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Benefits of an automatic tool changer and how it works

automatic tool change drill

Automating CNC tasks wherever possible in the shop is one of the best ways to reduce your overall production timelines without sacrificing precision or quality.

Manually performing multiple tool processes is one of the especially time-consuming tasks that can slow you down significantly if you have to stay nearby and babysit your CNC router. Not only does the need to be present slow production, but having to pause jobs to manually change tools also wastes time that could be better spent elsewhere.

This is where an automatic tool changer can have a serious impact. An automatic tool changer or ATC is one of the most beneficial forms of automation you can implement within your CNC operation, helping you seamlessly change tools in seconds without having to pause operation.

Here is a closer look at what an automatic tool changer is, how it works, and the advantages of adding it to your CNC process.

What is an automatic tool changer?

An automatic tool changer improves the production and tool-carrying capacity of a CNC machine by changing tools very quickly without the help of a manual operator. In doing so, the ATC dramatically reduces downtime on a given project.

ATCs are generally used to improve the capacity of a machine to work with several tools at one time, but they can also be used to change out worn or broken tools. There are generally two types of automatic tool changers rotary-style and linear-style which vary in the number of tools present within the changer.

An automatic tool changer typically consists of:

  • Base
  • Gripper arm
  • Tool holder
  • Support arm
  • Tool magazines (where the tools are stored)

How does an automatic tool changer work?

Once set up on your CNC machine, an automatic tool changer follows a quick set of steps to swap tools in and out. Heres how it works.

  1. The tool change command is given to the machine via the computer.
  2. The tool to be changed assumes a fixed position known as the tool change position.
  3. The ATC spindle moves to that position to pick up the tool.
  4. The z-axis moves between the machine tool rack/rotary to pick up/drop off tooling.
  5. Internally, the spindle opens or closes the chuck to exchange tooling before returning back to work.

In a matter of seconds, an ATC enables you to switch tools automatically without any need for human involvement (apart from programming the change).

What are the benefits of an automatic tool changer?

An automatic CNC tool changer has numerous significant benefits in the shop, including:

  • Ability to switch between a large number of tools without requiring a human operator
  • Increased accuracy
  • Increased efficiency
  • Reduced labor cost
  • Reduced downtime and total production time
  • Increased tool storage capacity
  • Increased machine versatility
  • Increased safety for employees and equipment
  • Ability to change larger and heavier tools with ease
  • Increased edge finish due to more appropriate tooling per process

Increase your efficiency and production quality with help from ShopSabre

At ShopSabre, our in-house engineering talent has extensive expertise in motion control and always aims to provide hobbyists and shop owners alike with unmatched precision, efficiency, and versatility.

We offer a variety of CNC machine automatic tool changers as well as many accessories that are compatible with ATCs, including dust docks, containment skirts, aggregate and c-axis attachments, and more. Our tool changers are available in both linear and rotary solutions with 5 or 10 positions on most models, with the option to start with 5 and update to 10 at a later date if needed.

Whatever your goals may be, we are dedicated to helping you produce outstanding results at a fraction of the labor and cost.

Here are a few of the reasons ShopSabre is able to develop and produce such revolutionary CNC technology:

  • Experienced in-house engineering talent
  • The ability to totally fabricate and test designs onsite
  • The ability to place the designs into production in-house

Shop our wide range collection of CNC routers and CNC plasmas in Minneapolis today to experience CNC the way it was meant to be.

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