A rotary table is a precise mechanism used in many metalworking applications. It allows the operator to cut or drill work around a stationary axis at exact angles. It has been known since the time of the Ancient Egyptians and is still widely used today by diamond manufacturers, mechanics and construction companies that build skyscrapers and other large structures. A rotary table may also be called a framing table or framing square. The names may sound technical and they are but the mechanism is easy to understand and apply.
In a traditional milling machine, the workpiece is moved in a fixed position by means of a belt or chain. Cylindrical motions of the belt drive the workpiece in a specific direction. On the other hand, a rotary table may rotate on a horizontal axis in which case the workpiece revolves around a vertical axis. This type of machining is used more often for cutting out profiles and for holding curved shafts in place.
Rotary tables are mounted on an overhead platform similar to a lathe or on the floor or a workbench. They are operated with either the hand wheel or a hydraulic machine clutch. In some applications, the workplace needs to be mounted on a slide or a spindle so the operator need not use a belt to move the workpiece. In other instances the workpiece is mounted on a rotary table with a piston or a pinion driven by a chain and gearbox.
In some instances, a worm may be mounted on one or both rotary tables. With the appropriate worm, it is possible to make fine, angled cuts in different dimensions. The operator uses the appropriate control to move the worm along its axis of movement. In all types of machining operation, there are factors that limit how far the workpiece can be moved. A worm that is too big, too long or too wide will simply deflect the workpiece off the axis of movement.
There are several advantages associated with rotary tables and the rotary bushings that are necessary to allow them to work at their best. Rotary tables generally have a smaller footprint than the conventional lathe and they usually weigh less and are easier to transport to different sites. For applications where the work needs to be carried from location to location, the ease of transportation is a major factor in making the choice. Most rotary tables are also portable and easily assembled at the job site.
If the operator selects a small rotary table with a small footprint, it may be mounted on a stand, similar to a lathe stand, and mounted in the milling machine. In this way, the table can rotate and be controlled electronically. Some rotary tables are mounted on a rotary table clamp, which keeps them mounted in their respective positions, although most are mounted on a stand. The stand allows for rotation and movement in any direction, while the clamp provides a stable holding position.
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