Modular revolution

Modular revolution



Column modules provide Z-axis movement on the Revolution.

The Revolution's X axis is on its base module.

PCC Olofsson equips Revolution spindle modules with 30-hp motors.

PCC Olofsson offers seven tooling options for the Revolution's columns.

Three vertical-turning configurations of the Revolution.

Three horizontal-turning configurations of the Revolution.

Custom-built or commodity machine tools? Today's high production shops are struggling over which to purchase. And the only way to suppress this inner conflict could be with a Revolution. The line of modular, multifunction machines from PCC Olofsson incorporates the benefits of both commodity machine tools and those that have been custom designed, giving shops an alternative solution.

What's so revolutionary about the Revolution? Well, picture having a machine built specifically for a particular part. This machine will do all the necessary operations, whether vertical or horizontal, plus all its own part handling. Now imagine getting the machine, ready to run, in half the usual lead time and at a cost substantially lower than a custom-built machine. But wait, there's more. When the particular job is done, say in a year from now, the dream machine can be reconfigured in one day, without it leaving the shop floor, to run a completely different job. All this is reality with the Revolution.

Three main modules make it happen
Olofsson of Lansing, Mich., is well-known as a custom builder of continuous-production machines that handle mostly round parts. The company caters primarily to the Big Three automakers and their tier-one suppliers. So far, all the machines it has built have been one-off systems starting from the ground up, unlike the modular Revolution. Although Revolution machines are new, their componentry is not, points out Richard Ormrod, vice president of sales and marketing at Olofsson. Revolution components have been tried and tested in the company's 2,200 custom machines currently in the field. "In essence," says Ormrod, "we have 2,200 prototypes." What is different, however, are the numerous machine configurations.

With three main modules in its arsenal, Olofsson can launch more than 30 different versions of the Revolution. Main modules include the spindle, base, and column.

According to John Lauchnor, president of Olofsson, splitting the X and Z axes (patent pending) makes it possible for one Revolution to do both vertical and horizontal turning. A single machine can house up to two vertical turning spindles (left and right) or up to two horizontal turning spindles (left and right) that can run individually or together.

The company uses 5,000-rpm, 30-hp spindles that are water-cooled and include, as standard, a three-jaw, 8-in. chuck. When horizontally configured, both left and right-side spindles have a 2-in. through hole, which provides more part flexibility.

For its basic design strategy, Olofsson split the Revolution's axes, instead of opting for an inverted or conventional fixed-spindle setup. Unlike a standard machine with two axes on either the spindle or the turret, the Revolution has its Z axis on the turret and X axis on the spindle. "In its original form," says Lauchnor, "the Revolution was a basic two-axis vertical turning machine, but that's not what we wanted. Separating the axes enables us to re-configure the machine."

Olofsson also thought compact when designing its base. It offers two sizes — single, which measures 55 in., and double, which is 120 in. Bases are cast iron, and both vertical and horizontal slides are roller-bearing linear systems that are ballscrew driven.

Vertical slides have a 14-in. travel and move at a rate of 1,000 ipm, as does the horizontal slide, which has a travel of 23.6 in. On the double base, the horizontal travel extends to 78 in. Heidenhain 476C linear scales provide position feedback on both slides.

As an option, the horizontal slide comes in a linear servomotor drive version. This ups the traverse speed to over 3,500 ipm with a peak force of 6,000 N. To handle this speed, Olofsson builders remove caps from the Revolution base, filling it with an epoxy granite.

Splitting the axes reduced base size, but to make the Revolution truly compact, Olofsson had to construct a new sliding guard system. It had to be strong, yet adaptable to all the different machine configurations. "Standard metal guarding would have stuck out too far, taking away from the machine's small-footprint aspect," says Lauchnor. "And metal guarding dents and dings." So the company, together with a materials lab, developed a flexible composite material that rolls up into a compact cartridge. This material, when stretched, is extremely firm but is undamaged by falling parts.

According to Lauchnor, the Revolution's top vertical columns provide true flexibility. The company can outfit these columns for block tooling, a milling spindle, or gun drilling. Other choices include probe gaging, turret tooling, 7-in. Y-axis slide capability, or a grinding spindle.

The single machine base accommodates up to two columns, and the double up to four. Spindles on the columns are heavy duty for milling and grinding, and there is an automatic toolchanger option. According to Lauchnor, a shop's only other alternative to these column configurations is multiple machines with multiple chucking and unchucking.

No matter what configuration the Revolution takes, one common platform control is provided. Olofsson uses a GE Fanuc 16i Series control that handles everything from a 2-axis lathe to a 15-axis transfer line. In addition, a 160i PC-based control is in the works, which would provide linking capabilities for multiple Revolutions.

Revolutionary change
Because of the three modules, Revolutions can change and grow along with a shop's business. To illustrate, consider a shop with a twin-spindle, twin-column, double-base Revolution. Also, say the machine has a flip station between the columns, along with two 12-station live turrets.

After having the machine for six months, the shop's production requirements change. Olofsson technicians can come in and completely reconfigure the machine in one day. They can exchange turrets for something else, such as a milling head or grinding station, and replace the vertical spindles with dual horizontals.

This kind of flexibility let the Revolution beat out a transferline for Olofsson's first order. That particular Revolution, in fact, has a single spindle with three columns and machines automotive differential cases. According to Lauchnor, Olofsson got the order because parts remain chucked, unlike a transferline where parts are chucked and rechucked as they move from station to station, making it easy to lose a datum or reference point.

"The customer had a dial-index machine drilling a four-hole case," says Lauchnor, "but wanted to increase that amount to five. This would have been a major redesign and upgrade on a transferline, but for the Revolution, it was a program change.

Pinpointing a target
Olofsson refers to its target market for the Revolution as the "customerized" segment, which lies between commodity and custom-built machine tools. This is where customers want a machine custom-built for them but at the affordable price and short lead time of a commodity system.

"We see more of our customers embracing the idea of a non-spec machine," comments Lauchnor. "They no longer specify exactly what type of components, such as valves, circuit breakers, and the like, to use when building their machine." With this in mind, Olofsson developed its machine concept, which gives customers 70% of their specs and fills orders in 16 to 20 weeks, as opposed to 32 to 38 weeks.

Because of the Revolution, Olofsson can now offer its current customer base manufacturing solutions besides dedicated, application-driven, custom-built machines. And the company foresees expanding into industries beyond automotive, such as recreational truck, agriculture, appliance, aerospace, and others engaged in continuous production of round parts. Also, because the Revolution is so easily reconfigured, its builder believes it will be popular in low-part-volume shops as well.

To make things easier, Olofsson's website lets customers "build their own Revolution." While on the site,, users can configure a machine, print product brochures, send service/part requests, and receive an on-line proposal.

On the commodity side

PCC Olofsson builds its Evolution and PTH 2015 commodity machines using the same modular components as on the Revolution.

According to John Lauchnor, the Revolution was the result of a strategic positioning between traditional commodity-type and custom-built machines. However, at the same time, Olofsson also developed two other machines, the PTH 2015 and the Evolution, both standard-package machines built with the company's modular components. These models and the Revolution will be sold direct and through distribution.

The PTH 2015 is a five-axis horizontal lathe with a 20-hp main spindle and 15-hp subspindle. Both spindles accommodate barstock up to 2-in. in diameter, so each could run identical parts simultaneously. Richard Ormrod explains why this second horizontal spindle was not designed as a subspindle:

"The main issues that buyers or users of subspindle machines have are the lack of size, horsepower, and C-axis capability. We incorporate all three into the Revolution's spindles, including the one considered a subspindle."

In addition, spindle nose type, speed, and swing are the same on both spindles — A2-6, 4,000 rpm, and 10 in. Dual C axes and 8-in. chucks are standard, as is tool touch probe, air blow on both spindles, and barfeed/loader interface.

Axis travels for X, Z, and B measure 7, 20, and 20 in., respectively. The PTH 2015's out-of-cut times are short, with rapid traverse rates of 630 ipm in X and 945 ipm in both Z and B. Thrust in the Z is 1,500 lb, and that axis, along with the X, feature Heidenhain scales.

A 12-position turret on the 2015 indexes in 0.2 sec, handles VDI-40 tooling, and has live-tooling capability. The machine's control is a GE Fanuc 16iT with 64 offsets, macro B, and more. Also included in the PTH 2015 package is a chip conveyor measuring 50 in. at its discharge height.

PCC Olofsson's Evolution is a two-axis vertical lathe built with components from both the PTH 2015 and Revolution machines. Its slide and turret come from the 2015, while the Revolution lends its base, column, and spindle.

Evolution bases feature X and Z-axis strokes of 7 and 14 in., with a Z-axis thrust of 1,500 lb and rapid traverse rates of 1,000 ipm. Its maximum swing is 22 in., and the machine turns diameters up to 16 in., along with lengths and facing diameters to 14 in.

An integral, 30-hp motor turns the Evolution's spindle up to 5,000 rpm. Hydraulic indexing and clamping position tools in the 12-station turret that accepts quick-change tooling. Like the PTH 2015, the Evolution features a GE Fanuc 16iT control, Heidenhain scales, and standard chip conveyor.

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