Getting a better grip on toolholding systems

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Like many shops, Applied Engineering Inc., spends quite a bit of money on tools each year. So it was pleasantly surprised when a new toolholding system from Haimer began doubling tool life and cutting overall costs.

“We’re always looking at ways we can improve our processes,” said Greg Husman, the company’s optimization manager. “What we’ve found is that balancing and heat shrinking our toolholders gives us repeatable and predictive results.”

Haimer's toolholding system TD1002

Based in Yankton, SD, Applied Engineering is a 165-employee shop that specializes in short and long-run aluminum components for several industries, mainly aerospace and aircraft. Many of those components are used in navigation and weather radar systems for commercial aircraft. The company also launched its own line of compound bows, making itself more diversified and competitive in a different market.

With dozens of horizontal machining centers that rotate up to 20,000 rpms, Applied Engineering knows that proper toolholding is critical to extending its tool life and investment. It’s also a key factor in machining accuracy and repeatability.

But until recently, proper toolholding came at a high cost.

Pressure is On

Applied Engineering had been spending $40,000 per year on parts for its existing toolholding system, which required specially designed collets to be pressed into toolholders. Though the system achieved decent runout, the costs were difficult to justify.

A few years ago, Applied Engineering began searching for a comparable system that was less expensive. It found one in 2012, while visiting the Haimer USA booth at the IMTS show.

Considered by many to be the industry standard for heat shrink toolholder systems and toolholders, Haimer’s shrink fit system claims to have higher gripping torque, accuracy, and balance repeatability than do other systems. A key difference is that it uses heat rather than collets or hydraulics to grip a part. With the push of a button, the toolholder is heated up and the cutting tool is inserted. Then the holder is cooled down in 30 seconds. As a result, the toolholder and cutting tool become virtually one piece.

Applied Engineering decided to give the Haimer system a try and the results were eye-opening: a dramatic improvement in runout, gripping force, and balance, the three main variables in toolholding. Tool life increased from 80 parts to more than 600 parts on a consistent basis.

“The Haimer system paid for itself in less than a year,” Husman said. “Not only have we increased tool life on many of our tools, but the quality of our parts is increasing just from the repeatability of tooling. We’ve also noticed an improvement in surface finishes and cycle times. Though we still use both systems in order to remain diversified, the Haimer system is a better fit and much more economical.”

Another key benefit was balance repeatability and balance options. Because there are no moving parts with the shrink fit system, additional fine tuning is not often necessary. However, the company decided to purchase Haimer’s modular balancing system to improve tool life for its other toolholding system.

“The balancer alone has helped us beat tool life expectations by at least 20 percent,” Husman said. “When combined with the shrink fit system, which helped us improve runout from .0007 to .0002 of an inch, we can achieve near perfect conditions. Haimer’s balancer can be used for any of our toolholdling systems; the heat shrinking just takes it one step further.”

Because of the high gripping torque of the Haimer shrink fit system, Applied Engineering also noticed a reduction in scrap. In fact, the company was able to cut its scrap in half last year, thanks in part to the new system. Now the company is spending less money on tools and toolholding, but achieving many more benefits, including higher quality parts. Ultimately, Haimer is a good fit (pun intended).

“We’ve been very pleased with the products and service offered by Haimer USA,” Husman said. “They provided training on the shrink fit system and balancer soon after delivery and have been quick to answer additional questions. They’ve been very good to work with.”

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