Holding on Tight: Toolholders as Workholders in Micro Machining

by | Jul 19, 2023

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Miniaturization in manufacturing is becoming a clear trend. Whether in medical, automotive, aerospace or electronics, the demand on manufacturers to produce ever-smaller components continues to rise, while achieving accuracy on complex details that are smaller than a grain of salt and measured in microns. That level of accuracy challenges manufacturers to deliver precision parts, ensure higher end-product performance and effectively control the price per part.

To meet the increasing need for smaller, smarter parts and components for today’s leading-edge products, the industry has moved steadily toward micro machining and laser micro machining on specialized platforms that turn at incredibly high speeds or use femtosecond lasers that can ablate material by generating up to a hundred million laser pulses per second. The parts produced on these micro machining platforms are so small that shops often look to toolholders for holding small, delicate workpieces.

In these cases, collets have been shown to be effective, stable workholders for small workpieces. However, due to the fragile nature of these micro parts, the complexity of their details and the high tolerances involved, vibration in the machining process must be kept to an absolute minimum to avoid scrapping the part.

Vibration or chatter can occur almost anywhere in a job’s tooling setup. A lack of stability anywhere from the spindle to the toolholder or the workpiece can result in vibration significant enough to cause a tolerance excursion or defective surface finish, especially when micro machining. In addition to the potential for scrapped parts, excessive vibration costs shops in terms of material, tools and excess labor. Workpiece holding must be secure and essentially chatter-free.

Some toolholding designs are clearly not suitable for securing the small pieces involved in micro machining. Shrink fit systems, for example, cannot be used because the heating of the holder could affect the workpiece. For this reason, the REGO-FIX powRgrip collet system is often considered.

The powRgrip System does not rely on heat or hydraulics and provides safety and security using a press that inserts a special shallow-tapered collet into a holder in less than 10 seconds with up to nine tons of force for the industry’s highest clamping torque rating. More importantly for micro machining, powRgrip eliminates the effects of excessive chatter with its virtually 100% vibration dampening characteristics. With a total system runout TIR  3mm at 3 X D, powRgrip provides secure tool and workholding micro part production.

The extreme spindle speeds involved in micro machining can magnify even the slightest tool and workpiece holding flaws. Tight-tolerance accuracy and consistent performance are key to cost-effective micro machining, and a precise, secure toolholder can be a workholding asset. With its nearly total vibration damping characteristics and minimal runout, the powRgip collet system provides a safe, solid and effective alternative to traditional workholding methods for micro machining.