What is a rotary table?

A rotary table is a disc-shaped machining device used to achieve precise workpiece positioning.

A rotary table is a disc-shaped machining device used to achieve precise workpiece positioning. It allows a metallurgist to cut or drill a workpiece at precise intervals around a fixed axis vertically or horizontally. A rotary table can be controlled manually or by numerical computer. Certain types of rotary tables are designed to be used with indexing plates or dividers for specialized operations. A rotary table used in conjunction with one of these positioning plates is often referred to as a dividing or indexing head.

The rotary table device usually has a solid base that can be attached to a separate fixture or table by means of clamps. This device is basically a rotating disk that holds the part in place during cutting or drilling operations. The disk portion of a rotary table can be freely rotated for indexing procedures or rotated by an attached control arm known as a worm wheel. Tables used in high-precision operations are normally rotated by a duplex-type worm wheel to compensate for backlash. Rotary tables used in automated metalworking processes are turned by computer numerically controlled machines.

Rotary tables are most often used in a flat position with the axis of the table having a vertical orientation. They are sometimes mounted with the shaft oriented horizontally so that a tailstock can be used to support the free end of the workpiece. When this device is connected to a secondary table, the workpiece can be centered on the rotary table axis, which is then centered on the cutting tool axis. In this configuration, the rotary table, secondary table and cutting tool axes are coaxial to facilitate concentric cutting operations. This configuration also allows the secondary table to be offset to drill equidistant holes in a workpiece.

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It is also a necessary component for many different types of machining and milling procedures. This versatile device can be used to perform specialized tasks such as machining key flats on bolts and drilling holes in flanges. In certain other configurations, a rotary table can also be used to cut complex curves, arcs and round parts with protruding spikes. Rotary tables are sometimes used to produce a large diameter hole in a workpiece by cutting in a narrow circular path. This device can also be used in place of a lathe when it is operated by a stepper motor combined with a computer controlled milling machine and tailstock.

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