It has been 25 years since the vertical machining centres development and production started in the city of Zlín. Although the company name has changed in the course of the final decade of the last century, the vertical machining centres from ZPS and subsequently from TAJMAC-ZPS always found their way to the customers. The very beginnings fall into the nineties when alternative options and markets were sought to replace the existing production of machines — then-favoured horizontal centres MCFH 40 and FQH 50A. The transition to a dominant position of the vertical centres production brought considerable demands on the designing works, production and assembly as well as the finalizations of the machines.
Although the changes of the production line were complicated, we utilized our vast technological and logistical experience from the previous production. Of course, it was necessary to respond to the requirements of demanding customers by application of modern components. When designing each assembly units of the machine we had to use new components which were, only few years back, unavailable to us. The initial enthusiasm and effort during development and production bore its fruits. The production of the machines successfully begun and thanks to a breakthrough to the demanding European and American markets, it continued in a wide diversity of models and versions. The machines had different names for different customers. The original names, MCFV 100 and 125 evolved through customer’s denomination VMC up to the present-day MCFV 1060i and 1260i. In terms of size, production of smaller machines VMC 560, VMC 760, VMC 840 begun, followed by the standard sized MCFV 1060 and MCFV 1260, up to MCFV 1680 and MCFV 2080 with 2 meters travel range. Our customers also favoured the MCFV 1050. The basic design and structure of the machines were similar. The total number of produced machines exceeded 4000. A dominant part within this number had machines for the American market, next for the Italian and German market. These machines mainly utilized the HSC technology for mould machining. The machines were and still are manufactured with various peripherals, accessories and equipment often according to the requirements of the customers. We also built the MCFV 125 DUO machines with two parallel spindles on one spindle head.
In our historical portfolio we have machines equipped with various types of tool changers, with manual and automatic pallet changers, spindles for miscellaneous types of tool holders, spindles with direct drive, spindles with transmissions, even electrospindles with up to 18 000 rpm, automatically changed external electrospindles with up to 8 000 rpm, single-axis and dual-axis rotary tables, workpiece and tool measuring probes or scanning probes for digitization of the workpiece sample. The machines were equipped with a direct or indirect measuring system of the coordinate axes or direct measuring of the spindle position which is suitable e.g. for rigid tapping. Optional equipment also included various types of chip conveyors, outer and inner tool cooling, oil-mist lubrication of tools or vapour exhaustion devices. The machines were also equipped with electromagnetic clamping plates, main spindle arresting system, linear tool changers for high-speed electrospindle tools or positioning angle heads.
The machines were provided with a wide range of CNC control systems and drives which brought high demands on their implementation as well as on the work of the programmers. Each control system has its own specificity, parametrization and own PLC by which it is adapted to control the actual machine version. Their abilities and application requirements changed and improved in time. Within a quarter-century we have applied the Yasnac, Dynapath, Allen-Bradley, Acramatic, Heidenhain, Siemens, Selca, Fanuc, Okuma CNC control systems to our machines. Each implementation brings high demands both on the application itself and operational and service assurance.
In the course of time the machine mechanics were improved and optimized. The roller-bearing guideways were replaced by linear guideways. The main spindle two-speed belt transmission was replaced by the planetary gearbox. Lost-oil lubrication system was substituted by grease lubrication which has a great ecological aspect. Our demanding customers also exerted great pressure on variability and technical parameters of the machines. This was one of the reasons why a range of vertical centres went through many waves of innovations which effected the components used on the machine, the workzone, adaptation and application of the peripherals and the machine design.
Nowadays, the machines already went through a fifth innovation wave, not only because of the internet of things and the Industry 4.0 for which is the machine technically prepared. This innovation is aimed at utility value increase, extension of the technological capabilities and last but not least at the overall design including the enclosure of the workzone. From operator’s point of view, it is hard to overlook the new, ergonomic shape of the control panel with a sturdy touch panel which corresponds to the contemporary requirements on machine operation. Connection to the company network enabling transmission of relevant data and controlling programmes is already a commonplace for our machines as well as utilization of the remote diagnostics when solving hot problems on the machine or just for general support of the operator. The vast diagnostic system of the machine can identify various faults or inappropriate technological conditions applied on the machine. Thanks to applied vibrodiagnistcs we are capable to carry out both a prophylactic check of the main spindle bearings and continuous monitoring of actual vibrations generated by the technological process, thus able to influence the process automatically. The travel ranges of each coordinate axis have increased as well as the maximal machinable dimensions of the workpiece. The spindle head enables installation of more powerful spindle units which again increases the technological capabilities of this already powerful machine. Application of a new type of absolute measuring systems eliminates the need of axes referencing after switching the machine on. Between all new technologically interesting functionalities also belongs an application enabling the FSW process, the Friction Stir Welding — joining of several parts into one whole using special tools with the possibility of subsequent multilateral machining using standard technologies after welding of individual parts. The tool change has also been optimized so it is now quicker. The tools can be heavier and the tool magazine enables loading of longer tools. The pallet changer has been generally redesigned which now dominantly removes idle times due to manipulation with workpieces. By energizing the pallets on our machines, the capabilities of the whole machining process are significantly extended as even a transferred pallet can have a rotary table or controlled clamping elements installed. It is also possible to connect a handling robot which even more rigidly expands the technological capabilities of the whole assembly set and supports its operator-free operation.
In the following years we intend to extend the support of the end users even more and be forthcoming when it comes to their requirements for the functionality of the machines for special applications. The omnipresent digitization and the new Industry 4.0 platform open.
Dalibor Odstrčilík, MSc, TAJMAC-ZPS CNC division Design Department.