Still using standard lathe tooling? It’s time for a quick, but big, change! As machine tools become increasingly complex and the need to produce parts in less time grows, CNC lathe owners and managers must look to the latest technologies if they’re to improve shop floor efficiency.

The irony is that one of the most productive of these solutions is far from new—in fact, it’s been a champion in the war on machine tool downtime for nearly three decades. It’s called KM Quick Change Tooling from Kennametal.

Now, Kennametal has now launched an entirely new KM product line: Turret-Adapted Clamping Units. In addition, the company has partnered with global lathe tool specialist, EWS Tool Technologies, to manufacture and support this series of KM adapters. Together, the two companies plan to redefine how shops will tool up the turrets on their DMG MORI, Okuma, Mazak, Haas, Doosan, Nakamura, Hwacheon, and Hyundai lathes, with more to come.

Embracing change

Some companies have looked at quick-change tooling and decided not to invest, on the grounds that it is too expensive or not worth the hassle that comes with implementing any new technology. That might be why many machine shops apparently choose to take the path of least resistance and use the standard turret tooling that came with their CNC lathe.

“I spoke to a lot of customers at the last IMTS and EMO shows, and my best estimate is that 80% of them do not use a quick-change tooling system,” says Michael Schuffenhauer, Manager, Tooling Systems at Kennametal. “I was very surprised, and to me, it indicates a tremendous opportunity for these shops to become more competitive.”

Turret-adapted clamping units support this opportunity by replacing the standard block-style turret tooling with quick-change capable adapters made specifically for any brand of CNC lathe. This is true for both VDI and BMT-style turrets, whether they are rotating or static, and for toolholders with axial, radial, and even angular orientation.

Suddenly quick-change is much easier to implement. Total tooling costs are reduced. Concerns over toolholder rigidity are eliminated. And because each clamping unit model was created by EWS to be a perfect match for prescribed machine tool builders, it’s as if the machines were designed with a KM turret.

Building bridges

“Available machining time is one of the key contributors to any manufacturing company’s productivity,” notes Schuffenhauer. “Obviously, reducing setup is a big part of improving this metric, something that quick-change tooling systems excel at. But there’s also the downtime that comes during tool changes, when the operator spends 10 minutes looking for the screw that fell in to the chip pan, for example, or the time lost by having to touch off a drill in the middle of a job. KM eliminates this non-productive time, and turret-adapted clamping units are the bridge between the system’s quick-change capabilities and the machine tool.”

This bridge is both robust and comprehensive. Offset and inline clamping unit models are available, as are ones for right or left-hand placement. Hydraulic chucks, ER-collet holders, shell mill adapters, ID and OD turning cutting units after close to 30 years of development – the list of KM adapters is extensive. So too is the clamping unit size range, with interfaces ranging from 32mm to 63mm (KM32 to KM63). So whether a lathe, mill-turn machine or multitasking centre produces tiny medical screws or bearing hubs large enough for tractor trailers, turret-adapted clamping units and KM can meet all requirements.

“KM uses a pair of hardened steel balls that sit within a tapered tool shank,” explains Schuffenhauer. “As clamping force is applied, the tail end of the taper expands while the toolholder is pulled back against the locating face. Together with a small amount of interference at the gage line, this three-point contact provides extremely precise radial and axial positioning and repeatability, as well as high clamping forces. Simply put, it is the most rigid and accurate quick-change system available in this size range.”

Jay Verellen, Kennametal’s Director of Global Product Management, Tooling Systems, points to the return on investment (ROI) calculator on Kennametal’s website as a way to quantify improvements in machine utilisation. He notes that a potential positive ROI in as little as three to six months is not unusual, and that the company’s Customer Application Support (CAS) team is ready to help customers ensure they are getting the value they seek.

“It’s not a terribly complex calculation,” he says. “Enter a few inputs such as hourly rate and number of setups per shift and it’ll make sense pretty quickly. But you also need to consider the less tangible effects of KM. Set-ups and in-process tool changes are simpler, so having a less skilled operator isn’t a scary proposition. And flexibility is greatly increased.

“This doesn’t refer so much to the wide variety of tools and adapters that are available (although this is certainly important) but is more about the flexibility to make your customer happy—if you can set up a machine in five minutes, it becomes much easier to meet their changing demands without losing your shirt. That’s what KM and turret-adapted clamping units bring to the table.”