How Does a Swiss Screw Machine Work?

For many machinists and manufacturing managers, buying new machine tools can be an intimidating process. There are so many different types of machines on the market with a multitude of specifications to consider.

A Swiss lathe is a versatile machine tool that we can use for many different purposes. The first thing that comes to our minds about "Swiss Lathe" is a tool for producing threads or other geometries on the surface of an object by turning down parts with several techniques.

While this is still an everyday use, so many more applications are available thanks to advancements in technology and design - from woodturning to intricate metal parts fabrication.

What Is a Swiss Lathe?

The Swiss-type lathe, also known as a Swiss automatic lathe, Swiss screw machine, or Swiss turning machine, was originally designed for manufacturing timepieces in Switzerland. In the 1870s, the first Swiss-type machine was produced after the collet chuck was patented. Around the 1960s, various sectors increasingly utilized Swiss-type machines, and CNC Swiss machines were released in the 1970s.

With the advancement of technology and equipment, Swiss lathes' designs have improved dramatically. They are increasingly employed to manufacture components in a variety of industries. When compared to traditional machining, Swiss machining has several advantages.

What Is a Screw Machine?

Old School Manual Machine - KSI Swiss

A screw machine is a type of lathe that can shape hard materials (usually metal) into precisely designed components. Most of this equipment revolves around rotating a workpiece at high speeds while being operated on by various changing cutting tools.

Before the 1840s, "screw machining" referred to any operation that involved screw manufacture. It was termed a "screw machine" when Stephen Finch introduced the turret lathe in 1845. Joseph R. Brown modified the original turret lathe, previously manually operated, in 1860 with an upgrade. And the machine's motions could now be mechanically automated using drum cans. During this period, these devices were referred to as automatic screw machines. In contrast, the earlier versions were known as manual screw machines.

In the 1950s, machining technology advanced even more as it was computerized. These machines were hereafter referred to as CNC screw machines. They were now a part of the same family of automatic screw machines. Today, any screw machine that requires little to no human labor is called an automatic screw machine.

Types of Screw Machines

There are two types of screw machines, the Swiss and Turret.

The name "Swiss Screw Machine" comes from the fact that it was used initially in Switzerland, where watchmakers employed it for precision parts on a rotary slide that then spins to allow the screw machine to cut the implement to the required size. After its inventor, the Turret type, commonly known as the Brown & Sharpe, works with a vertical ram into a lathe to make high-precision parts in large quantities.

Types of Swiss Screw Machines

There are two main types of Swiss screw machines: automatic and CNC.

Automatic Swiss Screw Machine

A Swiss automatic screw machine is an automated lathe with tool holders distributed radially around the spindle and a tailstock coaxial to it. It's made for the rapid production of minute, high-precision components. Disc cams radially move the tools and alter headstock positioning to compensate for parallel differences in the workpiece. The close spindle collets on the automatic Swiss screw machine prevent debris from deflecting, avoiding any obstacle.

CNC Swiss Screw Machine

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Swiss Screw machine is a Swiss-type screw machine that offers greater accuracy and performance to manufacturing processes. Multiple sets of tooling may carry procedures together and in quick succession. At the same time, the workpiece rotates on a rotating lathe in this process.

The CNC screw machine offers a lot of versatility. It may be used with numerous tooling fixtures and has the potential of a double spindle, unlike standard screw machines that are generally "single spindle."

Due to their cost-efficiency and flexibility, automatic Swiss screw and CNC Swiss screw machines are excellent choices for longer projects. Many machines may run under one operator once properly tooled and program-oriented; as a result, they are quite cost-effective for extended projects.

They also have a higher precision since the tight, confined spaces of the collet, workpiece, and tooling allow for more precise operations. They also have a higher accuracy since the tight, confined spaces of the collet, workpiece, and tooling allow for more specific functions.

How Do Swiss Lathes Work?

The workpiece is held in a chuck or collet. It extends into the machine enclosure as a cantilever supported by the tailstock in a standard lathe with a fixed headstock. The headstock of a Swiss machine rotates, which distinguishes it from other types. Bar stock is fed into a chucking collet in the headstock, where it is clamped. A guide bushing leads the bar through the tooling area. During machining, the bar is radially located by a guide bushing that finds it in the z-direction. The headstock spins back and forth precisely in the z-direction, carrying the bar with it.

The turning tools hit the bar near the guide bushing, typically within 1 mm to 3 mm. The bar's motion provides the feed for this cutting action.

What is a Swiss Lathe? KSI Swiss
How does a Swiss Lathe work? KSI Swiss

Holders for fixed single-point or other equipment may be mounted to gang slides, and live tooling is often supported. Several machines have a secondary spindle, additional working tool stations, and sometimes more turrets carrying extra instruments.

What Are Swiss Screw Machine Products?

Screw machine product producers create components and goods for clients in various sensitive and critical applications/industries, including household appliances, construction, manufacturing, automotive manufacturing, electronics components, laboratory, military and defense, and medicine and healthcare.

Despite what their name implies, screw machines produce more than just screws. Through various cost-effective mechanical and CNC machining methods, screw machines have a wide variety of parts and products. Examples include

  • both standard and custom bio-implants
  • fittings
  • miniature medical instruments
  • metal knobs
  • specialty fasteners
  • spindles
  • splines
  • keyways
  • threaded rods
  • tire gauges

Today, CNC Swiss machining is commonly used to create swiss machined parts and components used in:

  • Agriculture
  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Construction
  • Consumer electronics
  • Government and military
  • Hydraulics
  • Lawn and garden
  • Musical instruments
  • Medical devices and equipment
  • Power equipment and power distribution

If you're looking for Swiss screw machine manufacturers or Swiss screw machine parts, the best place to go is KSI Swiss. We have the expertise needed to guide your company in finding the correct type of screw machines for your needs. Contact us today, and we'll be happy to answer your questions.