How Do Rotary Indexing Tables Work?

how do rotary index tables work

Rotary indexing tables are extremely helpful devices used in a variety of industries to automate manufacturing processes, increase efficiency, and improve precision. These devices play a crucial role in positioning workpieces accurately for machining, assembly, and inspection tasks. Let’s take a closer look at what rotary indexing tables are, how they work, the different types of rotary indexing tables you might use, and more.

Rotary Indexing Tables Explained

Rotary indexing tables are mechanical or electromechanical devices that rotate workpieces or tooling to precise positions. They consist of a circular table with multiple, evenly spaced workstations, often equipped with fixtures, clamps, or chucks to hold workpieces securely. The key feature of these tables is their ability to index. Indexing moves a piece in small, precise increments to expose different parts, areas, sides and angles for cutting, shaping or insertion processes.

Let’s take a closer look at how rotary indexing tables work, step by step.

How Rotary Indexing Tables Work

Rotary indexing tables perform a relatively simple, but highly effective job. In general, this is how rotary indexing tables work, step by step.

  1. Workpiece Loading: The operator loads the workpieces onto the table’s workstations, ensuring they are securely held in place.
  2. Indexing: The table rotates to the desired angular position and aligns with the other machine tools. This can be achieved manually, pneumatically, or through servo motors, depending on the table’s design and application.
  3. Processing: The machine tools perform the required operations at each workstation. This can include insertion, joining, fastening, vision system quality checks, or any other task specific to an assembly application, as well as drilling, milling or welding processes.
  4. Repeat Indexing: After completing the operations at one station, the table indexes to the next position. This process continues until all workstations have been utilized.
  5. Unloading: Once all stations have been processed, the operator removes the finished workpieces from the table or the workpieces are automatically unloaded via robot or cobot action, air-ejection, or chute or thru-hole processes, depending on the size and weight of the workpieces.

The precision and repeatability of automated indexing with rotary indexing tables ensures that workpieces are accurately positioned for each operation quickly and efficiently, resulting in high-quality products and consistent output in a short time frame.

Types of Rotary Indexing Tables

As previously mentioned, rotary indexing tables may be driven in a variety of different ways, including manually, pneumatically, or electronically through servo motors like those in servo electric presses. Each of these methods offers advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

  • Pneumatic rotary indexing tables: These rotary indexing tables are driven by compressed air. Though these types of tables are not as common as electric tables, they offer a number of advantages. Since they don’t require a servo motor and there’s no high-voltage requirements, they’re highly efficient, easy to implement, relatively inexpensive, and safe to use.
  • Motor rotary indexing tables: These tables use a separate motor to drive the table. These are generally more expensive than pneumatic tables, and require more voltage, which can make them more challenging and expensive to implement.
  • Servo rotary indexing tables: These tables are extremely precise, but they also require high voltage and expensive components to implement. Servo tables are ideal for jobs that require high levels of precision, but may drive up costs unnecessarily for many other jobs.

Air-Hydraulics Inc offers pneumatically-driven rotary indexing tables without electric motors or controllers.
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Common Jobs for Rotary Indexing Tables

Rotary indexing tables excel in scenarios where precise and sequential positioning of workpieces is essential. Rotary indexing tables work particularly well in the following situations.

  • Automated Assembly: Rotary indexing tables are commonly used in assembly lines for tasks like attaching components, fastening screws, and more. They ensure that each workpiece is systematically aligned and processed.
  • Machining Operations: For tasks like drilling, milling, and grinding, rotary indexing tables facilitate multi-step processes by rotating workpieces to different machining stations. This significantly reduces setup time and improves machining accuracy.
  • Welding and Fabrication: In welding applications, rotary indexing tables allow for precise positioning of workpieces, ensuring consistent weld quality. They are often used in the automotive, aerospace, and metal fabrication industries.
  • Inspection and Testing: Rotary indexing tables are used to present workpieces to inspection equipment and testing stations, helping each part receive rigorous quality control measures.
  • Packaging and Labeling: In the packaging industry, rotary indexing tables are employed to position containers for filling, capping, labeling, and packaging. This enhances production efficiency and product consistency.

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Rotary indexing tables provide precision and efficiency in manufacturing, automation, assembly and more. Understanding the capabilities and limitations of rotary indexing tables is key to making informed decisions about their integration into your manufacturing processes. If you have questions about rotary indexing tables and factory presses, we can help. Contact us to learn more.