SMW Autoblok News

  • The Future of Workholding is Closer Than You Think

    Not too long ago, the Internet connected individuals and allowed them to communicate at a pace previously thought unimaginable. Manufacturing has already begun a similar process that will connect machining operations in real time through digital solutions. Perceptive organizations are already implementing Industry 4.0 into their everyday manufacturing operations, gaining flexibility, saving time and enhancing quality for their customers.

    Connectivity = Productivity
    How does workholding fit into this equation? Imagine innovative technology that enables machining data communication and collection, not just across the shop, but around the world. Any operator who solves a machining issue could automatically update all other machines/systems corporate-wide in a secure fashion. The result would be reduced production time, increased productivity and guaranteed repeatable accuracy.

    smw_data_sheet_mm_productA Sneak Peak at Tomorrow
    You don’t have to use your imagination to envision the benefits of i4.0 workholding. We are currently investing time and money in a new generation of electronic/digital processes and products. The MM e-motion Electric Power Clamp and the F500 Electric Flange are already operational and will soon be on the market. Electro-mechanical motors (hence the name) on each jaw can control clamping force, stroke and clamping position. The grip force can be altered in process, without unclamping the part, with the wireless transmission of energy and signals via an inductive coupler.

    Manufactured and programmed with our proprietary interfaces and patented systems, the MM e-motion can transmit data and power wirelessly from stationary units to rotating chucks. This provides an amazing degree of flexibility. Since the MM e-motion can clamp any shape workpiece, different components can be machined just by bringing in new pallets!

    The Ultimate Remote Control
    Operated remotely at one location under the direction of one operator, the chuck can be electromechanically actuated, measure, autobalance, communicate and share info with other machines worldwide. The futuristic technology used in the F500 e-motion Electric Flange and throughout the e-motion series has already been recognized, having been named an Industry 4.0 Product in Germany last year. We are the only workholding company to receive such an honor.

    Benefits of i4.0 Workholding
    These workholding devices of the future (along with others in progress) will have a variety of benefits for manufacturing. Following are a few examples:

    • Safety: Safety signals are constantly transmitted back and forth from chuck to operator along with real time status of the workholding.

    • Quality: The process is accurate and repeatable time after time. This is especially important in industries like aerospace.

    • Flexibility: Electronically actuated chucks works like the different axes of a CNC machine, working together to position or reposition a part.

    • Workforce Utilization: Putting more machines under the control of fewer operators is vital as skilled workers reach retirement age without enough coming behind them to fill voids.

    No matter how simple or complex your workholding needs, you’ll be sure to find the right product for you at SMW Autoblok, now and in the future. If you would like to discuss your particular needs, please contact us.

  • Brandon Erath: Striving for Quality in Whatever He Does

    IMG_0006Quality Control Technician Brandon Erath joined us in January of 2018 as a utility worker. He says the company took the word “utility” to whole new levels. He worked in the shop, cut parts on the saw and deburred them, delivered finished parts to vendors and worked in quality control. The varied experiences gave him a feel for how intricate our process is and how all the departments work together to ship products out the door.

    Toward the end of his utility stint, he was spending a lot of time in quality control due to an influx of orders going through, so the department was quite busy. Brandon caught on fast and was recently promoted to his current position.

    Brandon says one of the best days on the job to date was when he looked at a blueprint and it all clicked into place. “For the first time I could understand what it said and what needed to be measured,” he said. “It was like mastering a foreign language.”

    Around the Block
    Prior to joining our team, Brandon didn’t know that a career in manufacturing was in his future. Before finding a home in our QC Department, Brandon had quite a wide and varied career path.

    While in high school and college, he traveled the country playing Call of Duty as a competitive video gamer. He even has some wins under his belt. While the tour didn’t pay the big bucks back then like it does today, it allowed him to travel the U.S. and see places he might not have ever had the chance to see. His favorite venue? Anaheim, California. Why? Disney Land!

    Paging Dr. Erath
    Brandon flirted with a career in medicine with one semester of pre-med at UIC and attaining an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) license. While he nailed the book-smarts of medicine, when it came to treating real people, he found he’s just a softie at heart and couldn’t detach emotionally.

    He did finally learn to perform surgery (of a sort) by wielding a knife as a professional butcher for a while. In this capacity, he met stars of wildly varied musical styles such as Kool and the Gang, Charlie Daniels and Smashmouth while prepping dishes at the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin.

    Still a Game Boy
    Although he no longer competes at a professional level, Brandon is a self-proclaimed nerd and spends his free time playing video Overwatch and League of Legends with the friends he made while on tour. He even has 50-100 followers who watch him play on “Twitch,” a live streaming video platform. He’s an avid watcher as well. “Watching anyone do something they do very well is highly entertaining.”

  • SMW Autoblok Prepares All-Star Lineup for IMTS 2018

    IMTS2018The SMW Autoblok headquarters is buzzing with activity as we prepare for IMTS 2018. The action all happens at McCormick Place in Chicago on September 10 – 15. Plus we’re pumped about our new and more prominent location in the West Hall, Booth# 431700.

    We will be welcoming visitors and giving demonstrations in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. Whatever the language, though, there will definitely be a lot to talk about. Here’s a little preview of some of the innovations that will be highlighted on our show floor this year.

    Precision Vises

    Want to reduce the waste of raw materials and minimize deformation? Check out our GENIUS and SINTEX precision vises for 5-axis machine tools. Both feature our patented SinterGrip technology, which requires only 3.5mm of clamping surface. A series of solid carbide serrated inserts grip the workpiece securely. This allows higher cutting speed and feed rates for increased metal removal rates.

    aps (1)


    Zero Point Clamping
    Looking for maximum grip during heavy duty machining applications? Be sure to see the APS (Automatic Positioning System) at IMTS. The APS Zero Point Clamping System is a universal connection between the machine tool, the clamping device and/or the workpiece. It locks into position by lining up pins on the clamping device or the workpiece with holes on the chuck. When joined, the combination is automatically positioned to the zero point. The APS can be used for turning, milling, measuring or grinding.

    One-of-a-kind Chucksbp-d_bp-m

    Need a sealed chuck with a large through hole? The BP Series Chuck is the only one of its kind in the industry. BP Chucks combine the flexibility of a standard open center power chuck with the long life and precision of our Proofline® sealed chucks, making it ideal for bar and bar stock clamping as well as shaft clamping. Their constant grip force allows for excellent repeatability and consistency, whereas non-sealed chucks can lose up to 50% of the grip force if not maintained properly. Sealed chucks require minimal maintenance intervention to provide premium performance.

    These devices are only the high points. Make sure to add SMW Autoblok to your MyShow Planner and visit us at IMTS in Booth# 431700 for a complete workholding experience.

  • U.S. Service Centers Expedite Installations, Maintenance and Repairs

    IMG_0657_croppedWhile SMW Autoblok workholding products are well known throughout the industry, did you know we also offer a complete range of service options? To get your workholding into operation as soon as possible, we have two U.S.-based service centers staffed by factory trained field service technicians dedicated to new installations, preventative maintenance and repairs. In fact, more than 95% of the workholding we manufacture is serviced right here in the United States.

    No Overseas Shipment
    Many companies will direct you to ship their workholding back to the point of origin overseas. That involves a lot of paperwork and transit time. Our service centers are conveniently located in Conroe, Texas (40 miles north of Houston) and Wheeling, Illinois (just outside of Chicago). Wherever your operations are located, your chucks, mandrels and steady rests can reach us quickly via an overland or air freight carrier. For many products, we can even schedule on-site service to help reduce downtime.

    Fully Equipped for Fast TurnaroundIMG_4127

    To expedite repairs and preventive maintenance, each site is equipped with a complete array of testing machines and an impressive inventory (nearly $8 million in spare parts). For standard repairs, customers can expect 24-hour turnaround when chucks are sent in to either of our facilities. The service techs at each location are also specialists in installations, whether you need one chuck retrofitted to an older machine or dozens of chucks installed on a brand new line.

    Getting Started
    For repairs and preventative maintenance, the process begins with a simple phone call. All you need to provide us with is the model number and serial number for your workholding, which will allow us to determine when it was made and what parts might be needed. That’s all there is to it.

    Our service operations have been designed specifically to quickly handle all your needs. To discuss your particular requirements anywhere in the United States, please contact us.

  • Building Practical Experience in the “Hands On” Classroom at SMW Autoblok

    In any career path, there is nothing quite like a short detour through the real world to put classroom training in perspective. That’s why we have had various forms of internship programs here for well over 20 years. It was mostly family and friends at the onset of the program, but about 5 - 7 years ago, we began reaching out to universities and technical colleges. We look for motivated juniors and seniors enrolled in industrial and mechanical engineering programs for our Engineering Department and business majors for Customer Service or other parts of our operation. We bring students in for the summer and holidays and expose them to the real life challenges of working in a business setting.

    CSI_3963International Summer Exchange
    One part of our internship program is our student exchange program with our operations overseas. College students come to work in the shop in the United States while their U.S.A. counterparts go to work in our operations in Italy and Germany. Kyle Downs, our Director of Marketing & Project Management, was an engineering assistant in Italy several years ago, taking hand drawings, converting them to computer designs and making dummy models of chucks. Our last overseas intern had just graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Milan and worked in our Engineering Department to gain experience before beginning his career in Italy.

    Student Programs
    Our summer college internship format is pretty consistent, but the programs are often customized to the intern’s field of study and what they are planning to do after graduation, blended with the needs of the company at that time.

    Our general interns usually come from a business curriculum. They do anything from filing to data entry to answering the phone, giving them a feel for the operations of a modern professional business office.

    Naturally the focus of engineering students is on…engineering. If they haven’t been exposed to Solid Works design software (which we use), we bring them up to speed by going through the tutorials. Then we teach them our product data management software (Phoenix), and how to integrate the two software platforms.

    designsoftwareEngineering interns start with basic modeling of customer parts and, as they get used to the system, work on simple projects of their own under close supervision. Along with experience comes more responsibility, with the potential to start using GD&T tools to define and communicate engineering geometric dimensioning and tolerancing for customer projects.

    But they don’t just sit behind a desk. Students work with other departments to help them fill in the gaps from the academic to the practical. This can mean getting their hands dirty with full-fledged parts operation and inspection work. They may even go on installations to see our products in operation in a full-production manufacturing facility, allowing them to really see our products in action.

    Meet Our Summer Intern
    Our current engineering intern, Jack, will be a junior this fall at Valparaiso University, working on a degree in mechanical engineering. After spending the last two summers as a camp counselor, he was very excited for the opportunity to work in his area of interest this year.

    “The job has already given me the chance to get my feet wet and learn engineering basics in a working format,” Jack said. “It’s an entirely different perspective from the classroom and will definitely help me determine what direction my career will take after graduation.”

    Jack is being taught to design with an eye towards making things easier to manufacture. “This experience will be invaluable when I take CNC classes in the fall since I’ll already know how the machines and components work.”

    Why We Do It
    Having interns during the summer and holiday can boost our productivity. Interns take on their share of challenging, but more time consuming tasks that our full-time staff may not have time for.

    But more importantly, working with interns is one way to give back to our industry by exposing talented students to manufacturing. We want to help reverse the trend of outsourcing production overseas because of the shortage of talent in the US pipeline. Even if our interns seek jobs elsewhere, we are still providing skilled young people a look into our world of manufacturing so they can make informed career decisions.

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