Machine tools abstract
Operating head for machine tools characterised in that it comprises:
a first support to be mounted on a machine tool a second support
mounted on the said first support in such a way that it can rotate
around a first axis a tool holder mounted in a cavity present in
the said second support in such a way that it can rotate around
a second axis that does not coincide with the said first axis, in
particular an axis orthogonal to the said arms which lies on the
same plane as the said first axis. This solution offers various
advantages, including an operating head which is much simpler to
manufacture and therefore cheaper than known types, as well as a
considerable simplification of the machine control software.
Machine tools claims
1. Operating head for machine tools comprising: a first support
to be mounted on a machine tool a second support mounted on the
said first support in such a way that it can rotate around a first
axis a tool holder mounted in a cavity present in the said second
support in such a way that it can rotate around a second axis that
does not coincide with the said first axis.
2. Operating head as claimed in claim 1 wherein the said first
support is a fork support and the said second support is mounted
between the arms of the said fork in such a way that it can rotate
around an axis orthogonal to the said arms which lies on the same
plane as the said first axis.
3. Operating head as claimed in claim 1 wherein the said second
support and the said tool assembly form a cross-shaped element mounted
on the said first support.
4. Operating head as claimed in claim 3 in which the said tool
is a chuck.
5. Operating head as claimed in claim 3 in which the said tool
is a motorised chuck.
6. Operating head according to claim 3 in which the said tool
is a laser.
7. Operating head according to claim 3 characterised in that the
said tool assembly is mounted in a cavity present in the said second
8. Operating head according to claim 3 wherein a device constituted
by a linkage activated by a ball screw is fitted to control the
rotation of the said second support and/or the said tool assembly.
9. Operating head according to claim 3 wherein a worm gear mechanism
is fitted to control the rotation of the said second support and/or
the said tool assembly.
10. Operating head according to claim 3 wherein an epicyclic reduction
gear mechanism is fitted to control the rotation of the said second
support and/or the said tool assembly.
11. Operating head according to claim 3 wherein a motor is fitted
directly on the shaft of the second support to control the rotation
of the said second support and/or the said tool assembly.
12. Operating head according to claim 3 wherein the said second
support can rotate around the said first axis by at least 180.degree..
13. Operating head as claimed in claim 12 characterised in that
the said tool assembly can rotate around the said second axis by
at least plus or minus 45.degree..
Machine tools description
 This invention relates to an operating head for automatic
machine tools which comprises a support, in particular a fork-shaped
support, between the arms of which is mounted a tool such as a chuck,
a motorised chuck, a laser or the like, which is able to move along
a pair of orthogonal axes of rotation.
 In particular, the tool is mounted on a cross-shaped support
in such a way that the pivot point coincides with the centre of
an imaginary sphere inside the fork support, on the surface of which
the tip of the tool moves.
 This solution offers various advantages, including an operating
head which is much simpler to manufacture and therefore cheaper
than known types, considerable simplification of the machine control
software, as there is no need for the calculations to take account
of the distance between axes A and C, which coincide in the case
of the invention, and above all a more rigid assembly, because the
moments transferred to the support by the tool are eliminated.
 The invention falls into the sector of automatic machine
tools used to perform various tasks, such as machining or assembly
work, especially in the aeronautical industry.
 The machine tools in this category, which are able to move
and position a tool along a number of axes (up to 8 axes in the
most advanced machines), comprise a mobile support on which an operating
head with at least two degrees of freedom is mounted, which said
operating head holds a tool that may be a chuck, a motorised chuck,
a feeler or the like.
 The head support, which may be a sleeve or other known device,
usually moves along a set of three orthogonal axes, and the head
is mounted in this sleeve in such a way that it can rotate around
the sleeve axis.
 The head comprises a body which is usually the fork type,
on which the support of a chuck or motorised chuck moves around
an axis of rotation. Operating heads of this kind are described,
for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5385436 5286146 4652190
5257883 5056971 and 4652190.
 However, although all these known solutions offer good performance,
they are complicated to manufacture, and the lengthy production
and assembly times involved lead to an increase in costs.
 Moreover, programming these machines is by no means simple
because the pivot point, namely the centre of rotation around which
the tool rotates during its various movements, does not coincide
with the axes of rotation of the head, with the result that account
must be taken of the corresponding distances when the tool routes
 The control system is therefore extremely complicated, and
offers possibilities of movement which are unnecessary for many
applications. In the aeronautical industry in particular, for the
machining of aircraft parts it would be preferable to have machines
which are easier to control and above all which allow the tool to
be replaced quickly and easily, thus reducing machine stoppage times,
which currently have adverse effects on the production cycle.
 This and other purposes are achieved by the operating head
in accordance with the invention, which comprises a fork that remains
fixed during machining; the tool-holding chuck (or laser or the
like) is fitted to a cross support mounted on the fork. In particular,
a support with an internal cavity in which the tool is fitted is
mounted between the arms of the fork in such a way that it can rotate
from .+-.450.degree. to .+-.180.degree., depending on the type of
drive; the tool can perform rotations of approximately .+-.45.degree.
around an axis orthogonal to the axis of rotation of the said main
support, and on the same plane.
 This system greatly simplifies the manufacture of the machine,
and facilitates the management and writing of the control programs.
 This invention will now be described in detail, by way of
example but not of limitation, by reference to the annexed figures
 FIG. 1 is a view of the head to which the invention relates,
in accordance with a first direction
 FIG. 2 is a view of the head in accordance with a direction
orthogonal to the one shown in FIG. 1
 FIG. 3 is a front view of the head, in accordance with an
axis orthogonal to the plane of the two preceding axes
 FIGS. 4 to 7 are views of different embodiments of the invention,
showing some of the internal mechanisms.
 With reference to the annexed figures, the operating head
in accordance with the invention comprises a first support indicated
as 1 preferably the fork type, although it could also be a different
type, between the arms of which is fitted a second support indicated
as 2 which can rotate around a first axis A-A in relation to assembly
 Various methods can be used to rotate support 2. For example,
a worm gear consisting of worm wheel 4 and worm 5 driven by a motor
6 positioned in one of the arms of the fork, could be used, as illustrated
in FIGS. 2 and 3.
 On the opposite side a transducer such as an encoder, shown
as 7 precisely indicates the rotation of the support, which can
rotate around axis A-A by an amount preferably not less than 180.degree.,
such as an angle of approximately 220.degree..
 A cavity 8 is made in the body of support 2 and a tool
assembly 9 such as a motorised chuck, which can rotate around an
axis B-B orthogonal to the preceding axis (see FIG. 3) by an angle
of approximately .+-.45.degree., is fitted in the said cavity.
 Here again, the rotations of the chuck will be actuated
by a worm gear, consisting of a worm 10 and a ring gear 11 driven
by a motor 12 and will be controlled by an encoder 13.
 Number 14 in the figures indicates the structure of the
machine, which may be a sleeve or the like, to which support 1 is
 During the operation of the machine the head is moved to
the point of operation, then the tool is correctly positioned by
rotating the support around axis A and chuck assembly 9 around axis
B; encoders 7 and 13 will supply the information required for correct
positioning of the tool to the control unit.
 The tool may be of any suitable type; for example, in the
most common case it would consist of a chuck or motorised chuck,
or it could be a laser unit for cutting and/or welding or heat treatment
operations, a feeler for detection operations, and so on.
 During all these movements, the pivot point will coincide
with the point of intersection of axes A and B, and the tool will
move on a spherical sector centred on this pivot point.
 This means that once the workpiece has been fitted, different
jobs can be performed simply by replacing the chuck, and not the
whole head as in the case of the known technique.
 This characteristic also greatly simplifies programming
of the machine. Alternatively, in accordance with a cheaper and
simpler solution, an articulated arm could be built into one of
the pins of support 2 and driven by a ball screw or the like, or
epicyclic reduction gear could be installed. In accordance with
an alternative embodiment of the invention, with a cheaper and simpler
solution illustrated in FIG. 4 the rotations of support 2 could
be controlled by a lever 15 integral with one of the pins of support
2 driven via a connecting rod 16 by a mechanism comprising a threaded
shaft 18 and a volute 18 driven by a motor 19.
 According to a further preferred embodiment of the invention,
the rotations of support 2 could be actuated by a motor 20 which,
via a belt 21 or the like, activates an epicyclic reduction gear
mechanism indicated as 22 which in turn transmits motion to a cogwheel
23 integral with support 2. This embodiment is illustrated in FIG.
 Alternatively, according to a further preferred embodiment
of the invention, illustrated in FIGS. 6 and 7 a motor 24 could
control the rotations of the support, transmitting motion via a
belt 25 to reduction gear 26 of known type or, in the case of motors
able to rotate at very low speed, with control of the amplitude
of rotation, a motor 27 could be fitted directly to the shaft of
 An expert in the field could devise numerous modifications
and variations, all of which should be deemed to fall within the
scope of this invention.