Manufacturing microscopic parts is unusual and demanding enough. Now, a novel fixturing system has been developed to allow a U.K. manufacturer of microscopy machines to machine submicron-scale components. In order to increase productivity and reduce set-up times, the company wanted a fixturing method that accommodates a family of components. In collaboration with the OEM, WDS Fixturing Systems designed a system based on a precision, customized riser table and angle plate.
The U.K. OEM began the effort to improve the efficiency of its manufacturing process, to allow it to cater to increased demand. Its products are used in industries like pharmaceuticals, diamond processing, materials science, geosciences, and nanotechnology, to measure the chemical and structural properties of materials down to sub-micrometer scales. Accuracy is vitally important during manufacturing, it noted.
The company also developed a family of chassis designs to house sensitive electrical measuring equipment in its different products. Each chassis design required a separate fixture for machining, which led to regular CNC downtime, and made it impossible to manufacture small quantities efficiently.
Rather than investing directly in extra CNC machines, the OEM asked WDS Fixturing Systems to design a customized workholding solution that could, if possible, accommodate the entire family of chassis components.
WDS manufactures standard and customized parts for use in machine building. Its standard products selection includes profiles in cast iron, steel, and aluminum, clamps, nuts, washers, screws, and studs, and toggle clamps. The same source produces a specialized range of workholding devices (clamping and pressing products, hydraulic power sources, and positioning rams), and general and modular workholding products.
“When a single CNC machine is responsible for machining numerous products there can be a real danger for production efficiency to dip,” Nick Gautier, project and technical sales engineer for WDS Fixturing Systems, commented. “We visited the site to review the components that were manufactured and their existing workholding solutions. Each component is a different size and shape and needs to be manufactured with a high degree of accuracy, but we saw this as no reason for production to be halted for many hours every time a different component is loaded and machined. It was decided that the whole family of parts could be catered for with a bespoke riser table and angle plate.”
A precision-ground steel riser table was designed with a matrix of tapped and jig-bored holes. This was supported by a customized angle plate that was precision-ground for accuracy, too. Using a combination of standard and modified clamping and location items, also from WDS Component Parts, provisions were made for back stopping and probe mounts that would suit each chassis component to be machined. Rather than changing the table for each component, the CNC operator can simply reposition the clamps to change the production run in minutes.
A spokesman for the OEM, said: “The customized workholding solution reduced downtime between production runs and allowed us to implement a degree of lean manufacturing. Since installation of the new fixtures we have enjoyed continued growth in our sales that has led us to order a new CNC machine. A duplicate of the workholding has been ordered to support the new machine.”
Antony Porritt is a senior marketing executive with WDS Component Parts Ltd.