The spindle is considered the machine’s heart and is usually designed with its application and precise specifications in mind. However, whether used for grinding, turning, or milling, different types of spindles experience various failures or breakdowns. These necessitate varying repair procedures, frequently resulting in unnecessary spindle repair costs.
Nonetheless, it is possible to avoid spindle failure, extend your spindle’s life, and optimize efficiency and output by following simple guidelines. While all spindles have a finite lifespan, proper maintenance prolongs their usability, making them more cost-effective in the long run.
This article will cover essential tips for maximizing the life of different spindle types — grinding, milling, and lathe.
What Are the Different Spindle Types?
Different types of spindles are used for various applications. Hence, you must first understand the type of spindle used for each application to fully understand how to extend their life.
Grinding spindles are used for applications ranging from rough shop bench grinding to precise CNC machining. They are also used to work with materials such as metal, plastic, stone, wood, glass, and polymer blends. You can use several kinds of spindles as grinding spindles, including the following:
- Motorized spindles that equip traditional grinding wheels for grinding tasks
- Traditional grinders for CBN grinding wheels
- CNC-controlled motorized spindles
Milling spindles are often used to cut a workpiece. The milling tool is usually accommodated by other devices, such as hollow shaft tapers (HSK) or quick-release tapers (SK). The most common types of spindles for milling include belt-driven spindles, direct-drive spindles, and motorized spindles.
The lathe spindle connects the headstock to the axle of the lathe engine. Like the other types, these spindles are used for machine-cutting parts and components.
Lathe spindles are available in several kinds. Belt-driven spindles are standard on older lathes; they take longer to spin up and slow down. On modern lathes, however, direct-drive spindles are standard. They can achieve top spindle speeds up to twice as fast as belt-drive models, making them ideal for high-volume manufacturing.
How Do You Extend Your Spindle’s Life?
Whether you have a grinding spindle, milling spindle, or lathe spindle, improving the spindle’s life requires a careful combination of proper care and a thorough understanding of the component. In addition to professional-level preventative maintenance and inspection, the following basic guidelines can help reduce downtime and save money on CNC spindle repair or replacement:
1. Always Check for Spindle Taper Wear or “Bell Mouth”
It is critical to perform regular checks on the spindle taper, which is the part that wears the quickest. It is exposed to the elements and the most easily damaged by metal shavings and debris.
You can check for defects in the taper by measuring total indicated runout (TIR) in the taper and also measuring TIR over a precision test bar. The TIR or the Total Indicated Runout means the distance measured between the biggest plus measurement and the smallest minus measurement for the total amount indicated. If the measurement differs significantly, you may have a problem at hand.
You can also blue up a known good toolholder and use it to check in the spindle. Setting aside a toolholder for this testing is recommended to ensure that it is a valuable and pertinent reference. If you get less than 75% contact with the taper, there is a problem.
2. Examine the Toolholder for Fretting and Taper Wear
Excessive and potentially serious wear occurs when a toolholder slips within the spindle. A good spindle taper does not always imply a good toolholder taper. If your spindle taper is more rigid than your toolholder tapers, they should bear the brunt of the wear. Begin by carefully inspecting your toolholders for minor scratches and discoloration, especially near the big end. Moreover, keep an eye out for fretting wear, which occurs when two steel parts rub against each other.
3. Regularly Check Pull Studs for Signs of Wear or Damage
Pull studs, also known as retention knobs, are consumable parts that are screwed into the top of a toolholder. It is held in place by either a finger or a ball-bearing gripper. The drawbar then grips the pull stud to tighten the toolholder into the spindle taper.
A pull stud has an average lifespan of two to three years. However, this can considerably shorten, depending on the damage it endures. Thus, it is vital to regularly check your pull studs for wear, cracks, or other damage and replace those in poor condition. When replacing a pull stud, clean and degrease the thread, then apply thread locking compound (low or medium force, not high force) and torque to specifications.
4. Keep Everything Clean
Cleanliness is crucial for spindle and toolholder durability. Contaminants can cause poor TIR and influence the premature wear of several parts, so you must maintain the cleanliness of all toolholders, collets, collet nuts, and cutter shanks.
5. Check the Drawbar Force
Low drawbar force puts the spindle at risk. You could damage a toolholder by spinning it in the taper, or if the force is strong enough, the drawbar could lose grip and send the toolholder flying. On average, you should check the drawbar force every six months to ensure it will last one million cycles.
6. Ensure Adequate Lubrication and Vibration
Be on the lookout for excessive vibration. Any unusual vibration is a warning sign that something is wrong and should be investigated. If you have an air/oil lubricator, ensure the lubricants are clean and the air-intake filters are in good working order.
The Best CNC Spindle Repair by RMR
RMR Spindle Repair, Inc. is a global repairer of machine tools. We ensure the use of the highest quality testing equipment, lubrication systems, motors, acoustic control systems, balance and process control systems, and other spindle machine parts when sourcing our spindle repair parts and accessories.
We are also proud of our facility and equipment, which give us unrivaled capabilities for completing the best spindle repair and other spindle-related work. By partnering with us, you can avoid downtime and save money. Contact us today for a consultation, and we will discuss the best possible repair solutions for your needs.