Automatic tool changer (ATC) is a device which can automatically perform tool changes between the spindle and the tool magazine according to the commands given by the machine control unit. It plays an important role in reducing the machine idle time, and leads to an increase in productivity in the machining process. Here, the tool magazine and the tool change mechanism which are the main components of ATC are presented. According to the structures of ATC, we classify it as four types for review: turret-type ATC, cam drive ATC, multi-axis spindle ATC and changing tools in cutting ATC. This paper reviews various recent patents in tool magazines, tool change mechanisms and different types of ATC as well as their applications in machine tool and robot, the patents reviewed concern a period extending from the years 2002 up to date. The patents included in this review refer mainly to the characteristics of ATC which includes armless ATC, turret-type ATC, cam drive ATC, multi-axis spindle ATC, and so on. The applications concern mainly machining center, universal milling machine, drilling machine, router, lathe, miller and robot. In the last part of the review, the future developing trend in ATC and the potential engineering applications are also proposed.
Keywords: ATC, tool magazine, tool change mechanism, turret-type ATC, cam drive ATC, multi-axis spindle ATC, changing tools in cutting ATC, armless ATC, machining tool, robot
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