Q&A with Justin Gordon

General Manager, Fairlane Products

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Tell our readers a little bit about the workholding products Fairlane provides.

We manufacture serrated grippers and other workholding components—the contact points that hold onto a gear or workpieces during machining. Of those contact points, we have a number of different materials, depending on the surface finish or hardness of the work piece, from an aggressive serrated gripper with teeth that will really bite into a casting, to soft urethane grippers meant for gripping onto a finished or painted surface. Of course, there are several varieties in between these two: carbide, high-speed steel, stainless steel—different patterns of serrations. We also have a diamond-surface gripper for grabbing onto smoother pieces to avoid penetration by the serrated teeth while still getting a good, sure grip.

The contact points we have, we also take those and put them into a swivel body—we call them Swivots™—and use them to contour to uneven workpieces. In the mid-’90s, we came out with the Swivot, a swiveling positioner. Slowly, we’ve been adding different varieties and “flavors” to products such as these. Two of the newest ones are the diamond gripper and the soft-top urethane gripper.

If I am clamping straight down onto a workpiece with a Swivot but my surface isn’t perfectly level, a ball is going to contour to that uneven surface and get a nice, flat grip, preventing any edges from gouging into the workpiece.

We also use these in thrust screw applications. This is typically used like a set screw would be used, except, as it comes in contact with the workpiece, the ball is going to stop moving; you can continue turning the set screw or thrust screw, clamped against the workpiece. It prevents gouging the workpiece by continuing to rotate. That ball is going to come into contact and stop rotating while you continue tightening it.

All of these operations center around the preservation of the workpiece.

That’s the key. Workpiece protection is a big concern in workholding—not wanting to distort or damage. Regularly during trade shows, we encounter machine shop supervisors and foremen looking for ways to safeguard their fixtures from their own operators.  Machine operators are more concerned about a work piece coming loose inside the machine and sometimes don’t realize the damage to the workpiece they are causing.

We have a couple products that help with this. One is a torque-control lever, which adjusts to a certain torque. Once the maximum torque level is reached, it switches over and won’t let the operator tighten any further. Another product we’ve been pushing in the last month is called the OD holding clamp, used for clamping on to irregular workpieces. It adjusts to the contours and curves of the workpiece.

It’s the variety of different contact points that is so important: Are you using it simply as support, without the need to grip? Does it require diamond-surface steel for a grip? Can you deal with some minor workpiece penetration, or do you need aggressive serrations to really hold the part down?

Another aspect of our products is that we hold the Swivot ball in place with O-rings. They allow for the ball to be replaced when it becomes worn out, or while working with a different type of surface or application. Perhaps the operator is holding down a finished suface in one application and a raw steel casting in another; he can just replace the ball.

Your website features a variety of case studies involving your products. Can you summarize some of them for our readers?

In one of our case studies, the Swivot grabs onto a workpiece in a direction that’s not straight-on. If the swivel body did not contour, an edge of the contact surface would hit the workpiece. But because it does contour, you’re able to keep a nice, flat grip on it.

In another application, a large set screw is necessary; the concern is that you’re going to begin damaging the workpiece as you’re tightening that last quarter turn, when it increases its rotational force and gouges into the workpiece. By using the thrust screw, that contact surface stops, and there is now only lateral force. These thrust screws allow straight-line, static-load thrust without transmitting torsional or radial force (rotating in against the workpiece, gouging it) on the contact surface.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.fairlaneproducts.com or call 1-800-548-2935.