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  • Life has its Ups and Downs: Larry Sulenski Likes the Downs

    larry_sulenskiLarry Sulenski, Regional Sales Manager, joined SMW Autoblok 15 years ago, but he has been closely associated with workholding for well over 3 decades. He owned his own company working as a manufacturer’s rep for over 18 years and gained experience at another workholding company for awhile as well. But in joining SMW Autoblok, Larry liked the idea of working for a larger, international company with superior products and great people.

    This was driven home soon after he joined Autoblok when he became involved in a large project that involved 70 spindles turning ten different parts with 6 or 7 chucking devices. Coordinating the project involved trips to Charlotte, North Carolina and Japan for manufacturing and traveling to Juarez, Mexico to install the machines. “It was a great experience for me and the whole company,” recalls Larry. “We had never completed a project of that size up to then.”

    IMG_1897Downhill Racer

    Hands down, Larry’s favorite sport is downhill skiing. His parents put him on his first set of skis when he was 7 years old, he’s been a ski bum ever since. He raced on his high school team, leading them as Captain in his senior year. After college, he started racing in recreational leagues and continued, up until recently, for 20 straight years. Overall, he has been skiing for over 50 years.

    Ski resorts offer the leagues for people who like to go faster than recreational skiers. Just like a bowling or golf league, his team met once a week, skied their runs and would then retire to the bar to have a few brews and comment on the more spectacular wipeouts of the day. Sometimes the course is set up for slalom and others for giant slalom. In the latter, the gates are further apart and the speeds faster.

    The team (which consisted of Larry’s siblings and friends from their high school racing team) made it to the state championships for a couple of years. For Larry, the highlight was when he had a finish time within seconds of a professional female skier from Austria.

    Larry counts himself lucky that he has been able to ski quite a few mountain ranges around the world. The Rockies, the Sierra Nevadas, the Appalachians, the Alps in Germany and Austria and Mont-Tremblant, outside Quebec. His favorite spot, however is Telluride in Colorado, because it has some of the steepest runs in North America and Larry likes to go fast! The “Plunge” has been compared to skiing down a straight vertical wall!

    Family Fun

    Today, Larry is more likely to be found spending time with his wife of 25 years, their three children and three grandchildren, who live near their Detroit home. Although in great condition from is his skiing days, Larry says the grandchildren, ages 8, 5, and 3, can wear him out completely in about an hour. “It’s totally worth it,” he added. “They are one of the greatest joys of my life.”

  • 5 Technical Advantages of SMW Autoblok Quick Jaw Change Chucks

    Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 10.17.49 AMWhen an expensive CNC machine is down for setup, productivity drops, along with a shop’s bottom line. For this reason, Quick Jaw Change (QJC) chucks were developed by SMW Autoblok engineers. The main reason for the new design was to reduce down time during job changeovers. It was soon discovered that the technology provided many other benefits as well.

    With standard chucks, the operator typically bores a set of jaws right onto the master jaw. Removing the jaws requires the removal of six bolts (which can be lost or dropped into the chip pan). With QJC chucks, the master jaw, top jaw and bolts are a sub-assembly that can all be simply removed together with a t-handle wrench on the side of the chuck. It’s faster, but that is only the beginning. In this article, we review the top five technical advantages QJC chucks provide in the shop.

    The QJC removal procedure alone allows for faster changeover of the jaws and speeds up production. However, jaws on standard chucks are also made of softer steel than QJC chucks. To maintain tolerances, they have to be re-machined every time they are removed from the machine.

    Just in Time (JIT) parts ordering forces manufacturers to run small batch sizes. More changeovers mean more time for set up and re-machining the tooling. Depending on the expertise of the operator, this could take up to 15 minutes for a smaller chuck. If you change four times a shift, that’s an hour lost from production time. Made of harder steel, QJC chucks have far superior repeatability. Since they don’t have to be re-machined, changeover time is reduced down to one to two minutes (only 4-8 minutes per shift).

    The accuracy of a brand new standard chuck might be adequate, but as the soft body starts to wear, the metal starts burnishing and removing itself and the workpiece quality suffers. The hardened steel of the QJC chuck changes the picture dramatically. A 260mm chuck is repeatable within 26 microns. To put that into perspective, a human hair is 75 microns thick. Quick jaw change chucks can maintain these tolerances for over a decade.

    The steel body of a standard chuck is so soft it can easily be marked with a file. When the master jaw and the chuck body of a standard chuck are actuated, they rub together. If not greased properly, the surfaces end up wearing. This wear can be increased by over clamping. Standard chucks can last up to three years if well maintained, while the hardened body and master jaw of the QJC chucks allow them to stay in service for ten years or longer.

    Reduced Hysteresis
    When chucks run at high RPMs in a CNC lathe, centrifugal force actually causes them to grow. This is called, “hysteresis.” You can’t see it with the naked eye, but the mass of a soft-bodied chuck microscopically enlarges enough to actually clamp the part harder at the end of the job than at the beginning. Thin-walled parts can be deformed due to the additional clamping force. Customers can run delicate parts at higher RPMs with the QJC because the design resists hysteresis and maintains its shape.

    Some parts companies have higher margins (and do better business) with replacement chucks than they do with the initial sale. They sell in bulk to machine tool companies for installation on standard units. Margins are so low, the vendors are basically betting that they will reap the benefits when the jaws have to be replaced. With all the advantages outlined above, the QJC provides much better value for just a little more investment up front.

    With over 25 chucks in our SMW Autoblok lineup with the Quick Jaw Change feature, there is sure to be a solution that meets your needs. Contact us to find that solution today.

  • Kris Zellmann: Machining Means Profit and Fun

    image3Kris Zellmann, Regional Sales Manager, learned his way around chucks in his dad’s Brookfield, Wisconsin machine shop. Since his father distributed and serviced the brand, there were always a lot of SMW Autoblok workholding around. After attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Kris followed his brother Kyle’s path to work for the company. (Another “K” sibling – Kurt – escaped the “chips and coolant” bug and became a fire captain.) Kris started with inside sales and soon moved up to his current position with a territory consisting of Iowa, North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

    Kris believes his success as a sales manager comes from growing up in a shop environment combined with his knowledge of the product line. “It’s not easy to memorize a 300-page catalog and come up with a match between the needs of the shop and the right product,” he said. “For me it’s an extension of my personality.”

    image2Machining for Fun and Profit

    The truth of this can be found in his personal life where he can often be found machining parts for an assortment of vintage cars and motorcycles. Some of his gems include a 1959 El Camino, a 1973 Land Rover, two 1962 Norton motorcycles, a Moto Guzzi (once used by the California Highway Patrol) and a 1972 Husqvarna (Steve McQueen’s favorite ride). Kris enjoys restoring the vehicles and taking them to shows and events around the country.

    Although he worked on the crew of a Vintage Porsche racing team though high school, hauling race cars all around the country and preparing them for club drivers, Kris is not inclined to race his restorations. He does like to take them out on the open road, though, which explains much of his home machining. Motorcycles are not designed for riders over 6’5” tall, so some machining of oversized parts are required before Kris can get his feet off the ground.

    When Kris drags himself away from his workbench, it is usually to travel. He likes a mix of culture and sand, having traveled to Europe and beach locations such as Cabo San Lucas.

    Family Feeling

    Kris also enjoys going out with Kyle on his boat, although shop talk takes up 50% of their conversations. Their situation is not unique. Kris appreciates the home-like feel of the company, which is a family in more ways than one. Brother/brother, husband/wife and father/son combinations are not uncommon. In his opinion, this is just one more of the things that makes the company so strong and a pleasure to work for.

  • The RX Extra Compact Steady Rest is Tiny, but Tough

    RXBigger is not always better. Especially when you’re working with machines that have limited mounting space for workholders. Granted, you need something small, but it still has to have a big bite. That’s why we designed our new RX steady rest line with the largest clamping range possible within minimum overall dimensions.

    The secret to the extra compact proportions of the RX is an innovative double cam actuating mechanism. This enables the RX to be built in a shape that avoids interference with operations by clearing both the door and chip conveyer of the machine. An integrated actuating cylinder completes the trim, but efficient, package.

    Although small in size, the RX has a high level of centering accuracy and repeatability. Productivity is also enhanced by features like a fully sealed design and an integrated coolant flush to clear away chips. This makes the RX steady rest the ideal accessory for any CNC lathe.

    The RX comes standard with stroke control via a proximity switch and is available with a clamping range from 100-520mm.

    It’s always nice to have a strong friend in a tight spot, so don’t compromise size for power. With our RX extra compact steady rest series, you don’t have to give up one for the other.

  • Helping Customers or Working a Puzzle, Terri Gentile Sees the Big Picture

    terri_gentileProject Manager Terri Gentile started with SMW Autoblok in 2001 as a customer service representative. A stint with the engineering department followed, where she helped coordinate and expedite projects. After seven years with the company, she took some time off, but came back to us as a full-fledged Project Manager in 2011.

    In this position, she takes orders “from cradle to grave,” keeping the parts moving through engineering, manufacturing, shipping, inspection and shipping. Terri continuously updates the customer on the order’s status as she carefully guides its progress.

    In her free time, Terri likes to plug away at picture puzzles, bit by bit, until she has the satisfaction of placing the last piece. “It can become addictive,” she said. “I just finished one puzzle after two months and have to take a break to work on other home projects.”

    Picture 040Terri also likes hitting the open road on the back of her husband’s motorcycle. They take local day trips or trailer the bike to scenic spots like Tennessee, South Dakota or Sturgis for more adventurous rides.

    Another favorite mode of transportation for Terri is horseback, when she can find the time and a trail to ride. In fact, she enjoys almost any outdoor sport. After discovering kayaking four years ago, she and her husband have explored local forest preserve lakes and sections of the Fox River. More quiet pastimes include walking, reading and spending time with her young grandchildren.

    Terri’s favorite travel spot is Jamaica. Her brother-in-law knows the island well so she gets to see some of the exotic spots that are not found on the tourist maps. She finds the atmosphere both relaxing and exhilarating at the same time. After four trips, she and her hubby have decided to head for a change of scenery in the mountains of Colorado for their next trip.

    Whether expediting a job or biking down the road, Terri is always looking for what is around the next curve – and totally enjoying the view along the way.

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