Q&A with David Jones

Precision Workholding Product Manager at Emuge Corp.

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How long have you been involved with Emuge precision workholding products?

I have worked at Emuge Corp. in the precision workholding group since 1997 and have been the manager of the group since 1999.

Over the years, what changes have you seen in terms of what gear manufacturers need for clamping solutions?

Surely, there have been many changes over the years, but in large part these changes have revolved around the need to cut cost while maintaining workpiece quality. Workholding can play a large role in these aspects of a manufacturing process.

Perhaps a quick-change solution for a part family could be the answer for reducing cost. Alternatively, even holding the workpiece in a different location, which may not be a datum on the workpiece, but would add rigidity to the process is the right solution. Rigidity generally results in better surface finish and extended tooling life, etc. Sometimes it’s not one thing that provides the required cost reduction, but many things combined which add up to an ideal solution. To that end, manufacturers should look at the big picture including what the desired end result is, as compared with a quick fix that might not attain the ultimate goal.

What are the most common workholding challenges you see from gear manufacturers?

Many times, a manufacturer has a scripted plan for the production of their workpiece, and in this script, there are certain expectations within the manufacturing process. Expectations may include machining time, scrap rates, and final workpiece quality, to name a few. The challenge has been how to consistently get to that quality finished product while reducing the machining time, scrap rates, etc. What is sometimes missed along the way is that this workpiece needs to be manufactured on several different machines with varying operations, resulting in different workholding requirements for each operation.

This is really an engineering function, and workholding locations/datum placement on the workpiece are key during the design phase of the workpiece and should not be an afterthought when chips are hitting the floor. Sometimes putting extra planning into the initial design and machining operations for a workpiece or even investing a little more money into the blank can translate into a better result. The more carefully thought-out workholding setup can add more accuracy and rigidity to the system and have a positive effect on machining time, scrap rates, and final workpiece quality.

When evaluating a workholding solution, what are some tips for determining whether a custom, precision workholding solution will be more suitable than an off-the-shelf workholding product?

This decision is often based on things like workpiece geometry, datum location/s on the workpiece, workpiece material, the complexity of the operations being performed, and which machine/s are being used. The volume of workpieces to be manufactured is also a factor.

Let’s say you want to hob and shave an average pinion gear with a 1” (25mm) bore, and a 1.38” (35mm) face width, and you are only going to produce 200 workpieces a year. The shop may be able to use some existing, or off-the-shelf workholding to get by with manufacturing this smaller run of workpieces. That is unless the accuracy requirements are too stringent for an off-the-shelf solution or the volume level demands a dedicated workholding device. Now let’s say we have the same average pinion gear, but one of the faces doesn’t run to the bore as the other face does, or if the production volume is high with very stringent cut-to-cut time tables, then you would more likely be looking at a dedicated design and build type of workholding, which is specifically designed for your machine, your workpiece, your operations, and your tooling.

What should gear manufacturers expect from their workholding solution manufacturer/supplier?

For a design and build offering like Emuge brings to market, you can expect more questions up front, including prior to receiving a quotation. We want to dig a little deeper into the manufacturer’s plan, including understanding fully the manufacturer’s processes, so we can determine more comprehensively the best solution for the application.

What sets Emuge apart from its competitors?

There are many aspects of our organization that set us apart from the competition. The design and craftsmanship of our offering in the marketplace is unparalleled, and there are also other elements we add that make an overall difference: Things such as raw materials. We specifically source our material for best quality and not just purchase it from whomever is more cost friendly this week. We not only use state-of-the-art manufacturing and inspection equipment, but we also rely on some tried-and-true equipment that still gets the job done today.

Also, many of our team graduate from our in-house apprenticeship program. This allows us the opportunity to ensure the best-of-the-best for a trained workforce now and in the future. Several of our employees, including from the apprenticeship program, have worked for Emuge for many years. Ultimately, it’s the experience these people bring to the table that keeps us ahead of the curve and a leader in the industry.