Clamping complex free-form components with flexibility and process

Finally, free in form and function: Clamping free-form components modularly and securely

With an intelligently configured set of over 100 system elements, we, the clamping experts of AMF, are reacting to the needs of many manufacturing companies that talked to us about this. 

You all know this situation: You have a small or medium-sized series of intelligently designed 3D-printed or casting parts in free form without straight surfaces and want to do final machining on them in a processing centre. Perhaps holes or threads still need to be made. Maybe the final contour or functional surfaces need to be created, or the surface just needs to shine more. But how can the parts be clamped?

How can free-form parts be clamped without clamping surfaces?

Engineers and designers are normally not happy when asked for points, surfaces or holders for clamping. Besides the additional material requirements, they sometimes feel their design skill and construction competence are being questioned. Of course, for large series we just make the clamping fixtures ourselves. But with constantly changing and growing product and variant variety, this can no longer be done – due to cost considerations. While the issue is already complicated enough for castings, it becomes even more so with additively manufactured parts. For when the topic is “designed for additive”, we want to exploit the available new design freedom – and not focus on boring, functional restraints, such as clamping. And precisely for such situations we’ve developed our modular free-form clamping system for clamping complex geometries. With this system, the clamping situation is adapted to the workpiece and not the other way around.

With an intelligently configured set of over 100 system elements, we, the clamping experts of AMF, are reacting to the needs of many manufacturing companies that talked to us about this. Based on special T-slot base plates in three different sizes and with vertical and cross-axes, support and clamping elements, users put together solutions for every conceivable clamping situation and for every individual free-form workpiece. Base elements with especially designed hexagonal T-nuts ensure a higher load capacity.

With both flexibility and repetition accuracy 

The base plates in the dimensions 400 x 280, 475 x 350 or 550 x 380 mm can also be clamped to the machine table with AMF zero-point clamping modules of size 20. The vertical axes brace the component at every height between 60 and 220 mm. In this way, finishers achieve the necessary height and accessibility for five-sided processing without interfering contours on corresponding 5-axis machines. With cross-axes and support and stop elements, we get closer to the workpiece and secure it against vibrations without clamping it. Then the component is fixed through compact clamping elements for processing. These clamping elements have a clamping force of up to 2.5 kN and a clamping stroke of 3 mm. And all of this with process reliability and repetition accuracy.

A wide variety of support and compression pieces are inserted into the clamping elements for ideal contact with the component. The construction kit contains over 30 of them. These can be square supports, clamping points, V-block supports or clamping elements. In this way, operators achieve maximum degrees of freedom in all levels and still with precisely defined positions. The holding forces can be applied not just horizontally, but also vertically.

With a set-up plan and CAD data, clamping free-form workpieces in a set-up-time optimised, repetition accurate and process reliable way

The system permits clamping in different axial directions. To achieve this, users have pressure sliders and cross sliders as clamping elements. These can be optimally combined with all support and compression pieces. All elements are made of nitrided tool steel and are delivered with a black oxide finish. The revolutionary and globally unique clamping equipment kit of more than 100 parts is supplied – without the base plates – in a convenient case which can be ideally integrated into production workplaces.

Besides free, manual set-up, the clamping fixtures can also be designed in advance together with a set-up plan and the corresponding CAD system. All individual components are available as CAD data for digital work preparation via CAD/CAM programming. AMF provides the corresponding data for the individual components in the Internet for downloading and entering into the system.

Good for castings, essential for additive parts, usable also for plastic parts

The construction kit system makes a very good and practical impression in daily use. The individual elements of the system can be handled very well and fit together ideally. With their incredibly many combination possibilities, there is practically no situation that cannot be solved and no workpiece, regardless of how freely formed, that cannot be clamped. For small and medium-sized series, the system permits enormous savings in set-up times. Clamping force, repetition accuracy and process reliability are additional great advantages here.

While the construction kit system is absolutely justified with castings, it is nearly essential for additively manufactured workpieces if the new design freedoms of 3-D printing are to be completely used. In addition, through adjustable clamping forces, even plastic parts can be freely and securely clamped with this new construction kit system.

Conclusion: Many machiners have always wanted such a system

The new construction kit of modular clamping equipment for free-form clamping from AMF is convincing in all matters related to the clamping of small and medium-sized series of freely formed workpieces. It plays no role whether it’s used for castings, additively manufactured parts or plastic parts. Through the endless combination possibilities, all conceivable shapes can be clamped for further processing or finishing on a 5-axis machining centre. Through automatic pre-fixing in every position, handling is simple and practical. Creation of set-up plans through inclusion of available CAD data saves much additional time. Delivery in a case makes sense. Users will be reminded of the construction kits they enjoyed as children.