Seven Ways To Think About Workholding

There are many ways to think about workholding. Here are some ideas that surfaced during the preparation of this issue.

There are many ways to think about workholding. Here are some ideas that surfaced during the preparation of this issue. Perhaps they will feed your thoughts on this important topic.

Think of setup as a pit stop. Approach setup and changeover the way a pit crew at the Indy 500 does. Pit crews on a winning racing team train thoroughly and prepare carefully. They practice. They have the right tools and components ready and in reach. Teamwork and split-second timing are essential. Getting your machine tool back into the race with as little downtime as possible is the key.

Think of clamps, vises, and fixtures with the same respect you give to cutting tools. Workholding devices don't remove any material, but they do add value! You can't machine it right if you can't hold it right. Workholding devices are the most important "non-cutting" tools at any shop's disposal.

Think outside the box. Mechanical force is not the only force by which to clamp workpieces. They can be frozen in place. Sucked down by a vacuum. Held with magnets. Even shrink-fit. What would happen if you held things upside down? Backwards? At opposite angles?

Think of workholding as child's play. Building-block-type workholding components can be used and reused in modular setups. This approach is flexible and affordable. Commercial modular fixturing systems make it easy to adopt this approach but don't overlook the economies of building some of your own components. Be a kid, get imaginative.

Think like an army general. Getting workpieces on and off machines quickly, efficiently and effectively wins the productivity battle as surely as getting soldiers and weapons on and off the battlefield in the same way wins wars. Innovative workholding is often the tactical advantage that underlies the most successful manufacturing strategies.

Think of workholding as a CAD/CAM issue. Workpieces can and should be designed with clamping and fixturing in mind. Locators, clamping pads, and other design features facilitate good workholding. Let the power of CAD/CAM software benefit fixture design.

Think of workholding as science and art. Almost anybody can learn the science, but the art comes from within. It's a gift. To the workholding connoisseur, a really good setup or fixture is a thing of beauty.

One last thought: workholding can never be an afterthought.