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Automotive production: pallet clamps locate quickly within [+ or -] 3 microns.

Flexible production cells with quick-changing pallets are supplanting the traditional transfer lines for many components in the automotive production machining arena, a trend brought on by the cost savings realized in flexible machining, both in initial investment and long-term savings.

For some years, the Japanese automakers have produced parts that were traditionally made on transfer lines--including engine blocks and heads--on CNC machining centers integrated into a Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS). Changes to part design can be quickly handled by reconfiguring the production equipment.

In this way, machining multiple parts in smaller lot sizes becomes practical and only a matter of changing fixtures, selecting the new parts program on the machine, changing programs ml& perhaps, the end of arm tooling on the robots. A machining center, or cell of machines, no longer needs to be dedicated to producing only one part.

Quick-change fixturing can be an effective way to shorten downtime in flexible manufacturing cells. In the past, skilled operators were required to carefully measure the location of the fixture before bolting it down. Using new and relatively inexpensive pallet clamping technology, they can locate and clamp pallets to machines very quickly and accurately, within a few microns.

Madison Precision Products, Inc., an ISO 9002 registered contract manufacturer has been using the Kosmek VS pallet clamp system for several years. Located in a 176,650-square-foot facility in Madison, IN, the company die-casts and machines high-quality aluminum parts for the automobile industry. The company's production management reports dramatic increases in production and accuracy with the VS pallet clamp.

With the VS clamp, the fixture is automatically located (within [+ or -] 3 microns) and clamped. The setup time is reduced from about an hour to just a few seconds.

Both the metal-stamping and plastic injection molding industries have been adopting similar quick-change methods to survive in an environment of decreasing prices for their goods and the demand for smaller lot sizes. Changeover time is often reduced by a factor of 10 or more. In addition to flexibility, other benefits include faster response to changes in production demands (less downtime), greatly reduced inventory, increased capacity and/or reduced need for additional equipment, and reduced floor space requirements.

When combined with a pallet changer, the VS pallet clamp increases productivity even when producing the same part. A typical application includes a machining center with a pallet changer. Once the parts on the pallet are finished, the pallet is brought to an unload station while a new pallet with unfinished parts is positioned in the machining area. The part loading and unloading are now done in an accessible area and are accomplished while the machine is running (converted from internal to external operation).

The VS pallet clamp offers patented two-surface location, spring locking with hydraulic release that eliminates the need for live hydraulic connection during machining, and integrated air blow to keep datum surfaces clean. Pallet clamps are required on the machine table. Only simple receiver blocks are mounted to each fixture. Auto-couplers are available that seamlessly integrate with the pallet clamp system to bring hydraulics to the fixture. Kosmek Inc.,
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Title Annotation:workholding
Comment:Automotive production: pallet clamps locate quickly within [+ or -] 3 microns.(workholding)
Publication:Tooling & Production
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2004
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