Turning to a ball lock quick-change mounting system reduces set-up time and speeds changeovers, generating significant savings for workshops.
Many SMEs and job shops are faced with producing a variety of parts in a range of quantities, which means that time spent performing multiple setups on different machining centres can cause pre-machining bottlenecks and adversely affect the bottom line.
Dimac Tooling recommends investing in a ball lock quick-change mounting system, which addresses workshops’ challenges with vice setup flexibility. The ball lock quick-change fixturing system provides a method of quickly and accurately locating fixtures onto machine tables. It enables operators to quickly and easily change-over all mills or VMCs as needed to accommodate different jobs. As a result, setup times can be reduced by 20 to 50%, depending on the part. Moreover, the system can also contribute additional benefits, such as reducing scrap and improved machining accuracy.
“Normally, each vice needs to be indicated separately to find a zero location, a process that could take approximately 30 minutes for each fixture,” Dimac Director Paul Fowler explains. “With a ball lock system, which is designed to speed accurate locating and locking of fixture plates and subplates, customers can be more confident that all vices are properly in line and within tolerance once mounted to the grid plate.”
The ball lock mounting system consists of three parts: a locating shank, a liner bushing and a receiver bushing. Mounting is fast and easy thanks to the system’s ability to locate and secure the fixture simultaneously, especially because the shanks can be tightened by hand as opposed to using a wrench.
Each shank inserts through a liner mounted on a fixture plate and into a receiver bushing mounted in a subplate on the machine table. Clamping is achieved via three locking balls arranged around the inside perimeter of the bottom end of each shank. A larger fourth ball, the actuating ball, is situated above the three locking balls. Twisting a screw at the top of the shank pushes the actuating ball downward into the three locking balls, forcing them outward into a tapered groove in the receiver bushing.
The system enables users to accurately lock and locate in the same motion, as long as the liners and receiver bushings are positioned correctly. With a repeatability of ±0.015 mm, the system minimises the need to indicate fixtures. Once the points are stored in the machine system, the vice can be called up again and be quickly locked in position. Each shank exerts as much as 1,300kgf of clamping force.
If a customer needs quick changeovers, the next vice or fixture can already be set up while the machine is still machining with a different set-up. This minimises downtime and contributes to a shop’s overall productivity.
“We offer everything our customers need to get started with the system, including fixture plates, subplates and tooling columns with pre-installed receiver bushings and liners as well as vices designed specifically to work with the system,” Mr Fowler says. “Also available are ball lock systems that are configured for specific machine models.”
The versatile system can be installed on a plate with T-Slots, users can put a rotary table on the plate or even manual or automatic chucks. If they like, Dimac can also drill holes in customers’ own machine grid plates to accommodate the receiver bushings to mount each of its existing vices on its own subplate, complete with liners.
“The system provides great benefits for companies’ longer setups, which are typically those that involve mounting multiple vices in a line or low-volume runs,” Mr Fowler explains. “For example, a part might be machined on one side in the first vice, then moved to the second for machining of another side. Meanwhile, a new blank would be loaded in the first vice, and so on.”
While by far the most significant, easier changeovers and faster setups aren’t the only benefits provided by the quick-change system. Scrap rates can also be reduced because the ball lock system’s extreme accuracy makes sure that vices or fixtures are no longer misaligned.