One of the best ways to improve the productivity and output of a CNC plasma machine is automation. Not only does it improve production times, but it also improves the value and quality of output goods. Adding a bar loader to your CNC lathe can help automate a variety of processes.
What is a bar loader?
When it comes to CNC turning centers, there are two types of loaders available: the bar loader and the bar feeder. As the name suggests, both are support equipment attached to the machine’s headstock. It is pre-loaded with lengths of bar stock and fed into the machine at pre-programmed intervals.
As each piece of stock is shaped, the finished piece is cut loose, allowing the loader to pass more material into the lathe. This is done automatically, with the finished pieces dropping into a catcher for later retrieval. Since the feeders and the milling process are all programmed automatically, the engineer needs only to load fresh stock in the loader.
How does a bar loader differ from a bar feeder?
The bar loader is the cheaper and smaller option of the two types. These loaders feed stock material into a CNC machine up to a little over the length of the machine’s spindle in size. As a bar loader does not support the material it feeds into the machine, operators must cut them to the correct lengths. This also means they leave a lot more waste material behind, thanks to the higher degree of remnants.
This is the more traditional form of loader on the market. Feeders are much larger and can load, support, and feed material stock up to 12 feet in length. The result is less remnant material. They can support the stock at much higher RPMs.
Since they cost much more to install and run, operators mostly use bar feeders on higher production machines, such as screw machines. However, feeders quickly make up for expenses thanks to their greater production outputs and reduced waste.
Feeders are generally large additions to any CNC machine. The loaded stock bars are held in a long container attached to the head of the lathe. You will need additional space to fit a feeder into the device.
Also, the sizes of these bar feeders vary depending on factors such as:
- The number of bars held in reserve – Some will feed only one bar of stock at a time, while others can hold multiple in a stack.
- The diameter of the stock material – The thicker the shaping material, the more space must be reserved for the stock.
What are the benefits of using a bar loader?
Like any production system, a CNC machine only makes money while it’s operating. The more output it produces, the more it earns. Production time is usually dependent on several human factors. Adding a bar loader eliminates many of these factors greatly reducing the time between spins. So long as the user keeps the loader or feeder topped up, the CNC machine can keep working.
Adding a bar catcher as well as a loader, can further streamline the process, as it gathers and holds output pieces until they are needed. By leaving the feeding, cutting, and collecting of the products to these machines, there is more time to focus on other important processes.
What should I consider before purchasing a bar loader?
Finding the ideal bar loader for any machine requires some considerations. You’ll want to look at your machine’s specifications, plus ask the following questions to help you make the best purchase.
Does the machine have space for a loader to be attached?
Many machines are built with the capacity to install attachments such as catchers and feeders, but the available space matters. Since loaders are intended to help with larger jobs, a bigger one will be necessary to keep up with higher demands. However, budgetary constraints will also decide on the appropriate size and type of loader. If there is not enough money or physical space for the desired loader, then concessions will need to be made.
Does the machine have a catcher already attached?
If the budget and space allow for a feeder, then will the catcher be able to handle the workload? If a machine already has one installed, you will need a feeder that’s similar in size. A medium-sized catcher will not be able to handle the output of a larger feeder. A buildup of output parts could lead to disaster. On the other hand, if the machine doesn’t have one already installed, you can buy one of similar capacity to work alongside the feeder.
Does the job require a high production output?
Investing in a feeder is ideal for any manufacturer with many high-production orders. The bigger the order, the better the value a feeder will offer. The output for a machine that faces smaller or less regular orders may offset your investment. It pays to consider your workload before investing.
Where is the CNC machine situated?
While the angle at which you feed the stock doesn’t necessarily affect the finished cut, it can lead to other issues. Angled feeders may allow the loaded stock to vibrate within it, creating noise and potentially causing structural damage to the stock itself. It is also necessary to install the feeder on a flat surface. If that isn’t an option, you may want to look for smaller variants.
Adding a bar loader to a CNC plasma machine is a fantastic way to provide a faster and more streamlined workflow. Acquiring one often leads to higher profitability and improved production rates. However, doing so should only be done if the demand and machine require it.