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Double duty: tips for Swiss tooling stations


July/August 2011 Volume 4 Issue 4


By Kip Hanson

Guest Author

Ever set up a Swiss-style machine and run out of tooling stations? With many Swiss machines today boasting upwards of 20 or even 30 tooling stations, it’s hard to believe you might run short. But on older or smaller machines, as well as when running complex jobs involving multiple operations, this is sometimes the case.

To solve this problem, many machine shops resort to something machinists are good at: improvisation.

Richard Waters, shop manager for Aerospace Contacts LLC, Tempe, Ariz., said, “On some older machines, you don’t have anywhere near as many stations as on the newer equipment. Then you’ve got to figure it out yourself.”

Three ID tools held in a square-shank Genbore holder. Photo courtesy GenSwiss.

According to Waters, some of the shop’s older machines have just three end-working stations. “If you only need a center, a drill and a boring bar, you’re fine, but if you also need a form drill and reamer, you’d need to use a gang-style holder in a square-shank station, then put the center drills and boring bars on the gang tools.”

Another trick that Waters shared is mounting an endmill, center drill or engraving tool in the end of a slotting-saw holder. Depending on toolholder orientation, this would allow for end slotting, OD milling and engraving, or OD slotting and various end-working operations—all from the same station.

“Back in the day,” Waters noted, toolholders such as these were homemade. Now, they’re commercially and readily available from some toolmakers.

One is Genevieve Swiss Industries Inc., an importer, marketer and manufacturer of Swiss-style tools since 2002 under the brand name GenSwiss. Said Scott Laprade, marketing manager for Westfield, Mass.-based GenSwiss, “The company was formed out of necessity. The owner of the company was once an applications engineer for a Citizen (Swiss-style machine) distributor, and, at the time, there was a lack of knowledgeable sources for Swiss-style products. There wasn’t really any kind of go-to expert on the subject. We’ve grown the company based on that expertise.”

Slotting, drilling and milling with one holder. Photo courtesy GenSwiss.

In addition to offering cutting tools and toolholders—from zero corner radius turning tools to machine-specific live-tool spindles and cutting attachments—GenSwiss offers its own version of the gang-style holder. “That’s actually something that one of our customers designed for use in their own facility,” said Laprade. “They found that, more often than not, they were running out of ID positions, whereas with their turning operations they could get by with two or three tools. It’s a pretty powerful thing to have on your machine, especially on some of the older-style machines.”

And remember that slotting saw trick? GenSwiss also offers a saw arbor that can do just that. “When you have limited live-tool positions, you can do two operations using that toolholder,” Laprade said. “It’s a simple yet effective concept. We always try to accommodate the guys on the shop floor, especially when they run into problems and are looking for an easy solution.”

Another old dog doing new tricks is Genevieve’s UTILIS Drill-Bore system, a line of specialty boring tools. These tools are capable of plunging into a workpiece like a drill, then finish boring—all without a pilot hole. But surely this pilot-hole-free process is only good for soft materials like brass or aluminum? “Not at all,” Laprade replied. “We have a number of medical customers using the Drill-Bore to drill and finish holes as small as 0.016" in medical-grade stainless steel.”

Shops can eliminate roughing by back-turning on a Swiss-style machine. Photo courtesy WhizCut.

Sounds nifty, but like many tools for Swiss-style machines, they’re not cheap. At $65 to $80 a pop, you’d better think twice before unlocking your toolcrib. But the value of the Drill-Bore, according to Laprade, is being a complete and productivity-improving ID working system.

Another company with Swiss solutions is WhizCut/USA Inc., Little Rock, Ark. Chris Schmidt, managing director at WhizCut AB’s headquarters in Helsingborg, Sweden, said: “We have always seen ourselves as problem solvers for our customers. We frequently see Swiss-type automatics using conventional inserts, which are not designed for Swiss turning. This often means you need two inserts to do the same job as a Swiss-style insert.”

Schmidt cited one customer who required back-turning a workpiece with a 20mm diameter down to 8mm. “Previously, he was taking four passes with a roughing insert, then using a fine-turning insert for the last diameter,” he said. “We came in and introduced our B-style insert, where he could plunge and back-turn the whole diameter in one pass.”

Like GenSwiss, WhizCut also offers boring products. “Our WhizIn toolholder allows the boring bar to be clamped into a square shank location, freeing up an end-working station,” said Schmidt. “Also, the WhizIn boring bars are clamped at an angle, and their special design gives up to 50 percent more ‘meat’ at the critical point of the tool, enhancing tool stability.”

Tooling for Swiss-style machines that can perform double duty not only solves setup challenges caused by too few stations, but, in some cases, the tooling also reduces wasted machine movement and indexing time. When seconds count, that makes perfect sense. µ


Kip Hanson is a manufacturing consultant and freelance writer. telephone: (520) 548-7328. E-mail: Telephone: (520) 548-7328. E-mail: