The Many Uses of the Rotary Table
A rotary table is usually a precise, versatile work position device employed in manufacturing. It allows the operator to cut or drill work at precise, predictable intervals along a stationary axis. In fact, the term rotary table refers to the work of cutting circular shapes into their centerpieces, usually by means of a drill press. Rotary tables are commonly used for precision surface work such as drilling or boring.
To achieve work with rotary tables, a workpiece is mounted on the table’s pedestal. Then a chuck of the appropriate size is mounted above the workpiece and aligned with the workpiece. A drill press is then mounted on the chuck’s side.
The rotary table’s operation begins at the working end where the workpiece is rotated around the axis which is fixed by the chuck. Shafts mounted on the table are moved along a path guided by the chuck. The workpiece is moved toward the center of the chuck and then axial travel is started by rotation of the workpiece. This allows the work to be cut, bent, or milled along complex curves.
The most common rotary tables are those mounted on the lathe itself. However, some lathes are designed to mount rotary tables as screw drive units. This means that the chuck and shafts may be externally visible through the lathe body of the unit. Mounting such a system requires a different technique than with lathes using internal chuck mounts. Internal rotary tables typically have fixed arms and a slide or fixed blade which allow them to rotate vertically within the frame.
Rotary tables can also be mounted externally using a variety of mechanisms which include clamping, rotating clamps, and direct mounting. Clamp arrangements tend to be used when there is limited space to install a rotary table with an external mechanism. In this instance, the lathe is literally “clamped” in its location and a set of clamps attached to a spindle are placed above the table. Direct mounting uses the same type of mechanism as clamps but the holes are drilled directly into a workpiece.
There are many types of rotary table available in the market today and each has its own advantages over others. Worm drives and chuck boxes are commonly used to convert vertical milling machines into horizontal ones. They can be used for both heavy duty and light duty tasks and also can be used to create table top units for turning or polishing plastic, ceramic or metal.
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