Rotary Indexer Gives Mill A 4th Axis (sort Of)

Rotary indexer’s are standard issue in most machine shops. These allow you to hold or chuck a work piece, and then a graduated handle lets you to rotate the workpiece. Useful when you want to drill or tap axial or radial features. A rack and pinion drive ensures that the workpiece does not move under machining load. Quite often, these indexers also have a manual lock to take care of gear backlash and play. Automating them is not too difficult either. You could use just a stepper motor (open loop) or servo+encoder (closed loop) to drive the turntable.

[smashedagainst] needed to drill six radial holes on a part. And he had to do it on 500 pieces for a total of 3000 holes. That was just for the first initial run, with more drilling likely in the future. The part in question was small and light weight. So instead of using a heavy duty, industrial grade unit, he built an all-electric rotary indexing jig using a stepper motor and an Arduino, giving him a sort of rotary 4th axis. His idea was to directly use the stepper motor to rotate the workpiece without any gearing, but he needed to build his own rig to do so.

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