In our everyday lives, we’re encouraged not to “sweat the small stuff.” In shop life, however, that casual attitude can yield some expensive consequences if you apply it to your tools and toolholding. The moments you invest in keeping these items clean can help you avoid costly downtime. If you think of maintenance only in terms of onsite technician visits for in-depth upkeep of machine tools, you may be missing out on the value of routine tool care and its ability to help your entire shop stay productive.
Just about every item involved in the machining process is built for direct metal-to-metal contact, including spindles, collets and cutting tools. Whatever toolholding system you use, including REGO-FIX powRgrip® and ER solutions, anything that interferes with proper contact between essential metal surfaces also interferes with tool security and machining accuracy. That includes oil, debris, chips and anything else that doesn’t belong in your tooling.
Every machining process can leave residue that interferes with proper tooling function. In a busy shop, operators may view the few seconds it takes to wipe out a collet or spindle as a moment they can gain back toward greater productivity, especially if they’re faced with a long list of jobs that requires multiple tool change outs over the course of a workday. “I’ll take care of it next time,” they say. “It won’t hurt anything if I skip that step for now.” They’re so focused on checking off the items on their to-do lists that they lose track of the big picture. But if you want your tools – and your toolholding – to yield the results they’re manufactured to provide, you have to maintain them.
Likewise, when you receive a new batch of tools or toolholding products, it’s important to take the time to prepare them for use. These items ship with a light coating of protective oil designed to ward off flash rust until you’re ready to use them – but before you put them in service, take a moment to clean them off. Otherwise, that protective oil can increase your runout and compromise your toolholding security just enough to hamper proper machining results.
It’s also essential to protect tools while they’re not in use. That means taking a moment to apply protective oil before you store tools and toolholding items that you don’t plan to use again for a while. Otherwise, environmental conditions can begin to cause damage. For example, if you open your shop doors to let in fresh air during hot, humid weather, that humidity can trigger flash rust – so without protective oil, your tooling is at the mercy of the elements.
Along with making time for these valuable incremental maintenance tasks, it’s also important to perform them correctly. That means using the right supplies and procedures. When you’re removing protective oil, don’t reach for the same chemicals you’d use to degrease heavy equipment, or scrub out a toolholder with a scratchy scouring pad. Just as it’s critical to incorporate tooling maintenance, it’s also vital to avoid overly aggressive methods that cause as a big a problem as outright neglect.
These maintenance steps may seem like low-priority items, but if you don’t make time for them, you can cause high-risk conditions that shorten tool life, damage toolholding and even compromise the working lifespan of your machine tools themselves. When we test our products, we can see the direct impact of machining debris and protective oil on TIR and clamping force. These types of scientific results don’t lie. In fact, they demonstrate the indisputable value of everyday preventive maintenance. Compared to the cost of the “pound of cure,” that ounce of prevention proves its worth every time.
by David McHenry, Engineering and Technical Manager, REGO-FIX US