Blog 2018

August 2018: Simple, Gripping, Future: Literally and Figuratively

Figuratively, the three words that appear in our company logo are metaphors for how our corporate culture and goals relate to yours.

Simple: Simplifying your everyday work.

Gripping: Handling things differently.

Future: Giving you a head start on tomorrow.

As we venture further into the 4th Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), a reasonable level of automated manufacturing has officially become a must have for any manufacturing facility. In just one month, at IMTS 2018, I believe we will see an incredible number of these solutions, more diverse offerings than ever before. For 90 years, IMTS has been the premier manufacturing technology show in the Northern Hemisphere. IMTS 2016 hosted 2,407 exhibitors, 115,612 registrants within its 1.37 million sq. ft. of floor space. IMTS is held every even year in Chicago and attracts buyers and sellers from 117 countries. (IMTS 2018, Sept 10-15). (imts logo)

There will be more pallet “changers”, workpiece “exchangers” and manufacturing “process-rearrangers” than ever before in this shows history. There will be an automated solution to address almost every application and there should be a large number of offerings aimed at almost any sized pocketbook.

With such an impressive selection, it may almost seem intimidating. For some, the delay to transition into automated manufacturing as been directly related to the “intimidation factor”. Complex, expensive, process-specific systems that rely on highly trained, specialists to operate properly. You had better choose the correct system, or be tied to a high cost operation and poor return on investment. This is where I feel the literal interpretation of our logo can benefit you. Keep our logo, more specifically our claim in mind when you consider your options for automating;

Simple: How user friendly is this system? How much training is required? Look for systems that ensure simple preparation and easy operation.

Gripping: Two words, you hear them a lot from us, Process Reliability. If you want to run lights out, you have to know and trust your workholding. Look for systems that give you the best, most reputable workholding options.

Future: What are your plans for this time next year? What other tasks or processes can this system handle? Look for flexible systems with simple options for points of entry and exit and communication to the machine tool. Field retrofittable systems are always a plus because they can often times be re-deployed.

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July 2018: Let’s get Technical: Finding the Zero in Zero-Point

Zero-point systems can offer manufacturers a number of benefits. These highly flexible clamping devices can offer an enormous reduction in machine tool set-up time and offer high process reliability and repeatability.
Like most products designed for increasing manufacturing efficiency, zero-point devices operate on the “garbage in…garbage out” rule. Basically, if you don’t mount it, locate it or use it properly, it runs the risk of not holding, repeating or functioning properly. The three most important concepts for the proper installation of most modular zero-point products is fixation, location and concentric alignment (or “clocking” as it is often called). This particular piece will cover some general tips and information; however, it is always important to check with the manufacturer for specifications whenever possible. Fixation, or the mounting of the zero-point device to the machine table, faceplate, etc. is typically the easiest. Appropriately sized and rated cap screws, shoulder bolts, dowel pins, etc. are often used. Locating is more crucial in certain applications. As an example, rotary tables and/or the c-axis of a 5-axis machine tool require very high tolerance locating because an accurate center of rotation is required. Concentric alignment is extremely important as it relates to how square, straight or “clocked” a device is. In situations where a G68 rotational code is available or the position of a C-axis can be physically adjusted, you have a little more leeway. Once the zero-point device is fixed, located and concentrically aligned all that is left to do is to tell the machine tool where the center of it (the zero-point) is. Essentially, we need to point the machine tool in the right direction. This is done by setting a work offset. There are a number of techniques to accomplish this. Indicators, probes, special gauges or even integrated features on the device itself can be used for this. But which is the most accurate way to find the zero-point?

Before we continue, I should point out two things. First, other manufacturers may have other recommendations based on their specific products. For this example, I will discuss the most accurate way to find zero based on the performance of the LANG Technovation Quick-Point Zero-Point system. Second, this isn’t intended to address the fastest way to find zero. Applications with a more flexible tolerance may be able to find zero much quicker using gauges or integrated features. This technical piece is only intended to cover the most precise way to find zero. Quick-Point Zero-Point plates from LANG Technovation feature four zero-point bores in either a 52 mm or 96 mm spaced square or “grid”. With a machine tool probe (often times utilizing conversational programming) measure and determine the center point of each individual bore.

Once all four bores have been measured, a circle can be constructed, with the center points of the individual bores representing the outer diameter. The center of the constructed circle now represents the zero-point of the clamping device and this offset can be saved and stored. Several machine tools can also take any angle-off or skew into consideration when measuring these four points, automatically adjusting (or “clocking”) the offset in the process; thus, accommodating for any variance in concentric alignment that may exist. It is important to remember that variances in parallelism can affect these readings, so it is important to ensure a flat working surface when taking them. Assuming the plate remains fixed to the machine table or rotary face and when utilizing four properly spaced clamping studs, you will be able to indefinitely locate fixtures to the zero position within a 5µm (0.0002”) positional accuracy. Tightening torque is crucial to repeat accuracy, so be sure to following torque specifications recommended by the manufacturer. Now that we have achieved a highly precise location and repeatable positional accuracy (repeatability), we have entered the realm of quick exchange fixturing and taken the first required steps toward the automated loading and unloading of machine tool fixtures.

Eric Nekich
Operations, Technology and Sales
Lang Technovation, Co.

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May 2018: Does Your Workholding Print Money?

Value is defined as “the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something” and most people in sales will tell you that their particular product or service provides value.

Manufacturing is an industry that relies on metrics to inform us on how we are performing. Of the metrics you currently utilize, which is showing you how much value you either have or are getting? I understand that that is a pretty broad-brush stroke. How about this, of the metrics you currently utilize, which is showing you how much value your workholding is providing?
There is a seemingly endless amount of metrics that can be utilized in manufacturing. They can include formal metrics like throughput, capacity utilization, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), total manufacturing cost per unit or simple benchmark analysis like spindle up time, old op vs. new op, time studies, etc.

Whichever metric you choose or use, you should apply it to your workholding. Most manufacturing facilities have a large supply of workholding fixtures and devices on hand. Most are probably simply viewed for what they are, a means to hold a workpiece. A variable or possibly fixed cost that is simply “part of being in this business”.

But what if they all had the ability to increase profits? Often times workholding is overlooked as one of the easiest and most dynamic ways to increase profit in manufacturing. When deployed correctly it can be used to increase efficiency over a number of different functions and operations; accessibility to the work, holding power, quick locating/set up, raw material prep, etc.

When designing for production and thinking about workholding, ask for verbal or even written case studies. Ask if a cost savings analysis is available. Select a metric you already use or are thinking of using and ask if the workholding company can assist in putting those numbers to work for you. These are services that most workholding and fixture companies are happy to provide and/or assist with, I certainly know that we are.

Measuring workholding performance and acting on the data will increase profit quickly as the correct workholding will ensure a fast return on investment (ROI) by standardizing processes, saving on material costs, increasing safety, improving operator performance, and even increasing part quality.


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