Fine-pattern inscribing is one of the highly demanding, critical functions that watchmakers insist must be performed with reliability and precision — and possible mainly because of the designs of the machine tools and the skill of the CAM program developers.
Swiss watchmakers have a reputation for precision and high quality that must be maintained, and linear guide rails developed by CNC machine-tool builder Almac are part of that effort. Those design elements help the watchmakers’ ultra-precise, 3- to 5-axis machining centers produce a better quality component.
Another factor in their effort maintaining their high standards is their use of Alphacam, one of the most popular CAM systems in Switzerland’s watch industry.
Almac director Roland Gutknecht claims his company is the only machine manufacturer using the technology of four linear guide rails fixed on a prism. “This enables us to give a high warranty of movement in the Z-axis. The four guide rails hold the spindle in perfect linear position, so there’s absolutely no tilting of the spindle. And, there’s no thermal displacement of the spindle, as the heat goes into the centre of the prism.”
Gutknecht said the machines guarantee very high stability and accuracy, which delivers the top quality machining the users require.
“The watchmakers who use Almac CU 1007 machining centers produce better quality components than their competitors who don’t have them,” he noted. The CU 1007 has X and Y slides on pre-stressed rails and a ball screw. A solid cast iron prism — on which a rectangular sleeve moves, guided by the linear rails and moved by a ball screw — forms the vertical axis.
As well as the watch industry, Almac machines are used to micro-machine parts needed in medical equipment, aeronautics systems, jewelry, and electronic component connectors.
With just under 50 employees at its factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, Almac produces between 60 and 70 machining centers per year, with high accuracy in all three X-, Y- and Z-axes.
“Many of our customers, particularly leading names in the watchmaking industry, such as Roger Dubuis, Cartier, and Jaeger Lecoultre, work to extremely accurate detail, often as tight as five microns,” the director said. “They need their machines to be in almost constant production, day and night, so we supply the full package, including robots, loading and unloading stations, and peripheral equipment for cleaning and deburring.”