Another kind of multitask machine

Author Michael C. Anderson
December 01, 2016 - 04:15pm

The move to save time and space and improve quality by combining two or more manufacturing processes on a single machine has generated additive/subtractive hybrids and various multitaskers in recent years. In that group is the UNISIG USC-M series, which brings together milling and deep-hole drilling in a 7-axis machine. 

The USC-M incorporates two independent spindles: one for gundrilling and BTA deep-hole drilling and a CAT 50 machining spindle. Combined with a rotary table and programmable headstock inclination, it puts accurate deep-hole drilling and high-performance machining capabilities within a single work envelope, according to the company. 

The USC-M series allows moldmakers to mill and gundrill on a single machine.
The USC-M series allows moldmakers to mill and gundrill on a single machine. Image courtesy UNISIG.

The machines use the B, A, X, Y and Z axes for 5-axis machining, the W-axis for the combined gundrilling and BTA drilling spindle, and the U-axis for machining. This provides 3+2 machining to reportedly make deep-hole drilling and machining of compound angles faster and easier, and improves productivity and throughput by reducing setups and eliminating changeovers to multiple machines. 

UNISIG CEO Anthony Fettig told CTE that for his customers in the moldmaking industry—at whose request the machine was developed—using a deep-hole drilling headstock capable of conventional gundrilling and BTA high-performance drilling has proven to be five to seven times faster than gundrilling alone.

“Conversations with these customers broadened out from gundrilling to other challenges they had,” Fettig said. “There’s deep holes, there’s compound-angle holes and complicated drilling—but preceding that is a lot of complicated milling.” That milling is being done on boring mills, “using a lot of exotic fixturing and complicated setups.” 

The workpiece would then be moved to a gundrilling machine, and then back to the mill for more-complex machining, he said. 

“We concentrated on dexterity, rigidity, volumetric accuracy—a lot of hand-scraping—reach, and then applying the latest automation technology—laser presetting, workpiece probing, large toolchangers, a Heidenhain CNC for contour management and tool-change management,” Fettig said. “But this is still a deep-hole-drilling machine as well—so the [mold] water lines and other deep-hole features that can’t be done on a traditional machining center can now be done, and at extraordinarily high feed rates.”

For more information about UNISIG, Menomonee Falls, Wis., visit or call (262) 252-3802.

Related Glossary Terms

  • boring


    Enlarging a hole that already has been drilled or cored. Generally, it is an operation of truing the previously drilled hole with a single-point, lathe-type tool. Boring is essentially internal turning, in that usually a single-point cutting tool forms the internal shape. Some tools are available with two cutting edges to balance cutting forces.

  • computer numerical control ( CNC)

    computer numerical control ( CNC)

    Microprocessor-based controller dedicated to a machine tool that permits the creation or modification of parts. Programmed numerical control activates the machine’s servos and spindle drives and controls the various machining operations. See DNC, direct numerical control; NC, numerical control.

  • feed


    Rate of change of position of the tool as a whole, relative to the workpiece while cutting.

  • gang cutting ( milling)

    gang cutting ( milling)

    Machining with several cutters mounted on a single arbor, generally for simultaneous cutting.

  • gundrill


    Self-guided drill for producing deep holes with good accuracy and fine surface finish. Has coolant passages that deliver coolant to the tool/workpiece interface at high pressure.

  • gundrilling


    Drilling process using a self-guiding tool to produce deep, precise holes. High-pressure coolant is fed to the cutting area, usually through the gundrill’s shank.

  • machining center

    machining center

    CNC machine tool capable of drilling, reaming, tapping, milling and boring. Normally comes with an automatic toolchanger. See automatic toolchanger.

  • milling


    Machining operation in which metal or other material is removed by applying power to a rotating cutter. In vertical milling, the cutting tool is mounted vertically on the spindle. In horizontal milling, the cutting tool is mounted horizontally, either directly on the spindle or on an arbor. Horizontal milling is further broken down into conventional milling, where the cutter rotates opposite the direction of feed, or “up” into the workpiece; and climb milling, where the cutter rotates in the direction of feed, or “down” into the workpiece. Milling operations include plane or surface milling, endmilling, facemilling, angle milling, form milling and profiling.

  • milling machine ( mill)

    milling machine ( mill)

    Runs endmills and arbor-mounted milling cutters. Features include a head with a spindle that drives the cutters; a column, knee and table that provide motion in the three Cartesian axes; and a base that supports the components and houses the cutting-fluid pump and reservoir. The work is mounted on the table and fed into the rotating cutter or endmill to accomplish the milling steps; vertical milling machines also feed endmills into the work by means of a spindle-mounted quill. Models range from small manual machines to big bed-type and duplex mills. All take one of three basic forms: vertical, horizontal or convertible horizontal/vertical. Vertical machines may be knee-type (the table is mounted on a knee that can be elevated) or bed-type (the table is securely supported and only moves horizontally). In general, horizontal machines are bigger and more powerful, while vertical machines are lighter but more versatile and easier to set up and operate.

  • work envelope

    work envelope

    Cube, sphere, cylinder or other physical space within which the cutting tool is capable of reaching.


Former Senior Editor

Michael Anderson, former senior editor at Cutting Tool Engineering magazine, holds a master's degree in written communication from Eastern Michigan University. He has been professionally writing about manufacturing technology since 1998, including more than 10 years at the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.