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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

CASE STUDY: Flexible Tombstone Fixturing Boosts Productivity

Workholding devices have a vise design that enables rapid adjustment for different workpiece sizes. Credit: Advance Machine & Engineering

Vise design enables rapid fixturing adjustment. Credit: Advance Machine & Engineering

An Illinois company that specializes in machining components for the fluid power industry improved productivity by up to 40 percent with the use of custom fixturing devices in its horizontal machining center (HMC).

TRD Manufacturing, of Machesney Park, Ill., produces more than 450 component styles and sizes, in 1018 steel or 303 stainless steel, for OEMs and distributors. The company specializes in just-in-time delivery of production lots that range from one-offs to 500 pieces, although the average run is 25 to 50.

The company machines its components on an Enshu GE480H machining center with 30-in travels in the X, Y, and Z axes and a 180-position toolchanger that is expandable to 240.

Its fixturing, mounted on a Fastems 10-station pallet changer, was based on block size and thus lacked the flexible production it wanted for rapid changeover and automation. The pallet changer held 56 workpieces ranging from 1 by 2 by 2 in to 3 by 9.5 by 14 in and weighing up to 114 lb.

The tombstone-style fixtures loaded in the pallet changer. Credit: AME

The tombstone-style fixtures loaded in the pallet changer. Credit: AME

TRD consulted with fixture specialist Advanced Machine & Engineering (AME), of nearby Rockford, Ill. AME recommended 10 modular, tombstone-style fixtures from Triag, a Swiss company that it represents in North America. The fixtures have a vise design that can be rapidly adjusted for any block size. Each tombstone can hold 56 different sizes, if necessary. Consequently, they can be used to run different parts on each side or multiple pallet loads of one size for high-lot production.

AME customized the fixtures to TRD’s specifications and tested each one in-house. Deliveries were on time or ahead of schedule, which allowed TRD to rapidly achieve the gains it sought.

TRD operates out of a 77,000-square-foot facility that also makes aluminum components. Its precision machining operations produce highly customized pneumatic and low-pressure hydraulic tie-rod cylinders as well as piston rods.


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