Harrison Alpha Control system review
After our recent review of the Harrison Alpha 1350XS turning centre, MTD has gone back to 600 UK to take a closer look at the innovation behind the Alpha Control System that is so integral to the continued success of 600 UK.
We spoke with Mr Trevor Matthews, Applications Engineer at 600 UK to get his take on the unique control system and how it benefits the marketplace. Demonstrating the system on the Harrison Alpha 1350XS with its Fanuc OiTD control unit, Mr Matthews says: 'Firstly, the tool-setter system on the Alpha is a touchscreen system that allows any operator to easily set the machine. This is completely unique to 600 UK.'
With a large touchscreen, the operator is visually led through the process. So, with regard to setting tools, the operator only has to select the tool from the library, move the hand wheel and take a small face cut and then set the datum by simply pressing the 'Z' axis button. For turning diameters in the X-axis, the operator simply has to take an initial cut, measure the component with a micrometer and key the dimension into the Alpha control. The standard Alpha control is provided with 32 pairs of off-sets to allow for multiple tooling stations.
Another key benefit of the Alpha control is its 'Box Cycles' feature. This is simply for semi-automatic turning operations and has been configured for the operator that has moved up from the centre lathe to the CNC or semi-auto machine tool. This feature permits the machine operator to program in the depth of cut, speed, feed and activate the cycle up to pre-designated stop points, just like on a manual centre lathe.
For more advanced machining and working with CAM systems, the Alpha control has evolved significantly from where it was two decades ago. As Mr Matthews continues: '20 years ago we had operators that wanted to join numerous box cycles together, but the early generations of the Alpha wasn't designed for that. We looked to an off-line CAD/CAM system and created the Alphalink system whereby the operator could create a drawing, download to the machine and the Alpha system on the machine would then run a complete profile.
So, as well as having the option to create ISO, code based programming and guide based programming, the Harrison Alpha range of machines also offers a simplified alternative to suit the background and training of the machine operator. As Mr Matthews continues: 'If an operator comes directly from a manual centre lathe, they are 99% more likely to use the Alpha system because it is so simple to use and intuitive.
The beauty of the Alpha system is that it allows the operator regardless of background to program in the format they desire. In comparison to many other vendors that claim to have similar systems, the competition often offer either system similar, a standard machine with G-code or a standard machine with the ISO option. We are the only company that offers all three alternatives on a single platform. The control is a large part of the sales process as its simplicity sells the machine to the end user. Furthermore, the tool setting system also allows an experienced operator to set the tools very quickly and simply in the Alpha system and with a turn of the key, switch to the ISO programming, where all the offsets are transferred to give a great speed of changeover.'