Clearance and rigidity are the primary considerations when choosing the best vises and fixtures for 5-axis machining. There must be adequate clearance for the cutting tool and part in their position to the table, providing sufficient space for the Y-axis, the fixture height and size of the part.
The goal when switching from a 3-axis machine to 5-axis is to reduce handling, tooling changes and cycle time. It is all about a single set-up, or Done-in-One. Because there is less handling in 5-axis machining the chance of error is minimized, providing more consistent quality parts.
Five-axis is often thought to be overkill for many shops that depend on 3-axis machines. Yet, there are many operations where 5-axis is found to be more efficient for jobs where 3-axis is the norm. The increase of accuracy and labor savings from reduced handling can outweigh the cost differential and provide a significant ROI. As long as all components; fixture, vise, part and cutting tool are firmly set in place with enough clearance, 5-axis machining is by far the most accurate and efficient.
With the right multi-axis quick change system up to 90% of set up time can be saved by implementing a quick change fixturing system for a fraction of the cost of the cutting tool investment. The Jergens Fixture-Pro® Multi-Axis Quick Change Fixturing workholding system gets the spindle and cutting tool close to the work piece in the optimal machining position. This can be achieved regardless of the machine or workpiece. Fixture-Pro’s modular approach provides a combination of subplates, risers and top tooling that is right for any set up.
One manufacturer virtually eliminated set-up time, from three hours to just minutes. The operation realized a cost savings of tens of thousands of dollars and additional machine capacity of 750 hours annually.
When machining a part, workholding is a term used to describe holding the part in a fixed position to allow for precise fabricating within a specified tolerance. Workholding is comprised of two primary components:
1) The actual workholding tool, such as a vise to hold the piece in place.
2) Positioning and firmly attaching the workholding tool to the machine. This can include the use of fixture plates, universal T-Slots, 4 or 5 axis components and many other devices which can firmly position the part.
The second method of workholding includes the creation of a manufacturing cell where the placement of the part is secured to quick-change pallets in order to easily switch workpieces during the machining process. This allows the operator to automatically or manually switch the workpiece position or replace it for performing a subsequent operation, all without interrupting the work in process (i.e. machining parts on other pallets).
The pallets holding the workpiece allow for high repeatability. The self-seating of these pallets allows them to be placed into the exact same location each time. This significantly reduces setup times, from what otherwise would take hours, down to just a few minutes. The addition of a trunnion table can serve as a fourth axis to allow for additional machining without additional set-up, and if necessary it can provide the opportunity to add more components to be machined by simply loading additional pallets concurrently.
Having a workholding system increases productivity and throughput which generates more production uptime and greatly reduced set up and changeover times. In addition, it allows the operator to make changes to the job quickly, ultimately increasing production output. And changing workpieces in a highly repeatable manner significantly increases the quality of the finished part. All of this is accomplished without interrupting production. Often, too much time is spent mounting a single workpiece in a machine. The primary function in streamlining production is to develop a workholding solution that optimizes the machining of multiple parts at once while maintaining tight tolerances.
• High repeatability
• Increased spindle uptime
• Quick-change setups; from hours to minutes
• An increase in the number of parts per shift
• Measurable increase in accuracy and quality
Selecting the Right Workholding Solution
Whether for a small prototype shop or a large production facility, the selection of the best workholding solution is critical to any operation. A system that is proven to increase productivity and throughput by decreasing set up times and changeovers will result in more machine uptime, as long as the components are as rugged and versatile as the OEM machine itself.
Often, the versatility is more a function of a workholding solution, then the machining equipment. The objective is to have a solution that provides a significant, measurable and fast return on investment (ROI): To affect the ROI, the workholding solution must:
• Dramatically increase productivity and throughput
• Speed set ups and changeovers
• Show an increase in machine uptime
Though there are many standard workholding components available, many applications call for customized solutions that provide extreme accuracy and high repeatability. A common challenge in many of these applications is accommodating vertical milling along with multiple-axis machining. For instance, applications that benefit from five-axis machining where the cutting tool can access the workpiece from multiple sides and angles must have adequate space to accommodate all components.
Some of these customized solutions are not only extremely versatile, but are also comparatively affordable and easily programmed. It is important to select a company that specializes in the development of workholding solutions for complex geometry and can develop a cell which fixtures the parts on quick-change pallets so the workpiece can be placed at the same location of the cell at every operation. Some workholding companies design 5-axis machining that achieves up to 0.0002” repeatability and unrestricted access to the part, allowing for part-to-part changeover in less than one minute.
The Benefits of 5-Axis vs. 3-Axis Machining
When all or most sides of a part require machining, it is most efficient to utilize multi-axis workholding. However the jaws, other vise components and the machine table itself can restrict access to all sides of the part. In traditional multi-axis cutting the machine must be stopped and the part needs to be repositioned to machine the next surface. Even 3 simultaneous machining axis on a rotary table can limit, or at the very least, slow the machining process. However a well-designed, highly repeatable, 5-axis machining center allows for fast and repeatable manufacturing of even the most complex parts.
Modern multi-axis machining can be described as:
• 3 Axis: Vertical milling machine with CNC computer controls moves three axis: X right to left, Y front to back and Z up and down, controlling movement for the cutting tool
• 3 + 2 Axis: Three plus two machining uses a vertical machining center with a tilting rotary table producing complex parts like a full 5 axis machine tool, but the last two axis are for positional not simultaneous movement
• 5 Axis: A full 5 axis machine tool is able to move all axis’s simultaneously allowing fewer setups and faster machining times
The benefits of 5 Axis Machining Include:
• Reduced number of fixtures & set ups
• Reduced number of operations with 5 sides being machined simultaneously
• Part remains in single clamped position, reducing the potential for error
• Simplifies the machining of complex shapes
• Reduces the total programming required
• Improved part quality due to increased repeatability
The advantages of combining multi-axis and 5-axis machining capability:
• Placing the part into the optimal machining position
• Standard modular components
• A rapid quick change system
• Configure the machining center based on specific need
• Non machine specific (except subplates)
• Easily transfer components to different machines
• Reset for machining of other parts
Conclusion: The Cost Savings of Workholding – Maximizing ROI
Some companies provide clearly defined on-line calculators to show the return on investment for a customer’s workholding solution. Using these calculators graphically represents the savings to the shop or multi-station factory, right down to savings that can be passed along to the end customer. Dollars saved are reflected in:
• Reduced Set-Up Time
• Reduced Tool Change Time
• Calculates Recovered Machine Time
• Calculates ROI on Cost of Tooling Required
To receive more information on Workholding Solutions for manufacturing applications, click below