Live tooling on a lathe. Is it worth it?
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  1. #1
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    Question Live tooling on a lathe. Is it worth it?

    We are looking to buy a new lathe in the near future. Most of our lathe work is outsourced and is mainly pins and bushings with cross-holes, flats, etc. Volume is 20-40,000 parts/yr with only 1-3000 requiring live tools or a 2nd mill op. Is it worth spending 30K-50K on live tools for simple things like cross holes or do you spend it for a second op mill?

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    most definite. having parts drop complete, no second handling gonna pay for itself pretty quick.
    then when a new part comes up your going to go think thank god we did that. also consider y axis.
    and depending on the part size you may be in the swiss-style range

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    Well, a lathe and a mill together in a cell can pump work out faster than one machine that is a combination of both.

    Milling setup on a live-tool lathe is slower as well unless you spend some real big money for KM or Capto tooling.

    However there is a big value in parts coming off complete and it's definitely easier to automate that way.

    I would not buy a live-tool lathe without a Y axis as that allows you to use offset-Y live tools; you'll find that you hardly ever have enough, and being so limited for stations as lathes are, the more tools you can fit on one station the better.

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    Well, I am firmly in the camp of obtaining a 2 axis lathe + 3 axis Mill first, anything else as-needed later.

    And to boot, as mentioned a live tool lathe is far more valuable with a Y axis, and that adds enough to the price to cover a small VMC.

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    I have a two axis lathe and a 3 axis mill. In my case a big help would be a sub spindle on the lathe first and live tools second.

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    If there is no way you are going to change the type of parts you build and "simple cross holes" are it, then no need for 4 or 6 Tools in one station. Or a Y. But if there is ANY chance of needing it in the future (which Murphy says will be the day after you sign the PO). Then get the Y. Be aware, I'm mostly unimpressed with most Y axis Lathes, and it's one of my niches. Depending on how heavy you're going to use it.

    R

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    Load a bar. Walk away. Go take a dump. Make a phone call. Turn the F'n lights off and go home. Finished parts with your coffee when you come in the next day.
    I ran mine 24/7 sometimes when we lived in the loft over the shop. Wake up at night and not hear it? Go down wearing a robe with slippers and feed it some more material. Usually had to pee before going downstairs.

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    Most people seem to buy them with live tools now. When shopping for a new machine 2 years ago a few builders had Y/sub lathes in stock and decent deals on them, while pretty much zero 2ax in stock.
    I probably should have gone with Y/live tools on my lathe just because I don't have a 4th on the mill and it won't be getting one being a 0i-mate control.
    So I still do the radial indexing/holes stuff manual, not a big deal since I don't do a lot of it but eh, if it becomes a problem can always buy another machine I guess.
    Could take a while to make up the ROI on the Y option though if rarely using it, and it is more to go wrong and cost more later if ever crashed eh.

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    I have never done anything with the Y on my second lathe. In fact it makes only 4 small brass parts from .625 360 rod. 3" through spindle. I run those programs when I need the parts. Last ran it in November? I did turn it on today because I needed a refresher on how I program it in Mazatrol. Did not even home it, air not on. But did look at a few programs and light bulb lit up again.
    Went to other building and made 2 programs/40 parts with sub spindle pick offs and back working. Easy peasy because I copied an existing program that used most all of the existing parts profiles.
    And left a nasty note for the daily operator because he set it up with the wrong jaws for the production job he was running. He did not read the setup sheet. 2" STEP JAWS on the sub mutha fooker!

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    I have a live tool lathe and I have never used the live tools. They reasons:
    -They are a pain to set up
    -They aren't as accurate or give as good a finish as doing milling on a mill
    -They take up too many turret positions that I need for turning tools
    -They are physically large and take up a lot of the cabinet space, making it trickier to program and ensure I have clearance
    -The mill will cut whatever I need to do much faster

    Having said that, I do runs of usually 100-500 parts at a time and I have several parts I run for my own products. I am not doing job shop work. So I can make fixtures for the mill that index on a sub plate with pins/bushings and it's easy as pie. If I was doing runs of thousands of parts, I might see things differently.

    I also TOTALLY agree with the poster above that a sub spindle is MUCH more useful than live tooling/Y-axis. I'd get a sub long before I got live tools... it's not that many parts that can drop off the machine complete in one operation, and even for those that "can", do they really come off complete or is there a burr or teat that needs sanded off? Because if so, that's a pain in the ass and extra handling time. So the chances of being able to use a sub are, IMO, 100% but the parts that could use live tooling? Definitely not 100%, making a sub more valuable.

    Just my .02

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    I think it has to do with the part more than anything ,,, I think a lot of guys have a idea that a live tool lathe is a milling machine and from what I have seen its "NOT" its still a lathe but it can do some milling .

    For the parts I do I have found a lathe with a barfeeder runs off the parts just fine and I do second op on a mill when I need to ,,, only like 20% of my parts need mill work and with the cost of a live tool lathe being about the same as a 2 axis lathe "AND" the cost of a 3 axis mill for my parts its better to have a lathe I can use as a lathe everyday and a mill I can use as a mill everyday ,,, Yes some parts I have to re handle handle to do the milling but its not all my turned parts ,,,

    A cheap Haas mini mill is more capable at milling that any live tooling lathe I have seen and it holds multiple parts and multiple tools at a time ,,

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    My Mori nlx would eat a 2 axis lathe and a mini mill in speed and accuracy.

    There are lathes out there with live tools that are Beasts. I believe this nlx is 10 or 15 hp at the live tools.

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk

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    Ref milling capability - a mate of mine swore that the Integrex i150 he drove had more power/rigidity than the Mam63 5axis he also drove.

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    Quote Originally Posted by as9100d View Post
    My Mori nlx would eat a 2 axis lathe and a mini mill in speed and accuracy.

    As a proud owner of both, I am more than qualified to say that the above comment is accurate for about 5% of the work we do.
    For the rest of the parts that require turn and mill, a 2ax lathe + 3 or 4 ax VMC is without a question the clear and undisputed winner.

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    Kind of a waste of such beautiful machinery. Nothing better than a finished part every cycle with no handling of the parts.



    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by as9100d View Post
    Nothing better than a finished part every cycle with no handling of the parts.



    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk
    Cycle time is better with two spindles...

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    Maybe if you stock pile op 1 parts and run them later. We don't do that here and run things out complete without delay if possible.



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    Quote Originally Posted by ChipSplitter View Post
    We are looking to buy a new lathe in the near future. Most of our lathe work is outsourced and is mainly pins and bushings with cross-holes, flats, etc. Volume is 20-40,000 parts/yr with only 1-3000 requiring live tools or a 2nd mill op. Is it worth spending 30K-50K on live tools for simple things like cross holes or do you spend it for a second op mill?
    In case you decide to go for live tooling, you may refer to this for a comprehensive information about live-tool drilling cycles.

  24. #19
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    Some process engineering / shop factors to consider:

    Do you need to hire another person if you bought a lathe and a mill for loading and tending the mill?
    Are you buying a bar feeder?
    Do you have the floor space for 2 machines?



    For parts you are describing a 12' bar feed live tool lathe with a sub spindle is the least expensive way to get a fully automated flexible "cell" going. The technology is proven, works, and is dependable. From an automation perspective you don't have to mess around with robot arms, automatic doors etc etc. But if you have guys standing around looking for work and could use the mill for something else that you currently are doing then buying the mill and lathe is obvious.

    Personally I'd rather have a longer cycle time but not have to mess around with loading a mill and the associated fixtures, as well as the people managing that is required. I've found it very hard to find good operators. Some people / shops have better HR and training skills. Again it comes down to process engineering and how you manage or how the shop is managed.

    A live tool barfed lathe maybe expensive, and a bit slower, but man it does a lot of Poka Yoke in a hurry. Cross drills and milling hex on parts is what live tool lathes were designed for.

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    enginuity took the words right out of my mouth. I have been thinking about this post for a while and the answer lies in, "Everyone's situation is different..." If you have dependable labor available get the lathe and mill and you end up with a more capable all around shop, but if you're not super comfy with your labor keeping up and not screwing up the loading and unloading of parts, tools, and fixtures then go for the all-in-one. I, personally, have grown increasingly in-favor of bar-fed lathe's ability to essentially take the "fixture design" and "part loading" elements out of the equation. Good luck!

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