Expanding capabilities with a new teach-style CNC lathe is a game-changer for any machine shop. Unparalleled efficiency smooths production processes, enabling quicker turnaround times and increased output. In today’s manufacturing environment, a conversational CNC lathe is crucial for competitiveness and client satisfaction.

What were the key factors you considered when shopping for Expanding Capabilities with a New Lathe?

When we embarked on our search for a new lathe, we initially compiled a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. Precision and accuracy were our foremost priorities, followed closely by versatility. As a job shop, we handle a diverse range of turning projects, so it was imperative that our new lathe expanded our capabilities. Subsequently, automation and efficiency became crucial considerations. We had become aware of numerous safety advancements since our last lathe purchase, and given our unwavering commitment to operator safety, ensuring access to these features was paramount. Finally, we emphasized reliability and support as the last two items on our must-have list.

Must Haves:

  • Precision & Accuracy
  • Versatility
  • Automation
  • Latest Safety Features
  • Reliability
  • Support

Nice to Haves:

  • CNC Programming
  • High Pressure Coolant
  • LED Lighting
  • Electric Tool Post
  • Live tooling
  • Lights-Out Operation

In addition, our list of nice-to-haves encompassed CNC programming, high-pressure coolant, interior LED lighting, and an electric tool post. While live tooling was considered, we determined that the milling, drilling, and associated capabilities were not immediately necessary. Furthermore, as we were intrigued by lights out manufacturing, we also explored the possibility of incorporating remote monitoring and control.

How did you find precision and accuracy across different makes and models?

Indeed, achieving NASA-space-station-0.000000001” accuracy is attainable with the right investment. However, since our applications do not require such extreme precision for spacecraft or microscopic medical devices, we promptly dismissed lathes exceeding the $200k mark. Instead, we explored the options available within a more reasonable price range. We discovered that CNC lathes from China, priced around $10k, offer satisfactory performance for tolerances of 0.01” or greater. Given our requirement for precision within the 0.0002-0.0006” range, we recognized the need for mid-market equipment of higher quality.

When evaluating precision, we found that while many lathes can produce accurate parts initially, maintaining consistent accuracy over repeated operations is not guaranteed. Given our frequent orders for 50+ identical parts, we prioritized repeatability, recognizing its significance in our production processes. The lathes in the KAAST lineup stood out to us due to their exceptional build quality. Featuring oversized heavy cast Meehanite bases that undergo stress relief, these lathes offer enhanced stability and dimensional integrity. Additionally, the hardened, precision ground, high-frequency heat-treated bed ways further contribute to the accuracy and precision required for our operations, setting them apart from lower-priced alternatives.

What kind of versatility were you looking for in your new lathe?

As a job shop, our operations are dynamic, and we are constantly faced with new challenges. However, we have encountered situations where we had to decline significant projects due to limitations with our current lathe, such as the narrow spindle bore and short distance between centers (DBC). Recognizing the need for enhanced capabilities, we began exploring options to address these shortcomings.

Expanding Capabilities with a New Lathe into larger diameter turning has been on our radar, prompting us to consider solutions like a gap bed to accommodate larger workpieces. The versatility offered by a gap bed would provide us with the flexibility to handle a wider range of projects and increase our turning capacity.

Fortunately, KAAST lathes offer a range of options to meet our specific requirements. With spindle bores ranging from 2 to 12 inches and DBC of up to 23.5 feet, these lathes provide ample room for maneuverability and accommodate various workpiece sizes. Moreover, the inclusion of features like steady-rest and taper attachment further enhances the functionality and versatility of our new lathe, making it an ideal choice for expanding our capabilities.

What automation did you consider, and what did you ultimately go with, when expanding capabilities with a New Lathe?

We were determined to find a lathe that offered simplicity in operation. Many of the manual machines we evaluated presented a daunting array of levers, knobs, and switches, requiring intricate maneuvers just to engage the spindle, let alone execute threading, facing, or finishing tasks. Nevertheless, we were adamant about incorporating features like rapid carriage travel and auto-feed for threading.

While we take pride in our team of master manual machinists, who possess an innate ability to craft prototypes with remarkable precision, we encountered challenges in maintaining tolerances with newer operators. Despite their proficiency in G-Code, allowing them to utilize CNC lathe controllers for precision work, we were hesitant to invest in two separate machines – a manual engine lathe and a CNC lathe.

Our search led us to discover the KAAST C-Turn CNCs, equipped with conversational teach-style Fagor controls. These innovative CNC lathes offer a multitude of benefits, streamlining operations and boosting efficiency. Unlike traditional CNC models reliant on complex G-code programming, teach-style lathes boast user-friendly interfaces, simplifying command input and reducing the learning curve for operators. This translates to faster setup times and ultimately, quicker production turnaround, a crucial factor in expanding our capabilities with a new lathe.

Moreover, conversational CNC lathes empower machinists to effortlessly create intricate parts. Operators receive step-by-step guidance and access to pre-programmed templates for common machining tasks. Additionally, the C-Turn CNCs can be operated manually using handwheels. In “teach-in” mode, the Fagor 0i controller seamlessly translates manual movements into editable programs, facilitating rapid prototyping and real-time adjustments.

After thorough experimentation with the controller in the KAAST showroom, we reached the conclusion that a CNC lathe featuring this innovative control system perfectly aligned with our requirements.

Pros and Cons of Conversational Programming in Machine Tools:

Pros

Ease of use: Conversational programming allows operators with limited programming knowledge to easily program machine tools. This can help reduce the learning curve for new operators and increase productivity.

Time-saving: Conversational programming can save time compared to manually writing code for simple machining operations. Operators can quickly input parameters and generate code without needing to spend time learning programming languages or consulting reference materials.

Flexibility: Conversational programming can be used for a wide variety of machining operations, from simple drilling to more complex milling and turning operations.

Error reduction: The conversational interface can help reduce the likelihood of programming errors by guiding operators through the programming process and highlighting potential issues.

Cons:

Limited precision: Conversational programming may not provide the level of precision needed for complex machining operations. Manual programming may be necessary for these types of operations.

Limited customization: Conversational programming is generally limited to standard machining operations and may not allow for more advanced customization.

Limited functionality: Conversational programming may not provide the same level of functionality as manual programming. Advanced features and functions may not be available.

Compatibility issues: Conversational programming may only be compatible with certain types of machine tools, limiting its usefulness in some manufacturing environments.

What safety features were you looking for during shopping for your new lathe?

Lathe door interlock Expanding Capabilities with a New Lathe

While exploring options to enhance our capabilities with a new lathe, safety remained at the forefront of our considerations. We understood that an injured operator translates to halted production, a scenario detrimental to all involved. Therefore, ensuring the safety of our team was non-negotiable. Safety interlocks on all the doors emerged as the most essential feature, indispensable for safeguarding against potential hazards.

Initially, we deemed Overload Protection a necessity, given its ability to automatically halt the machine upon detecting excessive loads or forces, thus preventing damage or injury. However, upon closer examination of our machining requirements, which primarily involved mild steel, the likelihood of overloading the machine appeared minimal.

The C-Turn CNC boasts safety interlocks on all doors, accompanied by a controller that intuitively identifies which door requires closure for operation. This functionality not only enhances safety but also saves valuable time, particularly for operators familiar with the tedious process of opening and closing multiple lathe doors.

Testimonials from KAAST customers:

How did you determine the reliability and available support of the new lathes you were considering?

We were convinced that engaging with shops already using the machines would provide invaluable insights into their reliability. To this end, we actively sought site visits and customer contact information from all the dealers we consulted. In this regard, the sales team at KAAST went the extra mile, facilitating our access to firsthand experiences.

During our visit to the KAAST showroom, we arranged to meet our salesman at another customer’s shop, further expanding our understanding. The customer we visited spoke highly of their C-Turn CNC, highlighting the marked improvements in their processes and product quality since its acquisition. In terms of reliability, they attested to the lathe’s durability, having run it for three years across two shifts daily without any downtime.

An incident involving a software restore further underscored the reliability of KAAST’s customer service. Despite encountering a PLC error message upon restarting, prompt assistance from KAAST resolved the issue efficiently. This seamless resolution reaffirmed our confidence in both the machine’s reliability and the company’s commitment to customer support. With knowledgeable technicians and a well-stocked parts room, we felt assured that opting for a KAAST lathe placed us in capable hands.

So, what did you end up going with?

The KAAST C-Turn CNC lathe stands out as an exceptional investment opportunity. Its precision engineering guarantees impeccable quality and consistency in every operation, reducing errors and rework. Moreover, its advanced safety features and user-friendly interface streamline production processes, boosting efficiency and minimizing downtime. Additionally, its robust construction ensures long-term reliability, promising a solid return on investment over time.

This lathe is suitable for a wide range of operations, from small-scale enterprises to large manufacturing facilities. It empowers businesses to confidently meet the evolving demands of the industry with precision and efficiency.

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Ready to invest in YOUR next lathe by expanding capabilities with a New Lathe? Be sure to peruse our Buying Your Next Engine Lathe post!