by Tim Wilson
Ontario machine shop fills need for simple and secure workholding
The Problem: Workholding to handle complex five axis work
The Solution: New workholding that doesn’t interfere with machining process
Ottawa-headquartered Archer Precision serves a wide variety of industries, from aerospace to medical, communications and the military. With a main focus on complex, five axis machining with tight tolerances, Archer puts heavy emphasis on getting workholding right.
“Workholding solutions become very important when you do five axis work,” says Alex Mazerolle, Archer’s president. “Traditional clamping methods are fine for three axis work but are very restricting when used on a five axis machine.”
This is because for the part to be securely gripped, the workholding solution has to access five out of the six faces of block material for machining operations, which means that the fixture must be able to grip the part on the bottom face of the billet. To get the job done, Archer has gone with Raptor Workholding Products, or RWP.
“RWP offers a simple, clean and secure way to hold material that doesn’t interfere with machining operations,” says Mazerolle. “Not only that, but the design of the fixture ensures that each part is loaded in exactly the same position every time.”
Archer Precision is even using RWP fixtures in its inspection lab for holding parts on its recently-acquired Zeiss Contura G2 CMM.
“We have never had one fail,” says Mazerolle. “The cost of these fixtures are big selling points as well. They are significantly cheaper than many other solutions on the market at the moment.”
A history with RWP
Mazerolle has varied experience on the shop floor. In 2004 he began working as a machine operator at Globus Precision Inc., moving up to quality control manager and then estimator. When Globus Precision Inc. came up for sale late in 2011 Mazerolle set up Archer Precision, purchasing all of Globus Precision Inc.’s assets in January, 2012.
“We bought our first RWP fixture when we were still under Globus Precision,” says Mazerolle. “Since then we have purchased three more fixtures, and we plan on purchasing more as our needs require it.”
Archer currently has six CNC mills. Three of them have five axis capabilities and another has four axis capabilities. The company also has two CNC lathes. All told there are twelve staff running on two shifts, with Mazerolle emphasizing an open approach to his operations. Customers are encouraged to drop by the company’s new facilities – even without notice.
“Many of my customers take me up on this offer,” says Mazerolle.
“It has proven to have an additional benefit. When a customer watches his part being made on a machine, he begins to understand the importance of designing with machinability in mind. Often they will go back to their office and change their design to make the part easier or faster to machine, and in the process reduce cost.”
It also demonstrates to customers the additional benefit of what a five axis mill is capable of doing. In fact, Mazerolle says after a visit, customers will often combine parts that were previously machined separately. These customers can see that a five axis machine combined with effective workholding can make a much more complicated part in the same amount of time, and with greater accuracy, adds Mazerolle.
Working with workholding
Quality management is a big focus for Archer Precision. It is incorporated into every step of the machining process. To get the job done Archer utilizes a Faro gauge tool for in-process inspection, either in the QC lab or on the shop floor.
“This tool can also be mounted right to the bed of the CNC mills,” says Mazerolle.
“This allows us to accurately measure a part without removing it from the work fixture. If adjustments are needed, they can be done without worrying about how to relocate the workpiece in the machine.”
As well, Archer recently purchased its Zeiss Contura G2 CMM for accuracy.
“This is also being integrated into our quality management system, so that measurements that are taken from this centre are automatically attached to the job file of the part being measured.”
The data can be analyzed to determine trends, or to spot recurring issues during the run, with reports sent directly to customers as required. Having this kind of in-process verification that meshes with an effective workholding system can then help to catch and address issues, with resolutions in place before there is a serious impact on the job. SMT
Tim Wilson is a contributing editor. [email protected]