on a vertical turret lathe. Without an angle head, the shop would have to crane the part across the facility to another piece of equipment. Setup savings are realized with small parts too. Consider a job with four parts on a tombstone in a horizontal machine; carefully taking each part off the machine, putting it on a cart. taking it to over to the next machine and re-fixturing adds minutes to every part, instead of performing all the work at one center with the help of additional approach angles.

Eliminate unnecessary equipment
Anything with a rotating shaft and a housing, where something on the outside needs to turn with the internal shaft, typically has a key that requires slots. This configuration presents the challenge of making a rectangular form inside a round hole. Common in energy and construction power-generation equipment, this operation used to be performed by a process called broaching that requires specialized machinery. But by adding an axis to a machine with an angle head, the part doesn’t need to be moved to get the extra axis or special process.

Access to complex internal features
Picture an enclosed cylinder that is cut in half horizontally, with no opening at either end. What if one of the end of the cylinder needs a round feature, like those common in steerable drill heads? With no access from the other end, the only viable option for boring is an angle head that accesses the cylinder through the slot that runs the length of the part. Often an angle head is the only option.

The value of angle heads is magnified by the fact that they are available at almost any angle, fixed or adjustable, for use in high-volume production or prototyping. They’re also easy to integrate. While highly specialized applications can take longer, most simple machines that are ready to accept a stop block can be up and running in less than half an hour.

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Article From: Alan Miller,Engineering Manager and Product Manager, BIG KAISER Precision Tooling, Inc.

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