Vincent Precision Machining Improves Per Part Setup Time from 5 Minutes to Less than a Minute by Changing to Kurt HDL Vises with Ductile Iron Bodies - Improves VMC "In-The-Cut" Time

Mendota Heights, Minnesota: Five Kurt HDL double station vises mounted side by side on a new Bridgeport VMC 1000 XP3 vertical machining center (VMC) gave Vincent Precision Machining setup time improvement of under a minute per part compared to over five minutes per part for its 420 stainless steel medical components. The time saving was huge because five new vises are used in the new setup compared to just two in the earlier setup.

Previously using double station vises with aluminum bodies, Vincent Precision Machining's workholding upgrade to new Kurt HDL vises provided workholding rigidity that assured repeatable precision part after part while the setup eliminated expensive scrap parts.

"We struggled through two different workholding setups which did not have the needed rigidity and holding power for these difficult to machine stainless steel medical parts," reported Bill Ehnstrom, of Vincent Precision Machining. "During heavy milling operations, parts tended to creep upward and out of alignment within the vise jaws. Small chips got imbedded between the part and vise jaws causing all kinds of problems. We couldn't operate our new Bridgeport VMC to its full potential on this part project so we looked for a better workholding solution."

Vincent Precision Machining is a new company startup with Bill Ehnstrom its owner operator. An applications engineer with a strong background as a machine tool salesman and a machining center operator, Ehnstrom saw a need in the Upper Midwest's medical device industry for top quality precision machining work at competitive prices. Specializing in high speed 3D machining and hard milling to 65Rc using a new Kitamura 2XiF machining center with two Kurt 3600V vises, Ehnstrom recognized that workholding often holds the key to both high quality and a fair profit. Ehnstrom called in his local Kurt sales representative, Mike Neeley, for his workholding recommendations on his new Bridgeport VMC.

Kurt HDL Vises Provide Rigidity And Fast Load/Unload Features

The workholding challenge was a 1-1/2 Inch x 1 inch x ¾ inch 420 stainless steel medical device component machined with a series of recessed flat and contoured surfaces inside a center slot. The goal was to produce these components to tight tolerances with a near-perfect finish to avoid secondary operations. Quantity requirements for these parts averaged 250 a week, which was a stretch for the previously tested dual twin station vise setup. Instead of two vises, Neeley recommended five side-by-side mounted Kurt HDL vises on the Bridgeport's generously large 1200 x 600 mm (47.2 x 23.6 in.) worktable. For some machining centers, five ductile iron vises would prove too heavy. This model Bridgeport, however, has a table load capacity of 900kg (2000 lbs) and easily accommodated the vises, which weigh less than 100 lbs each.

"420 stainless material is very hard and difficult to machine with the many complex features we required," reported Ehnstrom. "The Kurt HDL vises with their ductile iron bodies gave us the rigidity needed. That plus the machine table and base are all iron castings so everything from the vise clamping stations down to the floor is solid iron. What can be more solid and rigid than that?"

The base of all Kurt HDL vises are made of durable 80,000 PSI ductile iron which provides rugged strength, rigidity and long-term accuracy while absorbing vibration especially when machining extra hard material like 420 stainless steel.

Using changeable iron jaws machined to the medical components outer contours, the Kurt HDL vises in effect become custom fixtures using a standard model vise base. The beauty of this setup is that the parts "nest" inside the machined jaws so when the vise is clamped up, all outer surfaces are held tightly. There's no chance of part misalignment or chatter even at highest speeds. When the part run is completed, jaws can be replaced with others for different jobs. The jaws themselves relocate quickly and precisely without special alignment tools.

"Part loading and unloading is really fast, less than a minute," said Ehnstrom. "The parts position quickly within the jaw plate's machined pockets. There's no alignment needed. When the part is machined, less than a half turn of the vise screw releases it. There's no wasted motion or heavy labor needed with this setup. Before with the aluminum body vises, part loading took several minutes. Now with these HDL vises, it takes just seconds plus the five vises handle 20 parts where before the two vises handled only eight parts. These vises have an enclosed design, which makes it easier to blow out chips and coolant with an air hose. The five vise setup also frees me for a full half hour to work on other projects while the machine cycles through all 20 clamping stations."

Five Machining Operations At Speeds Of 350 SFM And Tolerances Of ± .0005 Inch On Bores

Each vise on the worktable holds the components for a different series of milling operations done at cutting speeds up to 350 SFM which is well within the range of XP3 capabilities which has a rapid traverse rate of 43/43/36/ min (1690/1690/1410 in./min). Spindle travel from part to part is minimal. Premium toolholders and high performance solid carbide end mills are used for all of the milling operations. When complete, each machined component has a 16 mil surface finish, tolerances of ±.0005 inch on bores with no secondary operations needed.

Several features of the Kurt HDL vise design help expedite Ehnstrom's process for reduced cycle time while maintaining quality. With a 533.400 mm length (21 inch) and 152.400 mm width (6 inch), the vises are very compact and position within 25.40mm (1 inch) of each other so that less spindle travel is required, part to part, to get into and around parts for complex machining operations. With clamping force up to 5556 lbs at 70 foot lbs of input torque, these vises provide repeatable accuracy to .001 inch, well within Ehnstrom's tolerance requirements.

Ehnstrom also liked the quick change jaw features of the HDL vises. A half turn of the vise hex key and the stationary jaw lifts off the vise body. The quick change jaws self-align allowing fast and accurate setup on the next job. (Photo Five).

"The best machining center is only as good as the workholding used," concluded Ehnstrom. "I tried three different vise setups and learned that when machining very hard materials, rigidity makes the key difference. To get that rigidity, ductile iron is the only way to go.

For more information about Vincent Precision Machining capabilities, contact Bill Ehnstrom. Email: Fax: 651-688-2589. Write to Vincent Precision Machining, 2535 Pilot Knob Road, Suite 139, Mendota Heights, Minnesota 55120. Website:

For more information about Bridgeport machining centers, call 1-800-843-8801. Email: Fax: +44 (0) 116 2869901. Write to Hardinge Machine Tools Ltd. Whiteacres, Cambridge Road, Whetstone, Leicester, LE8 6BD England. Website:

For more information about Kurt Workholding products, call 1-800-328-2565. Email: Fax: 612-623-3902. Write to Kurt Manufacturing Company, Industrial Products Division, 1325 Quincy Street NE, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55413. Website:

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