I Don't Think We're in Kansas Anymore

Manhattan, Kansas is gaining worldwide recognition for more than a greatly improved college football program and its association with the storm that transported Dorothy to the Land of Oz. Abbott Workholding Products, based there since August 1993 in a 29,000 square-foot manufacturing facility, has earned a reputation for providing solutions to workholding problems.

Columns From: 4/1/1999 Modern Machine Shop,

Manhattan, Kansas is gaining worldwide recognition for more than a greatly improved college football program and its association with the storm that transported Dorothy to the Land of Oz. Abbott Workholding Products, based there since August 1993 in a 29,000 square-foot manufacturing facility, has earned a reputation for providing solutions to workholding problems.

Abbott traces its roots back to 1954 when Howard Greene purchased a defunct tool and die shop in Phoenix, Arizona. With one employee, Abbott Engineering and Manufacturing Company began producing soft jaws and specialized tooling on a subcontract basis in a rented quonset hut. Within a short time, the humble operation matured into a dynamic and profitable corporation with 42 employees working on a two-shift basis to satisfy the rapidly growing demand for its products.

Working with Hughes Aircraft engineers in Tucson, Arizona, Abbott's management and tool makers designed and built the nation's first "Pie Jaw" chuck jaws to eliminate the problems inherent with rectangular jaws attempting to hold thin-walled material. Drawing on its experience and expertise, Abbott began testing the concept more thoroughly, pouring an aluminum billet and building the first aluminum circular segmented jaw into a set of three jaws.

Pie jaws can be used in place of rectangular jaws in more than 75 percent of all machine tool applications. In most cases, manufacturers quickly realize the many inherent benefits they offer:

  • Concentricity is consistently maintained.
  • The workpiece is effectively gripped without distorting thin-walled materials.
  • Close tolerance is maintained.
  • Substantially lighter weight jaws enhance operation.

Since the initial designs, Pie Jaws of both cast iron and steel have been developed for applications that require additional strength and/or increased density. Additionally, there is a line of rectangular and pie configuration precision jaws (2024 T6 aluminum) specifically designed for precision air chucks.

Carl Reed, Abbott president since the early 1990s, is the driving force behind the rapidly expanding company. He is an industrial technology graduate of Arizona State University and a former Naval Aviator. With more than 25 years of engineering, sales and management experience in the aerospace industry, he was aware from the beginning that Abbott would be supplying its products and services around the globe.

With the advent of CNC machines, the product line has expanded to include more than 3,800 aluminum, steel and cast iron straight jaws as well as a line of chuck jaws, master plates, segments, tooling columns and a variety of accessories. The significant weight and cost advantages of aluminum tooling columns and fixtures have necessitated the emergence of a new product line for Abbott with more than 110 different sizes and configurations currently in production. The company also produces special orders to precise customer specifications.

Besides a growing presence in the United States, Abbott works with a group of independent tooling and accessory distributors in the various individual markets in Europe. For example, English installations include several 10 by 20 by 30-inch columns on Mori Seiki SH-500 high speed horizontal machining centers. Working on the Mori Seiki SH-360 HMCs are large octagonal and hexagonal columns. Most recently, the U.K. Makino dealer installed 24-inch square columns that are 38 inches tall with an 800-millimeter base on the multi-pallets of the new A-99 horizontal machining center.

Mr. Reed sums it up when he concludes, "Certainly, we are extremely proud of our past accomplishments and industry heritage. Yet, we view our yesterdays as stepping stones. We are preparing for the future by adding technologically advanced equipment and expanding our production facilities. We intend to create new products and opportunities that capitalize on our extensive workholding experience, expertise, and manufacturing capabilities."

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