In the world of computer-controlled milling equipment, there’s always been something of an understanding between the work envelope (and therefore the largest part you can physically fit in the machine) and precision. When it comes to positional accuracy and repeatability, as the ability of a machine to achieve ever smaller numbers goes up, the size of the work envelope must go down. Now, like any rule of thumb, there are exceptions to this, but these exceptions generally carry with them one significant caveat: they’re extremely expensive. Enter the DATRON MLCube LS, a large format milling machine with linear scales.
There are many legitimate reasons that this convention has become the norm. In ball-screw-driven machine tools, using a ball screw with a very tight pitch to achieve stellar accuracy and repeatability usually results in a decrease in the maximum rapid rate. That’s a real bummer if you need the machine to move large distances. Technologies such as linear motors are capable of moving very fast over long distances. However, sacrifices often occur when it comes to the resolution and accuracy of the encoders that feedback the motor’s motion to the machine control system.
Linear scale technologies are readily able to increase a numerically controlled machining system’s ability when it comes to accuracy and repeatability. But by default, they are an additional piece of hardware that accompanies the linear motor or ball screw/linear guide system. As any engineer will tell you, additional hardware is subject to damage, misalignment, or in the case of milling equipment, contamination from the chips, dust, and coolant that are part of the milling process. It would seem that the combination of large, capable, precise, and economical has been an elusive one in the machine tool industry.
Fortunately, that’s the very problem the DATRON MLCube LS was created to solve.
Linear scales for large-format milling machines enable precision and accuracy across a sizable work area.
Linear Scales for Precision in Large Format Milling
The MLCube LS is one of the latest upgrades for DATRON’s portal and gantry-designed CNC milling equipment. Building on the success of the DATRON MLCube, which provides 3 m/s2 acceleration, advanced dynamics and jerk control, 0.1-micron resolution, and spindle speeds up to 60,000 RPM across its 60″ by 40″ work area, the MLCube LS further improves machining accuracy with an integrated linear scale system on the X and Y axes.
A large format milling machine like the MLCube with a 60″ x 40″ work envelope enables nested or batch machining for short-run production.
To avoid the typical challenges of achieving tight accuracy across a large area, DATRON engineers employed a unique combination of technologies to deliver a robust and highly-precise positioning system: the integrated measurement system. This integrated system marries the advantages of an external linear scale’s accuracy and repeatability with the well-established and optimized mechanics of a ball screw-driven, linear guide axis. In the same way that unifying a servo motor with the associated ball screw by eliminating the drive belt, the ball screw/linear guide/linear scale system benefits in its operation and longevity overall by combining components and optimizing the system.
High-speed large format milling up to 60,000 RPM for high feed rates and reduced cycle times!
Benefits of the MLCube, a Large Format Milling Machine:
The most significant benefits of the MLCube’s integrated measurement system show themselves where they matter most:
- System is free of wear or maintenance
- Highly resistant to contamination
- Exact positional measurement is achievable even under dynamic load changes
- Effects of thermal expansion are essentially eliminated
- Scale system is completely free of external influence by magnetic fields or electromagnetic vibration
- Positional accuracy is improved by 50% compared to an MLCube without linear scales
But at the end of the day, the real question is: Why should I care about this machine? Well, fortunately, that’s the simple part.
With a starting price of around $250,000 and a positional accuracy of ±25µ across nearly 17 square feet of workspace, the MLCube LS arguably offers the most capability, across the largest work envelope, with the highest degree of positional accuracy, for the least amount of money.
DATRON MLCube LS can be configured with a vacuum table or pneumatic clamping system to hold aluminum stock for parts like these.
So whether you need to produce a few very large and precise parts or batch machine hundreds of small precise parts in one long unattended run – the MLCube LS offers advantages that are not easily matched. Contact our DATRON experts to discuss your applications and how an MLCube LS can improve your production quality. Our team offers in-person and virtual demonstrations that we can customize for your specific manufacturing needs.