Latest News

  • Workholding: We Rank the Best Chucks from 2018

    SMW chuck collageBetween IMTS and the way our business continues to grow, it seems like this past year has just flown by. Before we wrap things up for the holidays and start looking towards 2019, we thought it might be interesting to stop for a moment and reflect on the outstanding chucks of the past 12 months. So, here’s our ranking of the top 5 models of the year.

    #1: KNCS-N/ KNCS-NB/ KNCS-2G
    At the head of the list again is our best-selling chuck series. The top quick jaw change chuck on the market – with jaws that can be changed out in less than a minute. Robust, versatile and agile, it continues to sell well across all industry segments.

    #2: BB-N / BB-N-ES
    The BB-N-ES was the first chuck specifically developed for end machining of long pipe with a full spindle bore. Perfect for oil and gas applications. It was made possible by two principles invented by SMW Autoblok, air supply via distributor ring and SMW-profile seal rings.

    #3: SP
    Smaller versions of the BB-N style chucks with OCTG being the primary market, these chucks are also handy for use in static or near static applications because of their built-in air cylinder. They are ideal for rotary tables/indexers in milling applications as well.

    #4: NT Series
    The NT chuck is a completely sealed Proofline® product, making them ideal for dry machining of castings and forgings, as well as high pressure coolant applications. Very popular in the automotive industry, especially for wheel and brake component work.

    #5: TS Series
    Our premier pull down chuck, this style fits best in production environments with high parallelism and perpendicularity call outs. Their constant grip force ensures consistent quality of workpieces. Automotive and aerospace applications are common, but they are becoming a force in the medical segment as well.

    Too Good to Ignore
    Honorable mention goes to our Steady Rest products, our new APS Zero Point Clamping System and the Cylinder series. We’ve seen increased interest in each of these product lines this past year.

    Onward to 2019
    No one can tell what the future will bring, but it’s certain that our engineers and sales teams will never stop looking for ways to better meet your workholding needs. If you have a special requirement, give us a call.

  • Luke Mehringer: Engineering a New Career

    When Luke Mehringer joined us as a Design Engineer in July of 2018, he didn’t have to adjust his commute by very much. His old company, which engineers superabrasive finishing systems, was right down the block from our headquarters in Wheeling! During his 7-year stint there, Luke designed precision equipment capable of advanced process control, and developed and supported new manufacturing processes for cost and lead-time reduction. With a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and a certification in robotics, he was well qualified for his responsibilities and added to his knowledge with on-the-job experience.

    New Horizons with Just a Few Steps
    Luke had worked with some high-tech CAD-CAM equipment and got a taste for machining just out of college. His goal was to work for a well-run organization that made turning out quality products a priority. He found what he was looking for at SMW Autoblok.

    Up to Speed in No Time
    In his current position, his focus is on designing the top tooling for lathe jaws and documenting on the print the contact point and where the tooling is placed. He credits our training and various mentors around the shop for making his transition to the new job easier than he thought it would be. And he’s already churning out workholding designs for power transmission parts for a major manufacturer of agricultural equipment.

    Low Key Life
    Other than a reputation for having mad foosball skills, Luke says his off-the-job life is rather quiet. That description fits one of his hobbies. He enjoys making beer in his personal small batch brewery. Once mixed, it takes about up to 10 weeks for the raw mixture to ferment and age into a drinkable brew. That requires a lot of patience! His current product is a run of Hefewiezen, a classic German wheat beer.

    His appreciation of beer may also explain why his favorite travel spots in Europe are Germany and Austria, both well known for their flavorful brews. He’s been to both countries three times. Other favorite travel spots include Malaysia and the Philippines.

    Another pastime for Luke is designing digital electronics, mainly circuit boards. Whether electrical or mechanical in nature, it seems like Luke is hard-wired for engineering.

  • Air Chucks Need Proper Maintenance for Maximum Performance

    IMG_2491Air chucks are the preferred holding method for OCTG. Their compact size allows every inch of spindle space to be put to good use, which is essential when your workpiece is 40’ long. But, where you find oil, like the deep South, you usually find heat and humidity. The resulting condensation creates rust, which plays havoc with the workholding. Not every shop can afford driers or dehumidifiers to keep the moisture out of the air. That’s why regular maintenance is so important to keep air chucks running smoothly and safely.

    Down time is dollars down the drain in oil country. So, we thought it might be beneficial to give you a recap of the best practices for keeping your air chucks in tip-top condition.

    Oil O-Rings Often
    The average air chuck can have up to 20 O-rings or more. They help maintain the correct air pressure in the system to keep the jaws of the chuck engaged. Oil is the lifeblood of O-rings and checking the oil level in the lubricator daily goes a long way to extending their lifespan. We recommend 15-weight Parker 442 non-detergent oil. This combination has the right viscosity to run efficiently though the lubricator and won’t break down the poly bowls that hold the oil. Confirming that the oil lubricator is working properly is an inexpensive way to maximize productivity. Dry them out and you’re in for a service call and costly down time.

    Lubrication is another method of keeping your chuck running smoothly. Chucks that aren’t greased daily can suffer a 40% loss of grip force in just one week.

    Monthly Preventive Maintenance
    Human nature being what it is (or because they don’t understand the value), a lot of operators don’t check the oil level and grease their chucks on a daily basis. That’s why we highly recommend a preventive maintenance routine at least once a month. This includes oil and lubrication, an inspection for O-ring and seal wear by pressure testing, and a check for the proper grip force.

    IMG_2490Annual Checkup
    In a pipe yard, the jaws on an air chuck can open and close every 90 seconds. If you are running 24/7, that is a whole lot of clamping and unclamping. After a year of that, your chucks should have a complete tear down and thorough inspection for wear on all moving parts. Once open, all internal seals should be replaced. At the end of the process, your air chucks will be in excellent condition.

    DIY
    Some operations have service engineers that are capable of performing the required air chuck maintenance properly. We carry the proper grip force meters and pressure gauges in stock so they can be assured of getting the proper readings.

    We also offer training for in-house professionals to bring them up to speed on best maintenance practices. And of course, our factory-trained technicians are available to provide a total preventive maintenance program for any shop.

    What happens if you don’t pay attention to the proper maintenance process for your air chucks? Let’s just say our repair team is always on call 24/7 in case you have an emergency.

    Contact us to learn more on the proper preventative maintenance for your specific SMW Autoblok workholding.

  • High Accuracy Chucks: Repeatable Results for Quality Parts

    Quality turning results are never “one and done.” Precision on the production line requires workholding that can maintain a high level of accuracy job after job. Most industries (and especially those like aerospace, automotive and OCTG) now demand chucks with built-in “repeatability.” In this article, we’ll look at some of our products that rate at the top end on the accuracy scale.

    d-varioDiaphragm Chucks
    Whenever there is an application that requires enhanced centering accuracy and concentricity, consistent clamping force or centering accuracy for secondary operations, the diaphragm chuck is the ideal solution.

    Unlike standard chucks that rely on the wedge and master jaw linkage for clamping, the diaphragm chuck relies on elastic deformation; expanding, contracting and using resistance to hold work pieces in place. With the absence of sliding parts, the diaphragm chuck needs no lubrication, and offers a more consistent grip force, time after time, accurately repeating within 10 microns.

    Giving super high-precision turning, grinding or milling operations a superior final finish, the D-Plus Diaphragm Chuck is ideal for shaft type work pieces, such as input and output shafts, where sub-micron accuracy is mandatory.

    The D-VARIO is a quick jaw change diaphragm chuck specifically made for the grinding of gears. Speed is not achieved at the expense of quality, though. Micrometer fine adjustment of the centerline makes high precision grinding possible.

    txc_mainTX Series Chucks
    Subtle variations can make a big difference when you are clamping workpieces with a high demand for parallelism (the minimum degree of variance parallel to an origin point).

    For exceptional parallelism and productivity, our TX Series chucks are top of the line. The TX-RV (quick jaw change) and the TX-C (tongue and grove) are high precision pull-down chucks with a rigid 3-jaw design, providing excellent repeatability within 12 microns.

    The TX Series is ideal for inner diameter (ID) and outer diameter (OD) clamping, offering optimal stability and centrifugal force compensation. With active pull-down, a function only offered by SMW Autoblok, these chucks perform three operations. The pre-clamping function centralizes the chuck, the work piece is then pulled down onto locators, and finally it is clamped firmly into place.

    The TX Series comes fully sealed as part of our Proofline Series of chucks, greatly reducing overall maintenance versus the competition. Plus, the permanent lubrication offered by these oil filled chucks helps maintain consistent grip force shift after shift.

    acugrindAcuGrind
    Here at SMW Autoblok, we don’t settle for just being close. We hold precision to the highest standard, ensuring that all of our chucks turn with microns in mind. To round out our list of highly accurate offerings, we present the AcuGrind High Precision Air Chuck.

    With a built-in pneumatic actuating cylinder, the AcuGrind is ideal for tight tolerance turning and grinding applications. We take the stress out of manufacturing high precision parts for the automotive and medical industries by providing accuracy to +/- 2 microns, shaping ultra-reliable parts in every cycle.

    The AcuGrind can perform both ID and OD clamping applications utilizing a boring ring and pin. Its case-hardened base jaws allow for extra rigidity and repeatability within 2 microns. If you’re looking for a chuck to handle your most precise finishing, the AcuGrind is the perfect choice.

    Clamp-Run-Repeat
    There are enough variables in a machine shop that affect quality results, from tool life to the ambient temperature. The performance of our high accuracy chucks is one of the few constants you can always depend on. If you would like to discuss your particular needs, please contact us.

  • Brian Gabriel: A Technology Sponge and Order Facilitator

    20180504_131924Brian Gabriel didn’t plan on becoming a professional Project Manager, but right now he is glad things turned out that way. Brian received a degree in engineering from Washington State University. A love of the West Coast and the opportunity to live out there made it his top school choice. He made a lot of friends and still gets together with classmates annually. After graduation, he landed a job for an engineering test lab working with automotive products. He would take projects from front-end engineering all the way to proof of concept. After a few years, he began looking around for a new challenge and ultimately landed with us as Project Manager this past July.

    The Appeal of Project Management
    During the time with his previous employer, Brian had begun to make regular contact with customers and found that face-to-face communication had grown on him. His position here provides him with more opportunities to explore this area of business.

    He explained that his job basically involves “keeping projects moving and preventing things from falling through the cracks.” This includes being straight with the customers and getting them an answer in a timely manner, even if it’s not exactly the one they want to hear. “Be honest. Don’t dig yourself into a hole you can’t get out of,” he suggests.

    On the internal side of the situation, Brian has come to learn that his projects are not the only ones in production. Each team member in the shop has their own multiple sets of pressing deadlines that need to be met. Brian knows that a careful blend of understanding, diplomacy and persistence is needed to maintain harmony and still move products out the door. “Establishing priorities and communication are essential elements of the job,” he says.

    An Engineering Sponge
    Brian finds the workholding coming out of our operations in the US, Germany and Italy remarkable. After being immersed in the automotive industry for several years, he is enjoying the chance to see how engineering principles are applied to a whole new field. “Even though I’m not involved in the process, it adds to my database of knowledge and I’m becoming a more well-rounded engineer by soaking up as much information as I can about chucks.”

    1709A Global Family
    Brian’s previous job was at a small company, so he enjoys being part of a worldwide organization. His first trip to IMTS this September was an eye-opener, as he met SMW Autoblok employees from Germany, Italy and Japan. While the corporation is large, he finds the US headquarters to be very family friendly and has already begun to feel at home in the closely-knit community.

    Off the Job Pursuits
    A one-man film festival, Brian can be found going to the movies, watching rented movies and hanging out with his friends talking about movies.

    When not glued to the big screen, Brian loves to travel (which is made easier by having family members in the airline business). He tries to manage two trips a year, his most recent excursions to London and Columbia (where he visited family).

    His favorite place so far? Japan. He finds the people and the culture fascinating and, naturally, loves soaking up the awesome technology. He says he’d go again in a heartbeat.

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