Leader says take a ‘steady’ rest at EMO Milan

Exclusively represented in the UK and Eire by Leader Chuck International, Fabbrica Italiana Autocentranti Lombardia (FIAL) is an Italian ancillary equipment specialist with its core business focused on clamping equipment for lathes, both traditional and CNC. At this year’s EMO international machine tool exhibition, held in Milan on the 4 to 9 October 2021, on Stand F18 in Hall 3 the company will launch a number of new ranges of steady rests, including Self-Centring steady rests; the Coolant Series with feed for the steady rest’s rollers; a Mini Series for multi axis lathes and mill-turn centres and a range of high accuracy steady rests for grinding applications.

Leader Chuck International’s Managing Director, Mark Jones, explains: “The function of a steady rest is to stabilise workpieces as they are being rotated. As the workpiece turns, the jaws of the steady hold the centreline and the material being rotated never oscillates, wobbles or vibrates. This keeps the machining process precise, and you end up with a part that matches the design specification.”

The result of Leader FIAL’s ongoing research and development of innovative solutions, this extensive new range of steady rests includes 10 standard self-centring steady rests that cover the most popular sizes of material requirements while keeping the size of the unit to a minimum.

Without roller covers the steady rests increase incrementally to support workpiece or billet diameters from 4 – 70 mm up to an impressive 125 – 460 mm. When fitted with the automatically positioned roller covers the capacities drop slightly, starting at 15 – 62 mm diameter all the way up to 125 – 450 mm diameter. Heavy duty steadies are available up to 1000 mm capacity.

Even extremely heavy workpieces can be accommodated by the new steady rests, the smallest unit has an allowable load of 10 kg per roller and up to 450 kg per roller for the largest unit. Centring accuracy across the range is between 20 and 60 micron, with repeatability between +/- 5 and 10 micron.

For machine tools where space is limited, Leader FIAL offers the same sizes and technical benefits in a range of self-centring steady rests equipped with side cylinders. This range starts at 8 – 105 mm diameter capacity and extends to the same maximum size as the inline cylinder design.

Coolant Series

Providing extended protection for both the rollers and the workpiece is the Coolant Series of steady rests. With the addition of coolant fed through the arms via a special port, the working area around the rollers is kept clean thereby preventing damage to the rollers and the surface of the workpiece. Again, offering the same size and performance parameters as the standard range.

Mini Series

The Mini Series has been developed for highly efficient multi axis lathes where there is no option for the mounting of a steady rest, such as double turret turning centres. Here, the lower turret is used to mount the steady rest while the upper turret performs any operations required. These steady rests are designed to work on the popular bar fed smaller diameter raw material sizes, up to 65 mm diameter, and they are supplied with mounting systems that exactly match the machine tool used. Most popular mounting styles are supported, including front and radial VDI mounting shanks, Mazak perimeter sliding mounts, bolt-on face discs, Capto trilobe and EMAG tail systems.

High Accuracy

For external and internal cylindrical grinding applications, Leader FIAL will launch its High Accuracy steady rests. The four units in this application specific range provide support for parts of between 4 – 12 mm, 12 - 40 mm, 20 – 60 mm and 40 – 110 mm diameter.   

Ensuring longevity each of the new steady rests benefit from a built-in central lubrication and pressurised air systems that have been designed to ensure the rollers operate correctly throughout the life of the unit. The rollers can be lubricated from the machine tool’s coolant system or with high flow grease while the positive air pressure, adjustable between 1 and 4 bar, keeps the working area clear of unwanted swarf and fines. Proximity detectors can signal confirmation that the device is fully open and ready to accept loading to the machine tool and/or loading ancillaries.

Mark Jones concludes: “When it comes to the turning process, FIAL has decades of experience. As well as this extensive range of new standard steady rests the company can also provide a bespoke service whereby units can be manufactured to suit customers’ exact specifications.”

Leader offer a flexible first step towards machine tool automation with the Zerobot 100V eco

While many machine shops are enjoying the production benefits of robotic part handling, others are struggling to tackle the first steps of implementation. The capabilities of the Zerobot 100V eco, available in the UK and Eire from Leader Chuck International, can help provide manufacturers with the perfect starting point.

Within the machine shop environs the growing acceptance and popularity for robots is due to their material handling capabilities when loading and unloading parts into and out of machine tools and other manufacturing equipment. However, their effectiveness relies on correct implementation as Leader’s Managing Director, Mark Jones, explains: “Once the decision to implement this technology has been made some important questions need to be asked.

“Basically, these include: What are the maximum and minimum weights of the parts that will run? What condition are the parts in as they arrive (raw billet, casting, forging, pre-machined, size, sharp edges/burrs, covered in chips/coolant/oil)? Will the machining process be single operation or multiple operations requiring back working? How many parts and cycle times to define how long the infeed queue needs to be? Will it run lights out or will an operator be available to oversee the process? Any in-process inspection required? How much floor space is available for the automation? Will the capacity of this machine be taken up with the automation or will it be used without the automation for some of the time?”

At the heart of the loading system is the robot and different robots are designed for different kinds of environments. The Zerobot 100V eco is an industrial grade SCARA arm robot, a design that has become popular for machine loading in the manufacturing sector. It is designed to work in the swarf-covered, coolant-dripping environment encountered in the machine tool world.

Robots are usually specified by reach and payload. The Zerobot 100V eco can be specified with a right- or left-hand mounting of the arm with a radiused reach of 1.2 m providing enough range to access the whole worktable of most machine tools. While the 100 kg total payload means raw material billets or forgings up to 250 x 160 x 200 mm can be accommodated.

The infeed and storage of raw materials and finished workpieces is another area for consideration. Here, the Zerobot 100V eco offers a manually operated double-sided vertical rack system with the flexibility to be populated to exactly match the requirements of the components being processed. The double-sided rack design means finished parts can be removed and the raw material supply can be refreshed while the machine tool is operating, so downtime is kept to an absolute minimum. It also allows access to the machine’s working envelope if an unscheduled part needs to be manually loaded, supporting emergency repairs or rework scenarios.  

End of arm tooling (EOAT), the tooling that is mounted to the end of the robot to assist in performing the necessary tasks, must be paid attention. “While various kinds of tooling, such as vacuum cups and magnets, are available for picking parts, the most common style on the shopfloor uses pneumatic grippers. As with the robot itself, quality grippers that are appropriate for the working environment are important. The standard Zerobot has the ability to automatically change the EOAT to suit the application, this is a quick, simple, manual procedure on the eco version,” Mark Jones confirms.

He continues: “The application will dictate the size and quantity of jaws and grippers that will be needed. Grippers are available in many configurations and may have two, three or four jaws. Two-jaw, parallel-close grippers are the go-to grippers for anything square, rectangular, or easily picked up between two fingers. Three-jaw grippers lend themselves to picking up round and hex parts, just as a three-jaw chuck is so prevalent on a lathe.”

The extensive range of Zerobot robotic automation systems means there is a solution available for almost every application. Starting with the Zerobot 100V eco with fixed double-sided rotating rack, no automatic gripper or automatic fixture change. Automatic rack rotation available as an option and, being such a straightforward design, it offers a simple I/O interface.

Next is the Zerobot 100V featuring a double-sided automatically programable rotating rack, automatic gripper and fixture change options, and field bus interface with NC-program selection.

Offering two single racks that can be moved with a pallet truck, the Zerobot 100P has an automatic gripper and automatic fixture change option, with field bus interface for NC-program selection.

The most extensive of the Zerobot range is the 100S that comes with an additional linear axis for longer travel, two or more single rack systems that can be moved with a pallet truck, automatic gripper and automatic fixture change options, and a field bus interface with NC-program selection. When the additional linear axis for longer travel and more than two single rack systems are not required the 100S can be downgraded to the 100P system.

“The comprehensive range is a key feature for any workshop looking to dip its toes into the world of automation. It means the robot can be specified to support the different machine tools available, matching the needs of the business across the whole of the shopfloor. It allows production managers to gauge the real-world return on any potential investment making the decision to install dedicated automation systems that much clearer,” says Mark Jones.

He concludes: “Before the search for any articulating arm automation begins the basic details, we considered at the very start need to be understood. An honest look at these considerations will go a long way to defining an automation system that provides efficient and effective part movement. The answers to these questions will be important to both the supplier and the users on the shopfloor.”

An Orange Vice Will Always Bear Fruit

When it comes to workholding for prismatic machining there is very little to compare with the flexibility offered by the humble vice. However, if it is an Orange vice there is nothing humble about it. From the company’s latest bench vice right through to its advanced Delta IV 4/5-axis range, these fixturing systems are epitomised by the ‘built like a tank’ analogy. 

Workholding specialist, Leader Chuck International, is the European agent for the complete range and provide comprehensive pre- and post-sales advice as well as ongoing technical support. Orange vices are engineered to deliver maximum clamping force and repeatability with quick-change features built in. Designed and manufactured in the USA these vices offer the ideal balance of performance and longevity, and every vice is covered by a lifetime warranty against defects in materials and craftsmanship.

For Orange, a solid and reliable performance starts with the vice body, carrier slides, and master jaws all being machined from solid billets of Dura-Bar iron rather than cast to shape, with the vice body being hardened and subsequently precision ground on four sides.

The main screw is machined from high tensile alloy steel and threads are completely sealed from contaminants. Hard jaws are machined from alloy steel and case hardened to 58-62 HRc while smaller components are all machined from steel.

Managing Director, Mark Jones, explains: “The materials used throughout the construction aids vibration damping and low thermal growth. By using high strength components, it allows the vice range to withstand increased clamping forces of up to around 45 kN, and the sliding jaws feature a pull-down design to minimise part lift under these heavy clamping forces.”

The ‘Quick Change’ concept is integrated in every machining vice design offered by Orange. These include 6 inch single and dual station vices in various lengths, and the Delta IV range in 4 by 6, 4 by 7.5 and 4 by 9 inch sizes. An integrated interface allows the vice body to be mounted to a subplate or tombstone in seconds, with +/- 12 micron repeatability using the optional Orange ball couplers and receivers. The carrier slide assembly can be removed or installed in seconds for cleaning and setup changeovers. Master jaws and jaw plates can also be removed or installed in seconds, with the same +/- 12 micron repeatability.

Supporting increased loading and unloading efficiency is the Twin Delta vice pallet, whereby a set of special master jaws can be fitted to the vice to allow an aluminium pallet to be quickly loaded or unloaded while the vice remains bolted to the worktable or machine bed. A vee form dovetail interface between the master jaws and the pallet provide a robust and accurate location that naturally self-centres to within 12 micron. The aluminium pallet can be adapted to any fixturing method, such as being machined with location pockets for workpieces. Using two pallets set for Op1 and Op2 would allow any machine shop to keep the machines spindles running much longer as the parts can be preset offline.  

On the bench

Orange’s latest bench vice is ideal for precision assembly applications, as Mark Jones states: “It should not be used as an anvil, but if your application calls for precision machined jaws formed to fit your parts, with the ability to gradually apply pressure without crushing or scratching the part, the Orange Bench vice is just what you need. See the video of this vice being manufactured and assembled at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-HiX9q0nu8&feature=emb_logo”

This bench vice is designed to apply a linear clamping force based on the position of the handle after a workpiece is gripped. So, an eighth of a turn generates a holding force of 3.3 kN that doubles up 6.6 kN at a quarter turn and progresses all the way to a maximum force of just over 13 kN, limited by the axial load rating of the thrust bearing.

The bench vice uses the same dovetailed jaws as all Orange 3-axis CNC machining vices, making it fully compatible with the US made CARVEsmart quick-change vice jaw system also available from Leader. “CARVEsmart offers a complete dovetailed quick-change vice jaw system and provides a number of benefits. While conventional vices attach the jaws to the face of master jaws via cap screws, the CARVEsmart system uses master jaws with a female dovetail profile designed to accept vice jaws with a male dovetail profile.

“So, the jaws can be front-loaded or slid into the side of the master jaws, that are secured via clamping elements accessible at the top of the master jaws. With no face mounting cap screws to avoid the soft jaw extruded stock is fully machinable, making inexpensive cut to any length vice jaws,” says Mark Jones.

For multi-axis machining applications, the Orange Delta IV vices can be fitted with the Talon Grip jaws to allow Mitee-Bite low profile clamps and part stops to be used. These jaws are able to securely hold raw material or part finished components with as little as 1.5 mm of stock clamped, even during aggressive 4- and 5-axis machining operations.

Improving productivity even further, Orange vices are equipped as standard with the ability to use the company’s new Delta Zero ZPS (Zero Point System) baseplates which feature a Patent-pending, manually actuated zero-point design for +/- 5 micron repeatability. Made of hardened steel, ground on two faces the pallets come in two standard bolt hole patterns with custom patterns available as an option.

Mark Jones concludes: “Not only do Orange vices offer exceptional precision, flexibility and reliability across the whole range, they also support efficient machine shop operations. Using the Delta Zero ZPS vices can be very quickly exchanged within the working envelope, and each vice can be disassembled in just a couple of minutes for cleaning and maintenance, and quickly re-assembled for minimum downtime. Even the slide assembly can be rebuilt in under 5 minutes with off-the-shelf components and hardware.”

Productivity and Efficiency Enhancements Set ZeroClamp Apart from the Rest

Workshop benefits for milling include direct clamping of the component onto a base unit. Holes as sockets for the clamping studs are specified at the design stage. Components can be changed quickly and accurately across all machines for second ops and finishing.
In the case of turning operations the productivity increases are achieved with pre-balanced base units. Maximum safety at high forces comes from the additional retaining elements. EDM workholding functions reliably even under water or in dielectric. The base units are equipped with special drain holes so that the water can escape when the pots are opened.