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Hydraulics in Machine Tools for Automobile Production and Auto Transportation

The application of Hydraulic power to machine tools goes back to the mid-thirties when CIP, a Swiss manufacturer of Jig Boring machinery incorporated hydraulics to move the tool bed.   Since then, Hydraulic power has become an integral part of production machines that perform pressing, drilling, cylinder boring and honing, crankshaft and camshaft grinding, gear milling, and other automobile production jobs.  High volume production utilizes multi-station indexing machines where multiple Hydraulic Machining Heads are arranged in clusters to perform multiple operations on parts simultaneously and from both sides.  The work pieces are clamped, moved under successive heads and then unloaded in a matter of seconds. The indexing can be linear, rotating or vertical. Sturdy, older machines, lathes and mills, can be up-graded with the addition of Hydraulic Machine units and logic controls for less cost than new machines.  

Hydraulic power can supply any sort of rotation or linear force needed in machinery design.  In terms of rotation, such as tool heads and spindle drives, hydraulic motors come in a wide range of sizes and power.  They have a size to power ratio that is superior to most other rotary motion drives and are generally much less noisy.  A motor the size of a soft-drink can is capable of producing up to 5 hp.  If linear motion is required, such as advancing a tool head, hydraulic pistons can be used or motor-driven screw or rack and pinion drives.  Hydraulic chucks are available in many sizes to hold the work piece or feed bar stock in an automatic turning operation.

Hydraulic pistons provide the steady power strokes in broaching operations and surface grinding.  The beauty of hydraulic power is its adaptability within the structure of the machining center.   Small tool heads or spindles can be located within the machining centers where ever needed, the only connections being a pair of small hoses and electrical wires for the sensors and controls.

For successful application of hydraulic power, a thorough system design is needed.  The fluid supply must be capable of supplying enough pressure to run all the applications, with enough reserve for future additions.  Too much pressure is an economic burden only, because relief valves in the circuit bypass excess pressure back to the supply tank.  The fluid reservoir, filters, accumulators and control valves form the ‘Power Pack’ which can be separate from the machine.

Taking the factory floor as a whole, work flow can be handled automatically using hydraulic powered robot arms with hydraulic grippers and indexing heads. Many automotive factory units run 24hr, 7 days per week unattended, except with occasional visits by maintenance personnel.

Completed autos are carried from the factories on multi-tiered trailers, where the cars are driven onto interconnecting hydraulically-powered racks that present pathways to their riding location before being locked down.  The first car is driven to the most upper, front ‘stall’. Each stall serves as a bi-directional bridge allowing the cars ahead of it to travel to their respective stalls.  The racks or bridges are rearranged and the second car is placed in the stall below. This process, handled by the driver or his mate, continues until all 8 or 10 cars are stowed safely. (No, they don’t drive themselves, yet!)   The latest Break-Down Lorries, or ‘Tow Trucks’ feature long, hydraulically powered beds that can be lowered down to the road, and hydraulic powered winches to drag the poor unfortunate vehicle up onto the bed, which is then raised up to driving position.