Manual to CNC Conversions

We are often asked, “Just how large of a retrofit can be done in my plant?”. Well, the pictures below show the conversion of a Manual Bullard Vertical Lathe with an 86″ diameter spindle.

Admittedly, this is a costly and time consuming retrofit, but the end result is a very productive machine; and for a small fraction of buying new.

We Start with a Good Machine

When Bullard built this machine in 1976 it was a "mean" machine. With an 86" spindle and over 65" of Z travel it had a terrific work capacity. And even after 30 years of service, the ways were still in great shape.

The problem was in the hydraulic axis drives and clumsy and limited (by today's standards) travel settings.

And Then We Make it Better

Our solution was to initially remove only one tool column from the machine to provide design data for the new Ball Screw replacements and AC servo motor mounts.

That way, during the lengthy mechanical fabrication time, the machine continued to provide service with the remaining tool column.

New Mechanical and Electrical Components

When the new Ball Screws and Motor assemblies were complete, the machine was taken out of service for the installation phase. Old electrical components for the Hydraulic feed units were removed and new pre-wired CNC and AC Servo Drive panels were installed in their place.

Total On-Site Assembly

The first tool column was assembled with ball screws and motors while the second column was removed, inspected, the Ways touched up, and then assembled and installed.

With Proper Wiring

New wiring was run from the electrical cabinet to the machine. This included the installation of new reference switches to establish the CNC axis position.

A New Lease on Life

The final result. A dual head Vertical Lathe CNC package. Each tool column is now an independent CNC lathe with true IPR feed control. Both Left and Right tools can be operated simultaneously, or either side can be parked and "shut-down" when not needed. Graphic tool path plotting on the CNC screen prior to actual cutting increases operator confidence and reduces set-up time.


This machine is now ready for 30 more years of service. And all of this was done with a minimum amount of disruption to the shop, the production flow, and most of all...the wallet.


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