Any established CNC machine shop has a wide range of workholding clamps and other accessories that have collected over time, including pieces that support high-density production runs, swivel-heads that accommodate non-traditional curves or angles, and traditional heavy-duty vises. These collections of workholding accessories, however, can only take you so far if you aren’t pushing your machining envelope to its maximum potential.
Maximize Your Real Estate
Most tombstones, or tooling columns, offer multiple sides that can be used to secure workholding components and workpieces. Many jobs will not fill every area of the tombstone, however, creative thinking and manipulation may allow multiple jobs to run in a single cycle.
[Left Image] An example of a traditional workholding system set up on a Horizontal Milling Center (HMC) CNC machine. [Right Image] An example of a CNC modular vise on a tombstone fixture.
These are great examples to show the difference between the utilization of low- and high-density workholding setups.
One way to make maximizing real estate easier is to be sure you are investing in flexible, efficient, and modular workholding systems. Finding a CNC modular fixture system with a lower-profile and smaller clamps is even better, as both improve and optimize your vise-to-workpiece ratio. The right system will also allow a machinist to more easily integrate an increased number of parts, lengthening cycle time and allowing for the possibility of one machinist to work on multiple machines—ideally increasing profits. Once this process is streamlined, you may even find your manufacturing engineers or programmers looking down the pipeline to fill multiple orders in a single operation.
Triag International’s flexible and low-profile workholding system can accommodate a flexible and convenient solution to quick changeovers by utilizing its wide range of CNC vises and other workholding products.
Employ and Deploy Creativity
One thing that will drive every shop manager crazy is watching operators on their phones between cycles, but is there really an easy way to avoid this? Not without some creativity.
When a machine is set up by a machinist for a job, ideally they move on to multiple other machines while an operator ensures the initial job runs and is completed accurately — avoiding tool damage, hitting inspection guidelines for parts, and making adjustments as needed. A way to further optimize this typical workflow might include a machinist setting up multiple jobs in a single cycle, keeping machines busier for longer. This may even enable the machinist to get more machines moving over a period of time before cycling back to the start of the rotation for the day, to harvest finished parts and change from operation to operation. Providing less downtime for hands-on positions will also help spark creativity while reducing boredom. Additionally, setting workstations in such a way that an operator is able to supervise more than one machine from the same station would also be an improvement for some shops.
Keep in mind that there are always trade-offs when you are implementing more workholding accessories and workpieces on a tombstone, or tooling column, one of which is the overall weight capacity of your machine. If you are at risk to exceed the weight capacity, there are still alternatives to consider which can help you reach your maximum potential.
For instance, the main weight barrier in workholding includes the tombstone fixture itself, which is traditionally made of cast iron, steel, or aluminum. So how do you reduce that? There are a few other alternatives with engineered materials that have been implemented in the industry in recent years — one example is the epoxy mineral tombstone from Triag International. Read more about this lightweight and vibration-resistant alternative in Advanced Machine & Engineering’s latest whitepaper here.
Talk with one of our Workholding Wisdom experts to learn more about how to maximize your productivity throughout your shop—email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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