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8.3: Unit 3: Vertical Milling Center Machine Motion

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    After completing this unit, you should be able to:

    • Understand the Vertical Milling Center Machine Motion.
    • Understand the Machine Home Position.
    • Understand the CNC Machine Coordinates.
    • Understand the Work Coordinate System.
    • Understand the Machine and Tool Offsets.
    • Set Tool Length Offset for each tool.

    VMC Machine Motion

    CNC machines use a 3D Cartesian coordinate system. Figure 10. shows a typical Vertical Milling Center (VMC). Parts to be machined is fastened to the machine table. This table moves in the XY-Plane. As the operator faces the machine, the X-Axis moves the table left-right. The Y-Axis moves the table forward-backward. The machine column grips and spins the tool. The column controls the Z-axis and moves up-down.


    Figure 1. VMC Machine Motion

    CNC Machine Coordinates

    The CNC Machine Coordinate System is illustrated in Figure 11. The control point for the Machine Coordinate System is defined as the center-face of the machine spindle. The Origin point for the machine coordinate system is called Machine Home. This is the postion of the center-face of the machine spindle when the Z-axis is fully retracted and the table is moved to its limits near the back-left corner.


    Figure 2. VMC Machine Coordinate System (At Home Position)

    As shown in Figure 12, when working with a CNC, always think, work, and write CNC programs in terms of tool motion, not table motion. For example, increasing +X coordinate values move the tool right in relation to the table (though the table actually moves left). Likewise, increasing +Y coordinate values move the tool towards the back of the machine (the table moves towards the operator). Increasing +Z commands move the tool up (away from the table).

    About Machine Home Position

    When a CNC machine is first turned on, it does not know where the axes are positioned in the work space. Home position is found by the Power On Restart sequence initiated by the operator by pushing a button on the machine control after turning on the control power.

    The Power On Restart sequence simply drives all three axes slowly towards their extreme limits (-X, +Y, +Z). As each axis reaches its mechanical limit, a microswitch is activated. This signals to the control that the home position for that axis is reached. Once all three axes have stopped moving, the machine is said to be “homed”. Machine coordinates are thereafter in relation to this home position.

    Work Coordinate System

    Obviously it would be difficult to write a CNC program in relation to Machine Coordinates. The home position is far away from the table, so values in the CNC program would be large and have no easily recognized relation to the part model. To make programming and setting up the CNC easier, a Work Coordinate System (WCS) is established for each CNC program.

    The WCS is a point selected by the CNC programmer on the part, stock or fixture. While the WCS can be the same as the part origin in CAD, it does not have to be. While it can be located anywhere in the machine envelope, its selection requires careful consideration.

    • The WCS location must be able to be found by mechanical means such as an edge finder, coaxial indicator or part probe.
    • It must be located with high precision: typically plus or minus .001 inches or less.
    • It must be repeatable: parts must be placed in exactly the same position every time.
    • It should take into account how the part will be rotated and moved as different sides of the part are machined.

    For example, Figure 13 shows a part gripped in a vise. The outside dimensions of the part have already been milled to size on a manual machine before being set on the CNC machine.

    The CNC is used to make the holes, pockets, and slot in this part. The WCS is located in the upper-left corner of the block. This corner is easily found using an Edge Finder or Probe.

    8.3: Unit 3: Vertical Milling Center Machine Motion is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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