Expert Report Zero-Point Clamping System

When zero-point clamping technology is further thought out, it can really inspire production

Hardly any method for clamping workpieces has spread as strongly as zero-point clamping technology. Hardly surprising, since the small power packages can save up to 90 percent on set-up times.

Those who now feel an I want it immediately impulse should pause for a moment. If you think further about the technology, in particular across machines and processes, this can produce a real productivity boost for the entire production. Suppliers of the zero-point clamping technology should therefore have excellent process understanding and offer a wide assortment.

Although zero-point clamping system, once installed, immediately and directly bring large savings in set-up times, you shouldn’t be so easily satisfied. If users take a comprehensive look across the entire process chain of workpiece processing and the machines necessary for it, this can have many additional effects beyond a precipitously implemented isolated application. Many suppliers and a large variety of zero-point clamping systems and modules products promise fast help. But the selection should not be made too quickly and the product chosen too hastily. Instead, it always makes sense to bring the supplier on board. As a trustworthy production partner, the supplier can offer a lot of experience and think in a solution-oriented way. If a supplier is not available for this, caution is recommended.

Offering confirms the triumph of zero-point clamping technology

The capability of zero-point clamping technology in daily production is undisputed. High-precision clamping modules with strong pull-in, closing and holding forces ensure perfect clamping in a wide variety of uses. The modules are controlled hydraulically, pneumatically or mechanically. Regardless of whether workpieces should be clamped directly or clamping pillars or other solutions used, the market offers a large variety of variants. Always required are process reliability and high repetition accuracy. The resulting fast and precise workpiece and fixture change markedly increases machine running times and thus productivity. Set-up times of eight minutes instead of the previous 120 minutes are more the rule than the exception. As a result, the investment is amortised very quickly.

So far, so good. But if you think comprehensively and beyond an isolated application, a variety of additional effects result. That ranges from tool-making to production, which can also be fully automated and without workers, up to (final) assembly and installation. In addition, not only are there zero-point clamping modules but other clamping solutions as well. Think of vacuum or magnetic clamping plates or adapted fixtures.

Suppliers that think broadly and have a large assortment can advise in the user’s best interests

Suppliers, such as Andreas Maier GmbH & Co. KG (AMF), have specialised in developing holistic solutions for the complete production process for customers and users. A workpiece is often not finished after various cutting processes on one machine. Additional processes on other machines often follow. If the zero point can be taken to the follow-on machines because they are also equipped with the technology, the savings in set-up times are multiplied considerably. This has also proven itself with additive production, for example, where the first step is usually followed by many additional processes until the part is finally separated from a base plate.

As AMF is one of the pioneers of zero-point clamping technology and belongs to the market leaders, its experts have a great deal of experience and much industry knowledge. Application experience in the areas of machine building, automobiles and automotive suppliers, pharmaceutical and chemical industry as well as medical technology is stored in a large knowledge pool according to projects, tasks and production processes. This pool of experience results in creative solutions that go far beyond isolated processes, machines and clamping technologies. While zero-point clamping is doubtless the core competency, a broad supplier with a large assortment of clamping technologies and much understanding of process and production for customers and users can always work out the best possible solution for both production and product result. 

Pioneer with many years of experience and great industry knowledge creatively exhausts opportunities

For example, at a large machine manufacturer, the clamping experts from Fellbach  equipped a DMC 340 U of the gantry series including 5-fold pallet changer with set-up-time-minimising clamping solutions. The basis are flexible clamping devices for four variants of very large machine parts that are clamped and machined in pairs. A combination of hydraulic pull-down clamps and swimming support elements ensure fixing in the first and second clamping. That ensures that the parts are perfectly even. 

First, the contour is preliminarily milled and holes and threads made – also including drill holes for the zero-point pull-studs, which are needed for the third clamping. After the components are turned 180°, the zero-point clamping modules now take up the screwed-in pull-studs and fix the components directly, without twisting, and accessible all around for five-sided machining. To expand the capacity of the pallet changer and maximise flexibility, zero-point clamping stations are also located on the machine pallets. That ensures fast, precise and repetition-accurate fixture changeover.

Maintaining an overview with set-up and clamping plans

But the highlight is the flexibility of the clamping devices. Two movable support plates are mounted on a base plate. Hydraulic support elements, which are easily disconnected, can easily be moved. So the fixtures can not only seat two side parts, belong together as pairs, which can be processed on five sides after turning. All four variants of the components can be clamped in the respective processing conditions. To ensure that the workers keep an overview despite this unimaginable complexity, the correct positions for the respective component are colour-coded. That creates the necessary reliability and accelerates simultaneous preliminary set-up. For all components, there are both clamping plans and set-up plans, which are available at the machine. Follow-on processes, such as manual deburring, are also equipped with zero-point clamping modules, such as a scissors lift. That takes up the components quickly and securely and permits ergonomic working. The example shows how clamping solutions, with zero-point clamping modules at the centre, through combination with other clamping technology can be creatively combined into a flexible group and a precision-fit overall solution. In any case, the workers at the machine manufacturer don’t want to do without these solutions.

Conclusion: Zero-point clamping technology is irreplaceable – But only suppliers who understand production can trigger the turbo booster

Zero-point clamping technology is unquestionably a gain for every production and assembly environment. The drastic reduction in set-up times directly benefits the machine running times and productivity. If a supplier also has understanding of production as well as a broad assortment of additional clamping technology, this can really move production forward. Through creative use and combination of a variety of high-quality clamping and automation modules, clamping stations, vacuum or magnetic plates, adapters and other accessories, comprehensive precision-fit solutions can be developed for the entire production and multiply efficiency. The zero-point clamping technology thus becomes an important building block for optimised fixture and workpiece change.