Swiss machines, precision small-diameter turning centers that typically produce metal parts in the 0.020- to 1.25-inch range, are a rapidly growing segment of the North American machining market. Demand for such machines is being driven by growth in applications for high-precision parts in medical, aerospace and automotive markets, among other areas (see previous Swiss machining story I wrote this month).
“Any specialty fastener with a long length-to-diameter ratio that requires high-precision tolerance is a suitable candidate for Swiss-type machining,” said Scott Laprade, marketing manager at Genevieve Swiss Industries Inc., or GenSwiss, in Westfield, Mass. “You can’t get into a car without parts made on a Swiss turning center.”
The business opportunities provided by such parts are appealing to custom job shops, many of which are adding Swiss machines.
GenSwiss is working to support these machine shops and other users. The company wants to be a full-service supplier of components, tools and equipment for Swiss machines. Its general catalog already contains 170 pages of products for these precision turning centers, says Laprade.
The company’s latest equipment introductions are the Ti-LOC SwissClamp slitting and milling toolholders, which Laprade said integrate a solid ER-16 taper into the saw holder or mill extension. They are designed for high rigidity, close-tolerance cutting, rapid tool change and long tool life.
Increasing rigidity, of course, is one way of maintaining precision. The Ti-LOC toolholders achieve this by eliminating some components and consolidating others. By combining a sawholder and collet taper into the toolholder, for example, the concentricity of the toolholder improves by reducing stacked tolerances, Laprade explained. This in turn improves the total indicator reading (TIR), a measure of the tool’s turning accuracy. The TIR for the Ti-LOC toolholder is 0.0002 in or less, he noted. An excessive TIR would affect cutting precision and cause the toolholder to wobble during operation, reducing component life as well.
Arbors are available for 5- and 8-mm ID (inside diameter) saws, as well as 0.25- and 5/16-in ID sizes. The saws are off-the-shelf carbide slitting blades sold from GenSwiss stock.
Micro end-mill extensions are available that assist in rapid tool change. An extension sets the length of the cutting tool to a distance entered into a turning center’s CNC program. When a tool is placed in the toolholder, there is no need to reprogram the CNC.
“Additionally, these extensions add rigidity to micro rotary tooling such as small-diameter drills and end mills,” Laprade said. “They are not unlike the CAT40-style end-mill holders commonly used on large milling centers. Ti-LOC uses the ER taper system, which is the standard in Swiss-type machines.”
Several other ER taper sizes will be added to the Ti-LOC SwissClamp line, among them ER-11, ER-20 and ER-25.
GenSwiss was formed in 2003 by company president Jim Gosselin. He started the business after a sales career with Citizen, a manufacturer of Swiss machines. (Many Swiss machines were developed to fabricate the tiny internal components of watches.) According to Laprade, Gosselin had difficulty finding components for the machines he sold. This inspired him to create in GenSwiss a full-service supplier of Swiss-machine components.
Other examples of equipment that GenSwiss sells include coolant-through toolholders. Plumbing is built into the shank, and passageways carry liquid to the tip of the cutting edge — a sophisticated design that is made all the more challenging by the small size of the components.