The History of Automatic Screw Machines

automatic screw machines

Automatic screw machines are types of metal working lathes, which are used to machine hard materials into precisely designed components. The machining process allows for the creation of duplicate parts. Also known as an automatic lathe or turning center, today’s screw machines are Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machines.

A screw machine comprises a hollow spindle and cams. A bar is fed into the machine, and the unwanted material is chipped away to create different types of screws, studs, and bolts. How did this machine come to be used? What is its history and timeline? These questions are answered in this post.

Screw Machine History

The screw machine was invented by Joseph R. Brown, one of the founders of Brown & Sharpe. The basic idea behind the machine was taken from a turret lathe. This lathe was modified to create a machine that could create the same part repeatedly. The modified turret lathe was named automatic screw machine. What set the screw machine apart from other equipment of that time was the use of drum cams. These are rotating pieces, which are designed to convert linear motion to rotary motion.

These initial screw machines were designed with a single spindle. It was only after the onset of WWI that multi-spindle machines were created. As the screw was a single spindle design, actions such as feeding, machining, shaping, and drilling were performed in a sequence.

Confusion with the Term

In those days, cam operated lathes were exclusively referred to as automatic screw machines. Cam operation allowed for mechanical automation. Also, CNC had not been invented then. Today, the term is used for CNC machines, as well as small and medium sized, cam operated lathes.

Automatic Screw Machine Timeline

The following points showcase the important phases, of automatic screw machines.

  • 1861: Joseph R. Brown invents a milling machine for cutting spirals from metals.
  • 1865: This machine is named as a screw machine, and is patented in 1865.
  • 1876: Joseph Brown passes away. The screw machine department at Brown and Sharpe is taken over by Oscar J. Beale. He helps build the first automatic screw machine in 1880.
  • 1951: Henry D. Sharpe Jr. takes over the company from his father. Sharpe focuses on mass production of multi spindle automatic screw machines for various industries.
  • Present Day: Both cam operated and CNC controlled screw machines are used by various manufacturers.

These points showcase the long journey of the development of the automatic screw machine. Knowing the history of this equipment will help you in understanding its functions and benefits.