Published June 21, 2021
by The UP! App

There will come a time in the life of a machine tool spindle where it simply does not perform at the highest level of precision needed in most industries. No matter how much maintenance you do (and we recommend you keep up with your maintenance), parts can break, wear, and/or become contaminated. Conversely, your business may change, and your machine tool spindle will need to change with it. When something causes the heart of your machine to beat differently, should you replace it or consider remanufacturing?

Remanufacturing refers to the process by which a used or non-functional piece of machinery is returned to a “like-new” or, in many cases, a “better-than-new” state. The component being remanufactured is rebuilt to the specifications of the original product.

Ed Zitney, the owner of MZI Precision, is an expert in machine tool spindles with over 30 years of experience. Since spindles are the heart of the machine, they must have high levels of speed, accuracy, precision, and repeatability. Machine tools quite literally owe their life to spindles. At MZI Precision, Ed and his team are constantly faced with the same question: should business owners invest in a new spindle or rejuvenate the machine and remanufacture the current one?

What are spindles, and why do they break?

Spindles are ultimately the most important component of a machine, they are the reasons machines can make parts. If the spindle doesn’t perform as expected or stops working, the entire machine stops working. In his years of experience, Ed has come across a wide range of spindles. These include, but are not limited to: rotating cutting tools, grinding wheels, or parts machined in applications for milling, boring, grinding, drilling, sawing, and cutting. Most spindles today are incredibly complex systems that are critical to machine tool performance.

That being said, no part of a machine is immune to problems that may arise from the wear and tear process. Spindle defects may include crashes, overloads, coolant/contaminant penetration, or just normal fatigue. Wear and tear are especially common for spindles since they are so heavily used.

Should you replace or remanufacture?

The answer often depends on how quickly the machine needs to be back up and running and the budget of the machine owner. Since machine tool spindles come in a wide variety of designs and sizes, they are not usually sitting on shelves waiting to be purchased. They are highly advanced, complex technology solutions that are designed specifically for the machine they work in. Therefore, the process of replacing one could take months.

While this is not the case in all circumstances, if you can’t get a new spindle installed in a reasonable amount of time, you may want to consider remanufacturing. Timing is very important in all manufacturing businesses – if you’re lucky, a new spindle could be in stock from a local dealer. If not, a replacement spindle could take up to 24 weeks to arrive. On the contrary, repairs or remanufacturing can usually be made in less than two weeks.

Remanufacturing can also be the more affordable decision. Depending on the issue, a spindle can be remanufactured for a third of the price of a brand-new unit. Investing in remanufacturing will only involve the components that need to be fixed or replaced, leaving the rest of the components to continue to work. There are very few limitations on how many times a spindle can be rebuilt, so a machine owner could have their spindle rebuilt over and over without any issues.

Remanufacturing can lead to upgrades.

In addition to the questions you have to ask yourself when you choose between replacing and remanufacturing, make sure to ask yourself one very important question: can the existing spindle be improved upon during the remanufacturing process? Spindles can be continually upgraded to add value and application potential, especially for expanding or evolving businesses.

While spindles can be upgraded at any point in time, remanufacturing after damage presents the perfect opportunity to analyze your machine’s needs. Some upgrades may be simple, such as adding an air purge to keep the bearings and the inside of the spindle free of contamination. Some upgrades can be far more extensive and be uniquely tailored to your demands.

The application of spindles is ever-evolving. In fact, technology has advanced so much that five-axis machines have become commonplace in workshops. This requires a more complex and sophisticated spindle, which can be achieved through remanufacturing.

At the end of the day, the decision to replace or remanufacture will always be unique to your needs and your business. If you’re looking for more information on spindles and spindle rebuilds, MZI Precision is a great place to start. Or, download The UP! App and get machine maintenance today.