Multi-Spindle vs. Single Spindle Machining Centers

Efficiency and cost are everything in manufacturing. Multi-spindle machines multiply your output and save on energy, floorspace and operation costs. Did you know that our machines feature a straightforward user experience too? 

As a multi-spindle machine builder since 1984, we have often been presented with certain concerns about using Multi-spindle MC's for the first time. That's why we decided to clear up some of the most common concerns.

Concern #1: My employees don’t know how to operate or maintain a multi-spindle machine

By far, the most common conception about multi-spindle machining is how difficult it seems. It’s hard enough finding skilled labor to run single spindles.

Let’s take a step back here. One of our four-spindle machines can replace at least four single-spindle machines. Fewer machines means fewer operators. Now from this starting point, the operators you do need will be specifically trained for your SW machines through our Academy. Customers with qualified personnel might choose to do this themselves, however this is a process that happens with every new brand of machine you install in your shop. It's not just a 'multi-spindle thing'. Our Academy trainers draw from years of experience on the manufacturing floor and the training includes both theoretical and hands-on components. We can either train you on your floor or at the SW headquarters nearest to you. (life Academy is part of our SW life Services and will get its own post soon.) Invest in your current staff and don't tell us that your operators and machine setters are less intelligent then those in the 42 other countries where our machines are used in the world. We know from experience they can handle it!

In addition to training your staff, we assist with the setup of your machines, with one of our experts onsite at your location. (life StartUp, which is another life Service from SW that will also be getting its own post.) We stay until the machines are installed, commissioned, qualified and signed off by you.


Concern #2: If the machine goes down, I have zero production

Multi-spindle machines have much greater output than single-spindle machines. It stands to follow that your production might take a greater hit when a multi-spindle machine goes down than it would when a single spindle. But is that really true? No, at least not for SW. 

Let's start with the most important information: Our uptime guarantee is >95% so it's a small risk opposed to four single spindle machines. 

Not convinced yet? Let's play out a couple different scenarios:

Scenario A: An issue causes one spindle to not be functional. If you have a four-spindle machine, you can still run the machine with 75% output. 

Scenario B: It happens to be one of the rare times where your operator can't solve an issue on their own. For Example, a tool pocket is broken in the tool changer. Our help hotline is an accessible resource for customers at any time, so we'll  get your machine back to maximum availability as soon as possible. SW performs secure remote monitoring that can be used immediately after password exchange.

Just to be clear, by “password exchange” we mean that your operator is standing in front of your machine giving our service tech a unique password over the phone, which enables the SW technician to have remote live access to the machine for only the amount of time needed to resolve the issue. We do not have access to your data outside of this. A post addressing data concerns will also be published on this blog.

Scenario C: In the rarest of cases where an issue persists through all of this, service and spare parts will be sent to your location, no matter how remotely you might be located. Don’t worry, we’ll find you.

Rest assured, however that nearly 75% of all service calls can be resolved with our online service. Additionally, spare parts supporting any of our machines are located at your closest SW Location on-site for fast delivery.


Concern # 3: It’s going to be a hassle to maintain

If you read our Monoblock post, then you’ll remember that our machines are designed for accessibility even with automation. We’ve made sure that your maintenance team has an easy way to get to the components and subassemblies that need attention.

To highlight some features and prove this point: 

- Door that openings up to 180 degree

- Well organized installation layouts

- Most of components accessible without a ladder

- The spindles get simply pulled out through the back of the machine. (We only build horizontal machining centers so we can offer this ease of access with the added bonus of optimal chip fall.)

Your operators will be able to address and solve most issues themselves thanks to their training. Worst case scenario, we’re just a phone call away (see Concern #2). After some time operating the machine, your staff will be experts and fully capable of maintaining the machine.


Concern # 4: Tool setting for multiple spindles is difficult

In a multi-spindle machine, the distances between the spindle, tool and the table are of  paramount importance. This can be an intimidating concept. The distance between the spindle and the table is measured and assured by SW when we build and install your machine (we also do this if we ever need to replace a spindle). All that you need to focus on is the tool.

Setting tools to the same length is important, but not difficult if you have an accurate tool presetter. A presetter from  Haimer, or Zoller (for example) will be your best friend in this regard, and will be able to tell you within microns how your tools are set. (SW machines utilize HSK tool holders.)

It is the same process for all tools. You set one and make sure all the values are what they need to be. Ultimately, you take it one spindle at a time, and it’s not going to be all that different from setting a single-spindle machine, especially since the tool changer is easily accessible.


After all those concerns, let’s talk some benefits

One of the best things about multi-spindle machining is what it does for your cost-per-part. One four-spindle machine has the same output as a minimum of four single spindle machines. Every machine represents an investment, with additional investments in spare parts. (More machines. More spare parts)

On an individual basis, multi-spindle machines may be a larger investment than single-spindle machines. However, when you are buying one four-spindle machine, that’s four single-spindle machines you no longer need, three fewer operators, about two thirds of the floorspace saved and fewer spare parts. You’re also conserving electricity, coolant and air consumption.

Thanks to the safeguards that SW has in place, such as life Upgrade  your machines will last for generations.

If you’d like to see specs on specific machining centers, check them out here.

Did we miss anything? Or do you have any other concerns?

Let us know in the comment section below if there’s anything more you’d like to know. You can also send us an email at


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