• Alex Boeger

CNC Turning: How Swiss Screw Machines Work

When discussing CNC capabilities in Kingston, the swiss screw machine cannot miss the spotlight. This machine is also called a swiss lathe. It is a version of an enhanced lathe producing small, complex parts suited for jobs that need short runs of small, complicated parts without error.


CNC Capabilities in Kingston: What is Swiss Screw Machine?

“Screw machine”, from the appellation itself might be misleading as it does not actually screw anything nor thread materials. However, it is one of the functions of CNC lathe machine. Swiss lathe is among the automated lathes that can machine turned parts. It shapes the components by holding a workpiece from the ends and middle while tools mold the workpiece from multiple sides.


Turret screw machine is a CNC machine close to swiss screw. It achieves the same results even if it functions differently from swiss. Turret machines on the other hand are no longer manufactured but are still being used by other shops.


What is Turret Screw Machine?

Turret screw machine is also called a Brown & Sharpe, which was originated from its first manufacturer. Instead of the rotary slide, turret machine mounts the workpiece on a vertical ram that works into the lathe. It clamps the workpiece in the middle of a rotating turret with different tooling installed on it. In the course of shaping the workpiece, it rotates the turret to use different tooling, sometimes simultaneously, until the part is completed. Then, it will release the finish product and move the workpiece up to create the next part.


Just like CNC swiss machine, the benefits and output are essentially the same. It also comes equipped with a transfer attachment that can also act as a double spindle.


How Swiss Screw Machine Works?

A swiss lathe works pretty much like an altered lathe wherein it can spin a workpiece in order to sculpt it. Nonetheless, there are still key differences between the two CNC machines.

  • Firstly, a swiss machine no longer needs to rotate the workpiece just to carve it, although it can.

  • Swiss machining operates by moving the workpiece along with the z axis, that’s why the tooling doesn’t move as in a lathe machine.

  • Lastly, screw machines feature a bushing and collet for holding the workpiece. As a result, the tooling always cuts it into millimeters from the edge of where it is held. The machine is capable of machining up to 13 axes and performing milling and threading machine operations.

The abovementioned features of Swiss Screw machine offer a lot of advantages to produce intricate, high precision CNC-machined parts and products. It can even have a length and width radio as extreme as 20:1 since the workpiece is shaped right next to the bushing. With the stability it offers, it can avoid bending of the tool, enabling higher accuracy, and allowing the piece to be sculpted at many points simultaneously.


Types of Swiss Screw Machine

CNC Capabilities in Kingston offer two types of Swiss Screw Machines – Automatic Swiss Machine and CNC Swiss Machine. Let us discuss further below their capabilities and differences.


Automatic Swiss Machine

The automatic swiss machine mounts the workpieces on a rotary slide. It functions with a disc cam that rotates the tools to the workpiece bay. It is where it is held in place by spindle collets. The collets then hold the workpiece in place. On the other hand, the disc cam is in charge of moving the tool in a radial motion. It alters headstock positioning afterwards to account for the longitudinal discrepancies with the workpiece.


Thanks to the very close spindle collets! Swiss screw machine became popular for preventing deflected debris from becoming a problem.


CNC Swiss Machine

Also known as CNC turning machines or lathes. It operates with the same principle as automatic swiss screw machine apart from the fact that it is controlled by a CNC unit. It can quickly perform multiple operations on the same piece due to the computer’s increased direction. It rotates a part at up to 10,000 rpm at an accuracy level of 0.0002 to 0.0005 inches.

Similarly, a swiss screw machine can perform several functions but with insufficient precision and swiftness like CNC units.


As compared to a standard screw machine with “single spindle”, CNC swiss screw machine can apply more tooling fixtures with the possibility of a double spindle. Even without the supervision of an operator, the machine can operate by itself. Thus, saving more time for the production. Parts are transferred automatically from the screw machine to the other machine, where secondary operations are handled by an operator.


Automatic Swiss Machine vs. CNC Swiss Machine

Both machines are relatively cost-efficient especially for longer projects. Many CNC machines, once built with proper tool and programmed, can run with one operator’s supervision. Similarly, swiss screw machine is able to perform higher precision work mainly because of the tight, close quarters of the collet, workpiece, and tooling. So, multiple factors are at play in process selection.


CNC Swiss Screw Machine Applications

Due to mostly unsupervised production methods, quick production times and low variable costs, swiss machines became very much popular. They can produce a large scale of small, precision parts relatively quickly at low cost. Both exotic and common metals with varied strengths and composition can be handled by swiss machines. They are widely applicable and present in manufacturing screws for industrial, medical, aerospace, defense, and musical instrument components.


They are also currently used in the following industries:

  • Automotive

  • IT

  • Agriculture

  • Defense

  • Consumer electronics

  • Construction

  • Aerospace

  • Power

  • Medical

Final Thoughts

There is an increasing demand for machines and advanced procedures in order to produce high-quality precision parts at a low cost. With that, machines are continuously innovated to increase and/or improve their capabilities. Swiss screw machine is a type of machining equipment developed with the purpose of great precision and efficiency.

If you are interested to know how Co-op Concept and Fabrication can help you with one of the CNC capabilities in Kingston, give us a call! You may also check out our recent works to give you broader information on what we do in our fabrication shop in New York.

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