Tens of thousands of traditional cam-operated automatic lathes are still tirelessly mass-producing precision parts for the watch, automotive, dentistry and electronic industries globally. Though the official support for these machining tools is limited, quality spare parts and tools are still available thanks to the Swiss company UniParts.
The old-school cam-operated automatic lathes, also named Swiss-type lathes, perhaps don’t look like much to the outside world, but they keep on cutting, turning, taping, knurling and drilling crucial parts for a wide array of products 24/7.
“The tolerance of the small parts that are machined is in many cases in the region of one micron”, says Per Borg, CEO of tool maker UniParts. “For the industries using them, these workhorses are true gold mines that keep on spinning as long as spare parts are available. Because the original manufacturers only offer limited support for these machines, we saw a good after sales business opportunity and a way for many industries to keep their production costs down without sacrificing quality.”
The oldest machine that the company delivers spare parts and tools for was made by Tornos before World War II. This says much about the quality of these machines.
“They are simple machines that can produce parts in very long series, which make them extremely cost-effective and worthwhile to keep running”, says Per Borg. “Modern CNC tooling machines are more versatile than a traditional Swiss-type lathe, but when the motors are worn out, it is often best to invest in a new CNC machine with state-of-the-art technology. Our job, however, is to maintain the old Swiss type lathes.”
Most of UniParts’ customers are end users, with service workshops as the other main customer segment. The main markets are in Switzerland and Europe, but India, USA and Japan are also growing markets.
“My main concern is that companies get rid of their perfectly functioning precision lathes when they run out of spare parts and tools”, Per Borg says. “It is a pity, since these machines are extremely cost-effective. The good thing is that we have a lot of spare parts available for instant delivery for Swiss-type lathes made by well-known manufacturers.”
UniParts produces spare parts and attachments for most cam operated automatic lathes made by Tornos, such as model MS7, and also for automatic lathes made by other producers such as Bechler and Petermann.