Holding Small Workpieces

I recently came upon a new workholding product line that promises to increase the productivity and profitability of companies machining smaller workpieces. The smaller the workpiece, the more suited it would be for this product.

Columns From: 6/1/2000 Modern Machine Shop,

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The perpendicular saw cuts running the length of the basic vise bodies are seen in this photograph. Also shown are several configurations for the vise bodies as well as the variety of small workpieces that can be clamped.

I recently came upon a new workholding product line that promises to increase the productivity and profitability of companies machining smaller workpieces. The smaller the workpiece, the more suited it would be for this product. Workpiece widths greater than 5 inches and heights exceeding 4 pounds should not be attempted.

The manufacturer is Austin Vise Co. (Santa Clara, California). The company’s product line currently encompasses four models of vises, two 400 mm base columns and a series of adapter plates that allow the units to be mounted onto any double vise or double vise column.

This type of vise originally was created to hold long bars of material in a manner that allows multiple-side machining to be done with virtually no interference between the vise body and the cutters or toolholders.

The units come in eight sizes. The only significant difference between each vise is the size of the two large chamfers running the length of the unit. These chamfers provide clearance for the cutter and toolholder. The width at the top of the vise varies from 0.5 to 4.0 inches, in 0.5-inch increments. It is possible to hold as many as 48 individual parts in a standard length vise (14.88 inches).

These vises are made from a single piece of aluminum. Two deep saw cuts, perpendicular to each other, running the length of the vise, form a fixed and a floating jaw. When tightened, a row of bolts pulls the floating jaw toward the rigid jaw. When the bolts are loosened, the floating jaw will open to the original position. A second set of bolts can be used to force the jaws open more.

The range of motion is limited. A maximum of 0.01 inch of closing and 0.005 inch of opening is practical. In a typical application, the vise closes about 0.005 inch at most. Positioning is accurate because the clamping force is applied from both sides of the stock, just as in a double vise.

The ability to maximize the amount of material, be it long bars or individual pieces that can be mounted onto a machine, is a very important element of productivity. More material clamped means longer cycle times and longer cycle times, are more efficient.

More material clamped in a given space also means less tooling. This factor is vital for cells where the pallet handling systems can cost as much as the machining center. A feature of these units that further enhances this holding capacity is that they can be cut into fully functional segments.

These vises can be mounted on the machine several ways. The most interesting option is to mount them in double vises or on double vise columns. The vises are now an accessory to existing tooling. There are two ways in which this adaptation can be accomplished. Using fixture plates available from most vise makers is probably the most practical. They are secured to the vise body just as are the regular jaw sets.

Another way is to use one of the company’s many adapter plates. Their use requires the removal of all the original vise’s components. Only the vise body is needed. One advantage of using the adapter plates, rather than the fixture plates, is there are many more sizes to choose from. The range normally stocked is from 1 by 2 by 10 inches to 2 by 9 by 20 inches. Part density can thus be maximized.

For more information, contact Michael Pleban at the Austin Vise Company, 5181 Lafayette St., Santa Clara, CA 95054, telephone (800) 468-1586.

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