Consider the impact of Automatic Pallet Changers and how they can significantly change your game.
Before we describe how such innovations in machine tool manufacturing can greatly boost the productivity of your shop floor, let us first look at how pallet changers work in CNC machine tools.
How Pallet Changers Work in CNC Machine Tools
A pallet is a movable & interchangeable part of a machine tool which helps to transport raw or finished parts from the machine in order reduce downtime for part loading/unloading.
There are three main types of pallet changers in most CNC machine tools – manual, automated and robotic.
- Manual pallet systems:
The operator has to physically load and unload the pallet, with the raw / finished part, to / from a docking station located & mounted on top of the machine table. Of the three options, this is the most laborious and least automated version. However, you can still achieve a reduction of downtime with this system.
- Automated pallet systems:
These are normally built-into the machine and operated automatically by the machine itself.
The human intervention comes from the loading and unloading of parts at the pallet station.
- Robotic pallet systems:
These usually utilize a robot to load and unload pallets. The robot is often able to serve one to multiple machines. However, these are fairly costly and may not be pragmatic in cost-sensitive markets. Over time, the state of constantly improving technology may make such systems increasingly cost-effective. Such systems are often sought in locations with high labour costs or insufficient skilled manpower. Difficulties for such systems may arise whenever customized and very specific manufacturing needs are required.
Types of Automatic Pallet Changing Systems
Out of the three different pallet changing systems, most manufacturing companies prefer to adopt automated pallet changing systems.
There are primarily two different types of automated pallet changers which are integrated into CNC manufacturing systems or machines.
- Shuttle type pallet changers
A pallet with parts after completion that would leave the inside of a machine on rails. A second pallet is then pushed into the machine.This system is considered more traditional and may take a longer time for pallet exchanges to be made. Today, they are usually found on larger CNC Machining Centres.An example of such a system can be found in Hwacheon’s Horizontal Machining Center AF16.
- Swing type pallet changers
The pallet with the finished part is lifted up together with the pallet with the raw (unfinished) part. It is then rotated 180 degrees and placed onto the CNC index or rotary table. At the same time, the first pallet is placed on the loading and unloading stations.Such a simultaneous process of hooking and unhooking pallets reduces the time needed and improves efficiency. It also provides a smoother change-over.Examples of machines offering such systems are our Horizontal Machining Centers A600, H6 and H8.
The second variation of Swing Pallet uses a one-piece table which is divided at the centre into two areas.
One side of the table faces or reaches inside the machining zone with the part that will be machined. The opposite side is located at the loading station where a finished part will be switched to a new raw part to be machined.
Such systems are normally deployed in vertical machining systems, like Hwacheon’s Vertical Machining Center VESTA-610D and Tapping Center HiT-360D.
Benefits of Automatic Pallet Changers
In all the swing pallet systems described above, servomotors or hydraulic pistons will lift the table, rotate it 180 degrees before lowering it down. The rotation accuracy and position of the table is secured by four location points. This vastly improves the flexibility and precision of the machining processes.
Beyond this, automatic pallet changers offers the following benefits for CNC machining:
- Improved machine usage through continuous machining processes. This reduces the duration for non-productive manufacturing, as the set-up can be done concurrent with the operation of the machine.
- Vastly improve speed of changeover to a new part, completing it in a matter of seconds.
- Simplify pallet changing to a mere push of a button or command on the CNC console.
- Increase flexibility for a single machine to be deployed for multiple functions. You can machine the same part repeatedly, and set-up the machine to manufacture two different parts on the same pallet or define it to OP10 & OP20.
- Allow for less operator-driven processes by changing pallets automatically via machine control.
- Allow for the unmanned operation of the machine over a longer period of time (subject to individual cycle time for each part).
- Minimise manual intervention and hence human errors.
- Recover time lost to repeat setups for recurring part orders. This allows the production line to quickly begin work once a repeat order is received.
- Adopt “High Mix – Low Volume” manufacturing methods.
- Achieve better ROI for machine.
Hwacheon’s CNC Machine Tools with Built-in Automatic Pallet Changers
Now that you’ve read about the benefits of automatic pallet changers, it only makes sense to invest in a CNC machine tool offering such capabilities.
Hwacheon has a range of CNC machine tools which come equipped with such systems:
Beyond this function, all Hwacheon CNC machine tools offer superior rigidity as they are built with solid Meehanite cast iron structures, supported by roller guideways or solid box guideways. This allows for the rapid and stable removal of materials while delivering an excellent surface finish right off the machine.
In the competitive world of manufacturing and factory production today, it makes sense to optimize your machine and to reduce its non-productive periods.
This applies across virtually all sectors: from automotive and aerospace to general part manufacturing, mold and die, and electronic industries.
Consider the advantages of automatic pallet changers, and switch to a CNC machine tool that can help you improve cost effectiveness while driving efficiency.