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Swiss Screw Machining: Processes And Applications

Swiss Screw Machining: Processes And Applications
July 6, 2022
Sustainment Team

Having a basic understanding of manufacturing concepts is helpful for engineers, buyers, and business owners alike.

Everyone knows about the legendary performance and precision of Swiss watches. The Swiss watch industry is the one that developed Swiss screw machining. At the time, it was producing small screws more efficiently. Today, though, it has far more applications, and manufacturers from many other countries produce the equipment needed.

Also known as Swiss automatic machining and Swiss turning, Swiss screw machining falls under the broader machining category. In manufacturing, machining is the use of a machine to make or operate on products and materials.

How Swiss Screw Machining Works

Swiss screw machining uses a specialized lathe to do its work.

With a basic lathe, a powered headstock (also called a chuck) and a free-turning tailstock clamp a block of material between them. Then sharp tools go to work against the turning material and create the shape you want. Unfortunately, this process incurs extra time and cost because removal of the shaped material and insertion of new materials require stopping the machine.

Swiss screw machining improves upon that by employing a collet and a bar feeder instead of a headstock. The bar feeder inserts spinning material through the collet, which clamps and holds it. Once the shaping of the material is complete, the part is cut away, the bar feeder inserts new material, and the process resumes.

As a result, cycle times are shorter, raising efficiency by reducing time and costs. Furthermore, since the workpiece is held using a collet and bushings, the clearance between the cutting area and holding end can be within millimeters, which gives a higher length-to-width ratio.

Originally, machined cams controlled Swiss screw machined equipment. Today, CNC controllers drive the equipment.

Applications of Swiss Screw Machining

In its initial applications, Swiss screw machining is rather limited. It could only machine symmetrical or threaded parts. Thanks to improvements in the technology, that’s no longer the case, and the geometries it can produce offer far more variety and complexity. Top-of-the-line machines can produce high-quality parts in high volume and in relatively short order.

Today, Swiss machined parts are being used in a variety of applications ranging from medical to aerospace and IT to agricultural industries. Here are just some of the many applications of the Swiss screw machining process we’ve summarized:

  • Collets
  • Orthopedic screws
  • Pins and probes
  • Small shafts

This process works well for parts down to 1 mm in diameter, or about 0.04”. A variant of Swiss machining known as microturning can be used for parts and applications as small as 0.2 mm in diameter.

Microturning Applications

Instead of being shaped like a bar, microturning uses wire stock, which is stored on heavy spools and cannot be spun. Instead, it’s necessary to straighten the wire material and feed it through the collet. Then the tooling spins around the part, creating the features and cutting off the completed product.

It’s a more difficult process, and right now, most parts you can create with it have to remain symmetrical or threaded. Some of the applications include the following:

  • Connectors
  • Pins
  • Probes
  • Rivets
  • Screws
  • Tiny shafts

How Sustainment Can Help

If you’re looking for products that require Swiss screw machining in the manufacturing process, Sustainment doesn’t do that work, but we do know reliable businesses that do. When you join the Sustainment community, we can save you time, money, and hassle by connecting you with companies near you that perform Swiss screw machining and other manufacturing services you might need.

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