Industry 4.0 is much more than a marketing buzzword. It’s coming to a tool holder near you. See it in action at IMTS 2018.

From helping to reduce the impact of the skills gap to allowing more intelligent data to be communicated between tools and machines, the future of tool holding is ripe for more efficiency—with more intelligent automation. We spoke with an executive from Haimer USA on the promise of tool holding’s near future.

Is the next evolution from digital manufacturing to industry 4.0 the ability to connect equipment and share data within and between machines? Industry insiders believe so.

“From a tool holding standpoint, industry 4.0 is all about helping customers create a more repeatable manufacturing process by pulling data out so that eventually machines with algorithms and artificial intelligence can take that data and make changes on the fly,” says Drew Strauchen, vice president of marketing and business development at Haimer USA.

To demonstrate the possibilities, Haimer will feature its automated tool management system, including the VIO Toolshrink, at IMTS 2018. At the booth [West Hall, booth #431546], you’ll be able to see a demonstration of balancing a tool holder, shrinking the tool in the holder, checking the balance, and then writing the data to an RFID chip fixed to the holder. When the tool is inserted into a Hermle machine tool, it will read the chip and then determine and set the rpm based on the balance data.

“Collecting balancing information and finding a way to communicate that to the machine so that it can actually make a decision is industry 4.0 realized,” says Strauchen.

“Eventually, data will also be able to tell the machine when to change the tool, and how to change speeds and feeds based on the tool life it’s getting, but all those things rely on accurate data points,” he says. “If the data points are inconsistent from day to day, it’s really difficult to start extracting data and doing anything with it, so the first step to achieving that is stabilizing your processes.”

Stay up to date on everything IMTS related right here.

The Evolution of Tool Holders

To get repeatable processes, manufacturers need to know how many parts they are going to get per day and how long a tool is going to last—which depend in part on the tool holder itself.

“That means it’s not good enough just to have good runout accuracy or good balance or good gripping torque—a tool holder needs to have all of those things and also be repeatable between every single tool change,” Strauchen says.

There has been a “natural progression” for many companies toward better tool holding technology as they’re getting away from collet chucks and side-lock Weldon holders, which are “difficult to maintain with a good degree of accuracy, because they have so many mechanical parts that wear out over time,” explains Strauchen.

“Since there are no moving parts in a shrink-fit tool holder, there’s nothing to fatigue or wear out, provided the holders are made from the appropriate substrate and the machine doing the heating is using the right technology.”

Hydraulic holders are another highly accurate tool holding technology. Even though they have a bladder that may need maintenance on an annual or biannual basis, they wear less than the older-style tool holders.

“The whole market in general is moving toward tools that not only have a high accuracy but can maintain those degrees of accuracy over a longer period of time,” Strauchen says.

“Collecting balancing information and finding a way to communicate that to the machine so that it can actually make a decision is industry 4.0 realized.”
Drew Strauchen
Vice President, Marketing and Business Development, Haimer USA

Tackling the Skills Gap with Tools That Drive Repeatable Processes Over the Long Haul

Another driver for more evolved tool holder technology is the current skills gap in manufacturing.

“Machine shops have a lot of open positions, so in order to grow, companies are trying to fill the void using automation, lights-out machining and other methods to increase productivity—all of which require a much higher degree of repeatability in their processes,” Strauchen says.

“It’s naturally pushing them toward tool holding technologies that can keep up with modern and more aggressive roughing toolpath strategies, while at the same time reducing the amount of deviations that can occur between tool changes,” he says.

For example, there are myriad things that can happen during a collet chuck tool change to cause deviations in the cutting process, according to Strauchen. Factors include the age of the collet, whether somebody cleaned it out properly, who changed it, and if the person used the right torque specs to tighten the nut.  

“Whereas with shrink fit, it doesn’t matter who changes the tool, because it’s always changed the same way,” he says. “It’s unchanging accuracy, the same every time, day after day, month after month, year after year.”

How has innovation in work holding and tool holding made an impact on your shop? Share your stories.

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