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The First Look: The Lamb Jaguar

As manufacturers are looking for more flexibility in medium- to high-volume operations, they are increasingly turning to systems that include machining centers. Personnel at Lamb Technicon, one of the world's leading special machine builders, figured that since they know quite a bit about cutting metal at those volumes and about engineering and building the equipment that is up to doing it day in, day out, they might develop a machining center that would be up to the task. Later this year, the Jaguar will be launched. Here's a look.

At its most basic, the Jaguar series from Lamb Technicon, a Unova company, Warren, Michigan, consists of horizontal machining centers. There is the Jaguar 500, with a 500x 500-mm pallet, and the Jaguar 630, with a 630 x 630-mm pallet. The present tense (as in is) is a bit misleading, because the machining centers aren't quite ready yet; according to Roger W. Cope, Lamb's vice president of Business Development, the company will start taking orders for the machines in the third quarter of 1999.

But to describe the Jaguar plainly as a "horizontal machining center," while certainly accurate, is less than descriptive. As most people know, Lamb is known for being a builder of special machines. Yet the Jaguar is designed and engineered to be a commodity machine, one that can be used as a stand-alone unit or as part of a flexible machining system, as a transfer machine module. It is a machining center for the types of production that Lamb machines are known for being capable of handling—machining such things as heads, blocks, and transmission cases. This means that both cast iron and aluminum machining can be accommodated. There is a cartridge-type spindle design. So, if someone is using the standard Jaguar 500 12,000-rpm, 39-kW spindle then wants to change over to a high-speed aluminum machining capability, then there is a 24,000-rpm, 45-kW spindle that can be comparatively quickly swapped into place.

CAD
In order to achieve a stiff machine--235,000 lb./in. with the ram fully extended--extensive computer-aided engineering tools were brought into play during the development program.

Being a Lamb-type machine also means that it is engineered to run reliably. One thing this has meant, says Randall S. Cortright, Research and New Product Development assistant manager, is that they've decided not to use linear motors. For another, they've built this as a solid, rigid, cast iron machine. Instead of using a hydraulic counterbalance on the Y-axis, there is a pair of ballscrews; not only does this mean there is greater stiffness (two vertical supports rather than one), but the performance is improved, as well. According to Cope, the Jaguar is engineered so that it will perform as a high-volume, close-tolerance machine for "a minimum of seven years and more likely 10."

The Jaguar 500 is an HSK 63A machine; the Jaguar 630 handles HSK 100A (ISO-50, optionally). The standard toolchanger capacity for the 500 is 12 tools; it's 10 for the 650. The servo-driven toolchanger mechanism features a clever half-moon configuration that swings into and out of the work area; the design helps keep the machine width at a minimum, a key consideration for use as a transfer machine module.

cartridge-type spindle
A cartridge-type spindle is used so that it is possible to go from a 12,000-rpm unit to a 24,000-rpm spindle in comparatively short order.

Speaking of dimensions, the Jaguar 500's footprint is 6 x 2 m; the height is 3.2 m. The X, Y, Z axis travels for the Jaguar 500 are 650 x 650 x 500 mm; they're 1,030, 850, 560 mm for the Jaguar 630.

This is a ram-style machine. This means that the Z-axis is on the spindle-side of the machine. This configuration facilitates using the Jaguar in a transfer system (e.g., part presentation is not a problem). It also makes the machining area readily accessible for the operator (i.e., an ergonomic concern) and also leads to a design where getting chips out of the work zone is enhanced.

Because this is a machine primarily for the automotive industry, one of the goals at the start was to equip it with a PC-based, open architecture control system and a SERCOS interface. The first machine built is fitted with an Indramat control. When the following two units were built for beta testing, one got Siemens and the other Fanuc controls.

But what of the bottom line? Before the first line was created on a CAD screen, a comprehensive study was conducted of competitive horizontal machining centers. That is, 19 brands and 51 models were examined. Input was solicited from customers, Lamb sales people, and both Lamb and customer engineers. Thirty-eight key machine specifications were identified, then plotted out in a cost-performance matrix. This then allowed the Lamb Technology Development Committee to select the attributes that were most valued by the customers and to determine what mix would permit competitive pricing for the equipment.

According to Roger Cope, a fully equipped, stand-alone Jaguar 500 will cost on the order of $350,000.