Mill-Turn vs. Mill + Lathe: Which One Do I Need?

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Short answer – It depends.

Let’s start by defining what Mill-Turn is. Mill-Turn is a Lathe with the ability to cut using tools that spin. In a Lathe, the part spins and the tools are stationary. In a Mill-Turn, you can do both. Any Lathe machine with live tooling, by definition, is technically considered a Mill-Turn machine.

Now that you know what Mill-Turn is, what is the difference between Mastercam Mill plus Lathe and Mastercam Mill-Turn?

In Mastercam when you have both the Mill product and the Lathe product, you can load a Machine Definition that is configured as a Lathe/Mill combination. You then gain access to all the Lathe toolpaths as well as all the Mill toolpaths at the same time. The possibility of the shapes and toolpath combinations that can be cut are limitless. You can cut with a left spindle, right spindle, upper and lower turrets. You can program Pick/Pull/Cutoff routines and transfer the part from the left main spindle to the right sub spindle. You can even mix and match Lathe tools and Mill tools.

Wow! By now you are probably asking yourself, ‘if I can do all of that with Lathe plus Mill, then why do I need the Mill-Turn product?’ The Mill-Turn advantage comes in when you have both an upper turret and a lower turret because both turrets can be cutting the part at the same time. One can be working on the part on the main spindle, while the other can be working on the part in the sub spindle. This helps reduce part to part cycle times, but it also causes a dilemma. Each turret gets its own G-code program. They need to know what the other is doing so they don’t get in each other’s way. This is handled by using sync codes. The Mill-Turn package does this automatically compared to the Mill and Lathe combination which must be added manually. Additionally, every time you re-posted the program, you lose those changes and would have to add them back into the program via the text editor. Another difference is the ability to pinch turn, which is only available in Mill-Turn. Pinch turning is the ability to cut with both turrets on a part on the same spindle at the same time.

So when should you use Mill-Turn, Mill plus Lathe, or another combination? Here is what we would suggest:

• Lathe with C Axis and live tooling: Lathe
• Lathe with C/Y axis and Live tooling: Lathe (However, having Mill-Turn would start to make this process easier)
• Lathe with indexable B axis and C/Y with live tooling: Lathe + Mill-Turn
• Lathe with a full B axis and C/Y with live tooling: Lathe + Mill-Turn + Multi-Axis
• Add a Sub Spindle to any of the machines above: Still use their outlined package; using Full Machine Simulation from Mill-Turn becomes very helpful.
• Add a Lower Turret to any of the machines above: Mill-Turn (to handle sync codes)

These are just our minimum requirement suggestions. Most programmers would agree that having more tools at their disposal is always preferred. The benefit of using Mastercam Mill-Turn is the ability to catch errors from the Machine Simulation before the job is set-up on the machine saves time and money. We hope this helps you when facing the decision on which tool to use with Mastercam.

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