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Resources for Creative workholding and fixturing in CNC Machining

Resources for Creative workholding and fixturing in CNC Machining

(OP)
I sometimes feel like I might be stuck "in a box"-way of thinking when it comes to fixturing and workholding. So far, it's been mostly just experience, a bit of collaboration and networking, and trial-and-error. But I fear the dreaded "echo chamber" effect of not getting new/fresh ideas after a time. If I'm not doing something new or seemingly innovative very often, I feel nervous and self-conscious, wondering if I'm not keeping up with the world. We specialize in short-run, prototype, custom orders, and occasionally if those are successful, do a production-quantity order. However, it's the quick one-off types that are challenging, when we don't have a large order to absorb investments and give us a quick ROI.

Where do you guys go for inspiration or to learn a new trick? I want to fight off stagnation. This isn't a manner of "Have you tried this new vice/fixture/gadget". I'm looking for ideas and inspiration for tackling those "how are we gonna hold this?" parts. Maybe it's a bathtub shaped part with no cutouts or feet to clamp/bolt to. Maybe it's a completely organic-shaped object with no flat sides or holes.

The origin of this thought was a part a coworker and I were looking at. Imagine a 120d obtuse angle, say each leg is 3" long. Now imagine that shape extruded along a long arc of a varying radius. We have a couple solutions but kept thinking "there has to be a better way!"

Where do you look for inspiration? What resources do you go to?

_________________________________________
NX8.0, Solidworks 2014, AutoCAD, Enovia V5

RE: Resources for Creative workholding and fixturing in CNC Machining

A few ideas came to mind as I read your post. These are some things that I have used and seen in the past. Food for thought.

Encapsulating in low melt alloy (or wax, or other potting compound) to develop the workholding surface.
Gluing the part to a host workholding piece.
Machining from an oversize blank with bridges or tabs that can be removed from the desired product as a last operation.
Holding the part with dopping wax on an armature of sorts in order to machine other sides. Dopping wax is a product used in the lapidary and gem cutting industry that is hard and has good adhesive qualities.
Vacuum.
And there are always sacrificial soft jaws.

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

RE: Resources for Creative workholding and fixturing in CNC Machining

(OP)
Thanks for the input. We regularly employ a few of your ideas. We haven't yet had to resort to vacuum fixturing but I suggested that this may be an order that finally necessitates it.

The only thing we haven't done is to use some low-melt-temp metal cast around it and... I think for this part, I'd suggest it.

However, we're more concerned about finding resources to keep opening our minds from time to time. Our company sends a handful of employees to IMTS each go-around, and hopefully in 2016 it's my turn. I've never been, but I've heard it's a good place to get the brain cells firing on some new ideas in the world of cutting tools and workholding.

_________________________________________
NX8.0, Solidworks 2014, AutoCAD, Enovia V5

RE: Resources for Creative workholding and fixturing in CNC Machining

"has to be a better way" .....usually is.

Expand your circle of folks thinking about it. Use discussion forums to broadcast your questions. I love Eng-Tips, but there are others related to machining technologies with a lot of people smarter/more experienced than I will ever be. Tap into that knowledge.

wwww.practicalmachinist.com

wwww.cnczone.com

are two that come to mind.

TygerDawg
Blue Technik LLC
Virtuoso Robotics Engineering
www.bluetechnik.com

RE: Resources for Creative workholding and fixturing in CNC Machining

(OP)
Thanks for the suggestions. The internet is very much our current avenue for discussing things like this. I actually started a thread on PracticalMachinist nearly-exactly phrased this way, before starting this one, here. That's a very common go-to for me to learn something new, see how others do things, and get a glimpse at other industries and methods.

_________________________________________
NX8.0, Solidworks 2014, AutoCAD, Enovia V5

RE: Resources for Creative workholding and fixturing in CNC Machining

When I was working as a manufacturing engineer, I used to go to SME trade shows. Very seldom would I come home from a show without ideas on how to do something better/faster/cheaper.

RE: Resources for Creative workholding and fixturing in CNC Machining

Vacuum and magnetic get used by one of our vendors a lot - to the point we sometimes specify nominally more expensive materials that are ferro magnetic as it saves on machining.

Of course many of these parts are variations on very 'flat' discs & plates with various features machined in.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Resources for Creative workholding and fixturing in CNC Machining

Elijah Tooling's "Invert-a-Bolt" devices are a welcome addition to my arsenal......(not affiliated)

http://www.invert-a-bolt.com/1-2-fastener.php

thumbsup2

Proud Member of the Reality-Based Community..

To the Toolmaker, your nice little cartoon drawing of your glass looks cool, but your solid model sucks. Do you want me to fix it, or are you going to take all week to get it back to me so I can get some work done?

RE: Resources for Creative workholding and fixturing in CNC Machining

Find a good machinist and or tool maker. Engineers that are not former machinists just can't grasp it, as its a different world when it comes to machining, just not the same as on paper or on a computer screen.

RE: Resources for Creative workholding and fixturing in CNC Machining

(OP)
I'm a former machinist in an R&D setting.

My office is attached to a shop with a couple great toolmakers and many fantastic machinists.

I could not agree more with the importance and benefits of both of those privileges I have! They make all the difference.

Maybe I'm just getting "bored" with what "isn't broke". There's always that possibility. I am looking into upcoming SME conferences and related events with fervid interest.
Thanks to everyone who has so far contributed. I appreciate the input.

_________________________________________
NX8.0, Solidworks 2014, AutoCAD, Enovia V5

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