"> Bechler "Swiss Automatic" Lathes

email: tony@lathes.co.uk
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Bechler "Swiss Automatic" Lathes
A Background Story

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Manuals for Bechler machines can be found here


With the exception of hydroelectricity, wood, a little agriculture and tourism Switzerland has no natural resources beyond the skill and ingenuity of its people. Happily the latter have proved remarkably adept at not only running a democracy that reaches right down to village level, but also achieving great success in the manufacture of high-class, value-added goods notably precision machine tools, engines, pumps, clocks, watches, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical, technical and electronic equipment.
If you have ever wondered how miniature screws and other tiny components are made, the answer lies in what is known, as the "Swiss-Auto", originally an entirely mechanically-operated lathe, that, alongside its close cousin the single spindle automatic, was a machine tool designed specifically for the economical mass production of such parts. Until the advent of electronic circuits a far greater range of manufactured items required such fittings, from an obvious use in watches, clocks, cameras and other optical devices to such items as parts for typewriters, mechanical calculators and a vast range of car, aircraft, marine and scientific instruments. The originators of this specialised lathe were based in Switzerland, in the large village of Moutier where, from the early years of the 20th century, three competing Companies, Tornos, Bechler and Petermann existed side-by-side. However, beginning in the late 1960s, a series of takeovers and mergers resulted in one surviving Company, Tornos S.A. having absorbed the others. The men responsible for pioneering developments in the field were Joseph Petermann, André Bechler and, the owner of Tornos, Willy Megel - their lathes all incorporating three essential design features: a headstock (or headstock spindle) able to slide backwards and forwards; a series of precisely-adjustable toolholders arranged above or around the spindle nose in a fan shape and operation of the various feed and other movements by specially formed cams.
Even today, during the early decades of the 21st century, such basic, mechanically operated lathes still find a use where a simple, low-cost yet high-precision solution to manufacturing needs is required (the writer receiving numerous enquiries from countries such as India). Though complex mechanisms in their own right, the Swiss-Auto's ease of operation and running adjustments, compact dimensions and reliability over very long production runs are still hard to beat - though making the cams and setting up the numerous adjustments does take some mathematical knowledge, skill and experience. As one setter of these machines remarked: ….
there is a sense of achievement and excitement when all the tools and cams are fitted and the machine timed up; and then, after a short session of adjustment, to go on and manufacture thousands of identical parts, all new and shiny.  The writer has personal experience of such a machine that, decades old when installed in a friend's sound-proofed domestic garage and fitted with an automatic bar feed unit, could be left running non-stop for days and nights filling hoppers with profitable little items.
Now adapted to computer control both the Swiss Auto and single spindle automatic are unsurprisingly, still being built by numerous makers world-wide (Japan having considerable success in the field) - a term often used for this trade being the "Bar-turning Industry". Below and on the following pages are extracts from a wonderfully detailed general instruction book on Swiss Automatics that covers a host of subjects including the Company's background and the design and development of the lathes, their intricate mechanisms, accessories, metallurgy, tooling, cam design - and how to use them in an efficient and profitable way. The book even includes a selection of cartoons that gives advice on operational procedures and dispense mechanical homilies - all to aid the worker in his quest for increased production while maintaining a low rate of quality rejection..



Bechler Page 2   Bechler Page 3   Bechler Page 4   Bechler Page 5   Bechler Page 6

Manuals for Bechler machines can be found here

Bechler "Swiss Automatic" Lathes
A Background Story
email: tony@lathes.co.uk
Home   Machine Tool Archive   Machine-tools Sale & Wanted
Machine Tool Manuals   Catalogues   Belts   Books  Accessories