Blue Photon’s Grip Pallets are designed for quick change and adhesive workholding of complex and hard-to-hold parts for EDM, grinding, inspection, laser and milling operations
Edited by JENNY RUSH, Senior Managing Editor, Modern Machine Shop
Blue Photon has added five Grip Pallets and three new inserts for 52- and 96-mm quick-change receiver systems. The addition enables more applications using existing fixturing systems in machining centers. Blue Photon Grip Pallets are designed to simplify how parts are loaded, reduce scrap and increase spindle uptime.
Blue Photon’s grippers are inserted into new external inserts, designed specifically for the Grip Pallets. The external inserts are available for use with small, medium and large grippers. The new inserts allow for simple installation of the grippers at the required height for maximum holding power.
The 150-mm square pallet is available in aluminum and steel with a 52-mm pattern for a quick change receiver that will hold up to nine grippers. The 225-mm square pallet is available in aluminum and steel with a 96-mm pattern for a quick change receiver that will hold up to 21 grippers. The 300-mm square pallet is available in aluminum with a 96-mm pattern for a quick change receiver that will hold up to 33 grippers.
Each Grip Pallet includes two handles with multiple color choices and four spacers, with a 25.4-mm standoff that allows for the recommended nominal of 1-mm joint thickness between gripper and part.
Optional clamp studs are available for both 52 mm and 96 mm patterns for 5th axis, Jergens, Lang and Mate systems. Part can be removed with a ¼ turn twist of the gripper or hot-water soak. Residual adhesive is removed by using a handheld steamer or a hot-water soak and a light peeling action.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW ENGLAND - F&L Technical Sales as been appointed manufacturing agents for Modern Industries' mPower workholding product line in the New England territory.
Modern Industries is a leading innovator of workholding and fixturing components, focusing on the development of more efficient, faster, and lower operating cost methods for a wide range of machining and manufacturing applications.
The mPower™ line of products is designed to increase productivity while reducing costs in CNC Milling Machines. These products include their SpeedLoc precision locating and mounting system, the ModLoc modular tooling columns and plates, and a line of heavy duty work supports.
As a manufacturing operation that faces global competition, they fully understand that the need work to faster, smarter and at a lower cost is the key to either success of failure in today’s competitive marketplace.
Take a look at this product overview video!
If you would like to learn more about this please get in touch with us and we can set up a demonstration!
Check out the video clip about Blue Photon using ultraviolet light to cure BlueGrip workholding adhesive on the grippers!
Watch the full episode covering workholding on Swarf Talk HERE
Swarf and Chips is sponsored by Intoco Special Steels and Alloys.
Courtesy of MTD CNC Media and Swarf and Chips.
Orders accepted beginning July 15, 2021. First shipments from inventory July 26th 2021
F&L Technical Sales is excited to announce the launch of a brand new workholding product line for CNC Milling machines! Check out the press release below! We'll be adding more technical information after the product launch and after we return from our training in July! This is exciting stuff!!
Mate Precision Technologies, a global leader in metal forming and metalworking solutions, announced today that it is launching a new line of 52/96 workholding technology for CNC machining operations.
Sundquist explained, “What’s really sets this system apart is that our workholding is designed and built by Mate machinists in our Anoka, Minnesota, facility. They know what machinists want in a workholding system because they want those same things themselves.”
A New Era for Workholding
Leveraging nearly six decades of machining Mate’s workholding line offers an impressive selection of options:
The Mate 52/96 workholding system includes QuickSpecs™, Mate’s unique product identification system. QuickSpecs allows real-time access to critical user data, CAD models and potential integration into business systems. Additionally, the product supports common robotic interfaces and palletizing systems to support factory automation.
This new line is designed and manufactured with Mate’s renowned performance standards for best-in-class accuracy and repeatability. The workholding system is backed by the company’s sophisticated technical support, unsurpassed product quality, responsive customer service, and 100-percent satisfaction guarantee. Learn more online: mate.com/products/workholding.
The workholding announcement comes shortly after Mate changed its corporate name to Mate Precision Technologies to reflect the company's broader commitment to metalworking and using its expertise to drive innovations to shape the future of factory productivity. In describing the name change Sundquist commented, “It truly supports our mission statement, which focuses on improving our customers’ factory productivity, and we are now better positioned to extend our skills and technologies to other markets like the metal cutting and machining industry.”
Blue Photon’s workholding technology solutions
Now features a Universal Fixture Kit.
Check it out in the new 2021 catalog below!
Blue Photon is pleased to announce the release of new products to the Blue Photon workholding system line-up. Blue Photon is committed to revolutionizing the workholding industry. This is achieved by using innovative ultraviolet (UV) technology to design unique workholding and fixturing for specialized applications.
Our customers in turn receive the solutions they need most. If you have machining challenges, you’re sure to find a solution with Blue Photon’s workholding system.
Blue Photon manufactures a patented photo-activated adhesive workholding system in the U.S.
They also offer fixture design and engineering for milling, turning, grinding, electrical discharge machining (EDM), 3D printing/additive manufacturing, laser, inspection and assembly applications for the aerospace, medical, optical, and robotic industries.
You can view or download the catalog below.
For a more in-depth visual of how Blue Photon’s UV workholding technology is a solution to your workholding needs, check out their videos HERE.
New optical workholding adhesives provide alternate solutions
to the challenges of traditional holding methods
written by Dan Billings & Shannon Osborn, Blue Photon
The way optical workpieces are held during processing has changed little over the decades. During grinding and polishing, vacuum fixturing and adhesives such as wax, pitch, and epoxy resins have traditionally been used. The waxes and pitches are heated to reach a flowable state and are then applied to the fixture or part. Once the wax or pitch has cooled, the workpiece is placed into a holding device for processing.
In both fixed and rotating applications, the vacuum is often applied with a rotary union. Once the workpiece is loaded into the fixture, the vacuum is turned on to allow the part to be pushed into the fixture by atmospheric pressure. The vacuum is turned off to remove or release the part.
While traditional methods have worked well, they are not without problems. Hot wax and pitch can lead to safety concerns for the people who use them. The vacuum, with seals and pumps that require regular repair and maintenance, can add additional cost and downtime (Figures 1 and 2).
Unexpected loss of the vacuum during machining can be catastrophic to the workpiece and grinding wheel. Epoxy products can be time-consuming and difficult to remove. Furthermore, the part may require solvents or slow heating after processing to remove the epoxy, which can lead to longer cycle and setup times, as well as environmental issues related to the disposal of those solvents.
A variety of newly available adhesives designed specifically for workholding can eliminate part movement during machining, can speed processing times, and can resolve other challenges created by traditional methods (Figure 3). UV-curable adhesives are well suited for holding parts during processing and they enable easy part removal and quick cleanup. High-viscosity adhesives, which can fill gaps between the surface of a part and fixture, supply strong holding power.
If the optical material is transparent to UV light, the adhesive can be cured through the optical material in as little as 60 seconds. If the material does not transmit enough UV light to set off the curing process, then grippers are used and the UV light is transmitted through the gripper to cure the adhesive from the underside of the part. Grippers are patented, load-bearing, and light-transmitting fixture components that enable complete photoactivated adhesive curing.
With new adhesives, traditional holding processes change. First, a thick layer of adhesive is applied between the part and holding device. Grippers are inserted into a fixture and can serve as the interface between the workpiece and holding device if needed. The workpiece is then secured to the grippers with the workholding adhesive, which is cured with UV light transmitted through the core of the gripper. The average tensile holding power of the gripper is between 200 and 605 lbs per adhesive joint and based on the size of the gripper selected.
When the workpiece is loaded, UV light is either passed through the grippers or the workpiece material for 60 seconds to cure the workholding adhesive. Once cured, the workpiece is held in place securely, which allows for aggressive processing. The parts can then be removed from the holding device by hot water soak with a temperature between 170 and 200 ºF. The high temperature eliminates the need for toxic solvents and allows for faster release of the adhesive. Typical debonding time generally runs 2 to 5 minutes. Residual adhesive is easily removed by applying pressurized steam or hot water spray in conjunction with a gentle peeling action (Figure 4).
Tests have shown that the holding force produced by the adhesive and grippers can withstand the requirements of most machining applications. And the material removal rate can exceed expectations when compared to wax, resin, or mechanical clamps. In traditional circumstances, clamp pressure is often limited to avoid component damage.
New adhesives require significantly less preparation than wax, resin, or mechanical clamps, and setup times can be reduced by as much as 75%. For example, once a workholding adhesive is implemented, hours per day can be saved just by eliminating the waxing process, which includes several time-consuming steps: warming wax, mounting the workpiece on wax, allowing the wax to cool before machining, and degreasing wax to clean parts.
New adhesives reduce setup times, eliminate scrap and toxins, enable the operator to have precise control between operations, and ensure the surface integrity of the optical workpiece.
Meet the authors
Dan Billings is president and CEO of Blue Photon Technology & Workholding Systems LLC. He has worked in manufacturing for more than 30 years in the aerospace, medical, optics, and additive manufacturing industries. He is also experienced with the challenges of holding difficult parts for machining.
Shannon Osborn is marketing manager and works on product development at Blue Photon Technology & Workholding Systems. She has a bachelor’s degree in visual communications from Kendall College of Art and Design.
This article is about Blue Photon Technology and Workholding Systems LLC and how Post Processing; 3D printing presents challenges in workholding for finish machining.
Written by Mark Kirby AM Business Manager, Renishaw Canada
Metal 3D printing can enable rapid, low cost iterations of new medical devices, since no tooling costs are involved. All devices need testing to uncover problems and develop solutions—allowing the product shape to change “for free” is a powerful advantage with Additive Manufacturing (AM). Other benefits flowing from AM besides enabling more complex geometry are improved accuracy with no component tolerance stack up, and a simplified supply chain with reduced part count.
3D Printed Workholding
Plastic printed jaws are often a good first option, as they are cheap to manufacture—typically in just a few hours on a desktop printer, and can conform to complex geometries (although the design of the jaws can be more time consuming than a simple Boolean subtraction of the component from the plastic). When the design changes after product testing it is easy to print a new set of jaws.
The main disadvantage of plastic jaws is that they will often distort the component as they are tightened. Although the jaws hold the part rigidly for machining, when the component is released from the fixture any machined bores may no longer be perfectly round, and true positions of features will have moved slightly as the component relaxes back into its unloaded shape.
The tracker body was monolithically printed in titanium alloy Ti6-4, stress relieved and then cut from the build plate ready for finish machining of the kinematic mount and the four posts that hold the optical reflector globes.
A plastic set of jaws was designed to clamp the part while leaving the machining areas exposed. Although the plastic jaws clamp the part rigidly, they never clamp the part repeatably, so the exact position of the part must be found using a machine probe and best fitting software such as NC-PerfectPart, from Metrology Software Products Ltd. (MSP). Originally developed for machining of high value aerospace and Formula 1 composite structures, this software is perfectly suited to the challenge of precisely locating an organic-shaped AM part with no obvious datum features.
Points are selected on the component in the CAD environment and the deviations from nominal positions are measured by the probe on the CNC machine. The NC-PerfectPart software then creates a best fit alignment that is a 6-axis coordinate transformation—both translation and rotation. This coordinate shift is automatically recalled into the machine controller before CNC programs are executed.
Problems and Solutions
Unfortunately, the hip tracker component flexed imperceptibly when the plastic jaws were clamped, resulting in true position errors greater than 0.3mm on the machined posts. While the component had been optimized for handling loads during surgery, it had not been designed to resist machining forces.
In order to machine the part accurately it was essential not to bend it with mechanical clamping, but at the same time it was equally important to add rigidity.
The solution was to use Blue Photon’s UV activated adhesive and grippers. By gluing the part onto four gripper posts (that transmit UV light to cure the glue in approximately 90 seconds) the hip tracker was held firmly but still in the free state.
An aluminum block was machined to hold the four gripper posts in the correct positions for the tracker body. Initial machining was successful on the three posts directly bonded to the grippers, but one post was cantilevered above the gripper and vibrated during machining. A plastic support block was printed to hold this post and eliminated this problem. By cradling the part, the support block also allowed for more accurate positioning of the tracker prior to the glue being cured. The glue thickness is optimally around 1mm, and after machining the part and fixture can be separated by simply immersing the assembly in near boiling water for a few minutes, and then peeling apart.
The only disadvantage of using the glue grippers appeared to be the extra work to design and machine the gripper fixture. However, on a subsequent project for an industrial impeller Renishaw used plastic printing to produce the gripper fixture instead of machining. This proved that the manufacture of a robust, custom workholding solution can be reduced to an overnight desktop print.
Refining the Procedure:
So, JJ Churchill set about researching into whether there was an easier way of delivering a fixturing solution for aerofoils that was rapid, didn’t involve complex designs and which could take the company forward into the 21st century.
“Blue Photon exemplified the perfect solution.
“In terms of benefits, we no longer need to design a complex and expensive encapsulation fixture, we can machine more faces of the blade, we’ve removed the slow-melting alloy encapsulation and part decontamination processes. Combined with other novel manufacturing processes such as additive manufacturing removes substantial amounts of lead-time from the new product introduction (NPI) process. Typically, we remove a quarter of the lead-time and about a quarter of the cost of NPI on a blade using the combination of Blue Photon and additive manufacture of coordinate measuring machine (CMM) fixtures. It’s incredibly powerful because if you can respond rapidly to NPI, you stand a better chance of getting the volume work of an aero engine programme.”
Time to meet your maker
“We’ve had Starrag machines for well over ten years, but we work with a relatively small number of top-notch, global machine tool suppliers. It’s really important to develop a deep relationship with those suppliers. We will visit them at least once a year to get involved with their R&D activities, so that we understand what is coming through as potential opportunities. We could wait and see what the large OEMs are pushing in terms of technologies – or we can get aggressively involved, help them solve some of their problems and get the opportunity to be partner with them on some of the technical developments going forward. We’ve done this very successfully in a number of areas.
“We usually get two years of advance notice of winning volume production contracts on any given programme. Volume production means building a bespoke cell, which requires investment and poses the question: in terms of single-piece flow, what is the best technology to drive global cost-competitiveness and process capability for this specific customer? We have a shortlist of potential machine tool suppliers where we can form a partnership, sign a non-disclosure agreement and put the supplier alongside our engineers to develop a proposal. This can form the basis of a long-term contract. We will then build the production cell and deploy it.”
Machines talk to machines
“There is a cluster of technologies that are grouped under Industry 4.0 and all of them will affect the manufacturing industry. Do we wait for them to cause us a problem in that they will reduce our competitiveness against those manufacturing economies that have deployed them or do we act early and use them as a differential competitive advantage?
“More in the ‘here and now’ is automation. The use of robotics in a high labour cost economy will have its place – and the UK is a high labour cost economy. We’re looking at how we can link together our VIPER grinding centres and CMMs and automate them. The first step is a ‘pick and place’ robot: a robot arm and end-effector selects a turbine casting, places it on the grinding machine, removes it on completion and places it on the CMM. This offers some advantages but it’s not really earth-shattering.
“The real value is gained with closed-loop adaptive machining. The robot does what I’ve just described, but when it gets to the CMM, the CMM talks to both it and the grinding machine and says for example, ‘this is a nonconforming blade, there is a material-on condition, so we need to re-program and postprocess back to the grinder and remove more material from these features’. Completely without human intervention, this closed-loop output from the CMM is fed back to the CNC grinder, regrinds that blade and re-measures it to establish that it now conforms.
“This is adaptive machining. Even more exciting is where there are upper and lower feature control limits. If that feature is beginning to drift inside the upper and lower control limits, the operator will either take action or simply wait and see. However, in a closed-loop adaptive environment, if the feature begins to drift, the output from the CMM data linked into the VIPER grinding machine can adjust accordingly to make minute incremental offset changes and nurse it to hit closer to nominal all the time. This is what we will be doing and we’ve already designed a cell which is ready for the robots and designed with closed-loop adaptive machining in mind.”
Adept at adaptation
“This is possibly the biggest challenge for UK manufacturing as Industry 4.0 takes hold, because unless a company is growing, the real value will come from employing fewer people as it increases its automation and begins to leverage on the value of better data acquisition,” he concludes.
“We will also be looking to ensure our apprentices join us with ‘digital-ready’ skills. We’ll need people with grinding skills and those of being able to interact with robotics and programming, whilst operators with lower skillsets can be employed to ensure the cell is fed with raw material. It will require huge changes in our industry’s skillsets and it’s one that we’re eyes wide open to, but it will be a challenge for our sector as a whole in moving forward.”
Written by Derek Korn
Sometimes, the trickiest aspect of developing an effective machining process is figuring out how best to fixture the part. This can be especially challenging for castings and other workpieces that are relatively thin, because those parts are prone to flexing when conventional mechanical clamps (and even vacuum chucks in some cases) are used.
Vibration can also be an issue for parts like these if they aren’t rigidly fixtured, meaning a quality surface finish might be tough to achieve and cutting parameters might have to be dialed back, extending cycle times. Finding a way to effectively fixture complex, contoured parts can be just as difficult.
Ray Bray says Precision Grinding and Manufacturing (PGM) fought these problems in the past. Mr. Bray is a project engineer for the Rochester, New York, contract shop that specializes in complex, short-run, often repeating work for industries including aerospace, automotive, medical, military, optics, photonics and telecommunications.
Bray says PGM has employed a variety of unconventional methods to more effectively secure relatively thin workpieces for machining over the years, going so far as to use clay, lead and sandbags to supplement conventional mechanical clamps in an effort to minimize vibration.
You won’t find those types of workholding workarounds being applied there today. Instead, the shop uses an advanced, albeit atypical technology that is particularly effective for fixturing flexible parts.
In short, this technology uses adhesive to temporarily bond a workpiece to numerous cylindrical grippers installed in a fixture plate. Once the adhesive is cured via ultraviolet (UV) light, the workpiece is securely held at a known datum location in an undistorted, freestate condition.
After machining, the adhesive bonds between the grippers and workpiece are easily broken and any excess adhesive is removed from the completed part via a quick, steamcleaning wash.
PGM has a wealth of CNC equipment, including machining centers, turning centers and grinding machines. Milling represents the bulk of the work performed there today, for which the shop uses VMCs with four- and five-axis capability as well as HMCs with pallet pools.
William Hockenberger’s son Todd, PGM’s coporate vice president, explains that because a good portion of that milling work involves thin and complex workpieces, the shop has continuously looked for more effective ways to secure those types of parts for machining.
A few years ago, PGM learned about photo-activated adhesive workholding (PAAW) technology that was developed at Penn State University, which looked to be well-suited for such troublesome parts. PAAW technology was invented by Professor Edward De Meter, who was awarded two patents covering it. In 2012, Professor De Meter and others formed Blue Photon Technology and Workholding Systems LLC to market the technology to industry end users.
PAAW grippers are positioned at various locations, and oftentimes a gripper is used at each hard datum point. The number of grippers used largely depends on the size of the part and its geometry. The threaded grippers install in the top of the fixture plate and require a through-hole to enable the UV light to pass up and through the gripper to cure the adhesive.
- Add adhesive onto pins and install workpiece.
- Insert UV light guide into grippers at the three datum hard points and cure adhesive, which typically takes 30 seconds for each gripper.
- Rotate the table to enable easier access to other grippers and cure adhesive at the remaining locations.
- After machining, use a wrench to turn grippers and break the adhesive bonds between the grippers and workpiece. The workpiece can then be removed. A subsequent steam-cleaning wash might be necessary to remove any cured adhesive remaining on the part, and adhesive might also have to be removed from the tip of the grippers using a metal scale or straightedge.
After machining is completed, a T-handle wrench is used to back off each gripper, twisting the element and shearing the adhesive bond with the workpiece. The workpiece can then be taken off the fixture and a subsequent cleaning operation using a portable steam cleaning device is used to remove any cured adhesive that remains on the workpiece. Adhesive must also be scraped off of the tip of each gripper using a metal scale or straightedge before a subsequent workpiece can be fixtured for machining.
The gaps between the workpiece and grippers (thus, the thickness of the adhesive) can range from 0.010 to 0.125 inch depending on the flatness of the part. The uncured adhesive, which is non-toxic, is sufficiently viscous that it won’t run off grippers regardless of orientation. Axial holding force depends on gripper size and can range from 250 to 800 pounds when using Blue Photon’s BlueGrip S1 adhesive.
Grippers are made from hardened, corrosion-resistant stainless steel and have a black oxide finish. For repeat jobs, PGM will commonly leave the fixtures intact with the grippers still installed and store them for later use. Otherwise, the grippers can be removed and installed in other fixtures created for new jobs. The latter is most often the case for PGM, because new work continuously flows through the shop.
However, it was challenging and time-consuming for operators to mechanically secure either end of the part without causing it to twist about its longitudinal axis.
Operators clamp the middle section of the part as they always have, but use the PAAW system to secure the ends of the part so these ends remain in a free state and there’s no chance of causing the part to twist.
After op. 10 work, the part is flipped and refixtured, and an op. 20 milling operation removes whatever cured adhesive remains from the op. 10 fixturing. Therefore, it’s only necessary to steam clean adhesive left behind from the op. 20 fixturing in this case.
The system will be used to a greater extent for production as well as toolroom work and CMM part inspection as PGM gains more experience with it and experiments with BlueGrip adhesives. Todd Hockenberger says it sometimes serves as a selling point for customers that are either having problems with other part vendors or readily recognize how tough their new design will be to fixture.
The shop has a good chance at winning those types of jobs once the customers understand how the system can be applied to their applications. In addition, it can help shorten product design cycles because fixture design is no longer the challenge it once was when mechanical clamps seemingly were the only option.
"This is big," Mr. Hockenberger says, "because PGM tries to get involved as early as possible in each customer’s new product design cycle to offer design for manufacturability (DFM) advice to minimize production time and cost, and get the product to the market faster."
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