SMW Autoblok News

  • SMW Autoblok Launches New Stationary Workholding Line

    aps (1)Driven by the aerospace and automotive segments, the manufacturing industry is evolving in order to machine increasingly complex components. Basic vises, lathes and simple milling machines are falling behind as multi-axis machine sales are booming. Operations from global OEMs to the job shop down the street are all asking the same question, “How can I move more complex parts through my existing cells?”

    To answer that question, we have opened a Stationary Workholding Product Division in our North American headquarters in Wheeling, Illinois. Backed by our full line of static workholding manufactured in Italy for over 20 years, we are now able to introduce our superior engineered workholding solutions to the vertical and horizontal milling market here in North America.

    The Bridge to Productivity
    The flagship of our new line of stationary workholding products is the APS Clamping System. The APS (Automatic Positioning System) is a universal connection between the machine tool, the clamping device and/or the workpiece. The APS locks into the proper position by lining up a series of pins on the workpiece with holes on the chuck. When the pins and holes are locked in, the combination is automatically positioned to the zero point.

    The APS can be used in turning, milling, measuring or grinding operations. The APS reduces set-up times up to 90%, allowing users to rapidly mix parts on the same machine. This flexibility and speed multiplies the productivity of equipment and allows for quick adjustment of the production line based on the priority of incoming orders. Everything from raw materials to aerospace gantries can be worked with less effort, more accuracy and an increased level of productivity.

    Experience, Knowledge and Dedication
    Walter Claerhout, a 25-year industry veteran, has been named Product Manager of the new division. Since joining us in 2005, Walt has proven time and again his ability to provide customers with a superior level of service.

    “This additional focus on our line of stationary workholding products will allow us to help our customers get additional value from their lathes and milling machines,” he said. “We look forward to showing our customers how they can machine all the faces of complex workpieces more efficiently with their existing equipment.”

    Please contact us to learn more about our line of static workholding solutions or would like to discuss your particular needs.

  • Customized Workholding Makes Perfect Parts Possible

    DSC_3583When our customers take delivery of one of our chucks, it is already outfitted with the proper clamping devices that hold workpieces firmly in place for machining. Sometimes, our standard products are good to go right off the shelf. But, more often than not, the workholding has been custom-machined to be a perfect match with a particular part. To maintain control of this process, ensure quality and reduce delivery times, this is done in our own machine shop at our company headquarters in Wheeling, Illinois. We call it the “Prototype” shop because each piece is a “run of one.” On any given day, the shop will turn out a variety of jaws, grippers, part stops, locating and positioning components.

    Designed for a Perfect Fit
    The process begins when a customer sends their workpiece to our Engineering Department for evaluation. The engineers determine the proper chuck for the part and then design the workholding components that will actually grip the workpiece. The manufacturing team will discus the plans with the engineers, select the proper operation sequence and machine tool(s) in the Prototype Shop and start cutting. Time for the process depends on the detail, complexity, tolerances and manufacturing difficulty.

    DSC_3580 copy 2The Right Equipment for the Job
    To meet the everyday challenge of turning out intricate and detailed workholding devices, our Prototype Shop is well equipped with a variety of high precision lathes and milling centers. We have one 5-axis machine and a number of 3-axis verticals, as well as turning centers with live tools for flexibility, along with the usual band saws, grinders, etc. We can handle a wide range of workholding from 24” diameter down to components that are only 1/16” in diameter.

    Since most of the parts machined in the shop are one offs, a premium is placed on cutting down set up times. One of the best time-savers in the shop is our own APS Automatic Positioning System, which can reduce the setup process by up to 90%. We use it for turning, milling, measuring and grinding operations.


    Our SinterGrip inserts also shave minutes off sintergripof set ups. They can bite into a piece of stock as little as an 1/8” in and lock it solid so we can work the whole piece without the risk of mismatching caused by manual indexing. “Teaming SinterGrip inserts with our 5-axis machine saves a ton of time,” said CNC Supervisor John Jurney.

    Personalized Attention to Each Component
    “Our machine shop is run by a highly educated and motivated team who have been given top-of-the-line machine tools and software to work with,” John said. “That is why SMW Autoblok is able to provide our customers with the ultimate in workholding customization for any application.”

    If you’re not satisfied with the results from your workholding, please contact us and we’ll put our Prototype professionals to work for you.

  • Exclusive 5-Sided Machining Vises with SinterGrip

    sintergripThe only thing worse than scrap is high-priced scrap. When held in traditional workholders that require large clamping surface areas, expensive materials such as aluminum and titanium get used up quickly. The gripping force required to hold the workpiece securely can deform the part as well. That’s why both of our precision vises for 5-axis machine tools (The GENIUS and The SINTEX) are equipped with SMW Autoblok’s proprietary SinterGrip technology.

    SinterGrip Technology
    Instead of clamping a large surface area of the workpiece like most systems, the patented SinterGrip technology requires only 3.5mm of clamping surface. This reduces the waste of expensive raw materials and minimizes deformation risk. A series of solid carbide serrated inserts grip the workpiece so securely that vibration is virtually non-existent. This stability allows for higher cutting speed and feed rates, which translate into more metal removed in less machining time. You can even customize the Sintergrip for the particular material you are working with.

    bild2The GENIUS
    The GENIUS precision vise features other unique technology in addition to the SinterGrip system. Unlike traditional vises, it uses traction clamping to grip the workpiece. The movement of the jaws is not on a base, but on hardened and ground shafts. These generate clamping force (up to almost 30,000 foot-pounds) right at the part, where it is needed the most. The result is so stable that the GENIUS is the first vise designed for 5-axis machine tools that can be used for high precision milling operations. Thanks to an expanding screw, GENIUS can clamp workpieces up to 200mm in just one set-up. The GENIUS can be used with both flat and round workpieces.

    The SINTEX
    The SINTEX self-centering 5-axis vise is designed for a high degree of accuracy on flat workpieces. Its compact size, large opening range (up to 150mm), repeatable accuracy (+/- 0.01) and SinterGrip technology make it extremely flexible. It comes in a variety of configurations and provides an excellent quality to price ratio.

    If you’re interested in a 5-sided machining vise that only needs 3.5mm to grip a workpiece,  please contact us. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss your individual needs.

  • Sean Borchert: Software and SAG Card Lead to a Wild Ride

    Sean_Borchet_DSC_3572 copyIf Sean Borchert, the latest addition to our engineering staff, looks familiar, it might be that you’ve seen him in the movies. No, not at the local AMC theater, but up on the big screen. In an earlier life, he appeared with A-listers such as Sigourney Weaver, Ray Liotta, Gene Hackman and Rene Russo. His movie credits include Heartbreakers, Big Trouble, The Librarians and Loving the Bad Man.

    He got involved in acting after being approached by producers while bartending in Miami. It seems he was a dead ringer for the leading man in a production being filmed nearby. It wasn’t long before he was dodging (fake) bullets and other stunts. The resemblance was so close that it’s actually Sean in some of the publicity stills, standing in while the actor was off on location. He continued working as a stunt man and soon took on acting rolls. He earned his Screen Actors Guild card, which probably makes him one of few people in the world with a SAG card and a degree in mechanical engineering.

    Heartbreakers_edited2An Engineer at Heart
    Sean has always been fascinated by engineering. In grade school, while other kids were drawing ducks and horses, he was designing racecars and rockets. This interest continued into his acting days. When not on camera, Sean was busy building websites and doing freelance projects using SOLIDWORKS software.

    He had started working with SOLIDWORKS, a 3D CAD and CAE computer program, in 2006. SOLIDWORKS appealed to him since it allowed him to be artistic and precise, appeasing his perfectionist side. His familiarity of programming allowed him to unlock SOLIDWORKS’ potential with behind-the-scenes coding. This came in handy between acting gigs. “I could get by on four hours sleep in those days,” he quipped.

    Full Time – and More
    When tax incentives drew film productions from Florida to other states, Sean decided that an engineering career would be a bit more secure. He moved back to the Chicago area and started work as a lead designer for a semiconductor company in 2012. While there, he designed semiconductor components that are still considered cutting edge today. The company was impressed enough to encourage him to go back to school and get his bachelor’s degree.

    A six-month contract with a Fortune 100 company followed, but Sean hated being a cog in an impersonal corporation. He took the opportunity to work for a small family-owned engineering and design firm. “They had a wonderful sense of hustle as they turned out great work in short time frames on limited budgets,” he said. “I loved the atmosphere.” He worked there full time for two years while continuing his education on a part time basis. He earned his degree in 2017 from Northern Illinois University.

    The Right Mix
    With his diploma in hand, Sean went looking for a challenging high tech opportunity within a family-like setting that he had come to enjoy, and soon joined our engineering team at SMW Autoblok. After just three weeks, Sean already began programming our internal SOLIDWORKS software to automate drawings and save hours of engineering time.

    “The company needs to continually develop high tech design techniques to stay competitive into the future,” he said. “I think our Engineering Department is well positioned to make sure that happens.”

    Taking a Breather
    After his eccentric lifestyle in Florida and four years of hard work and school for 80 hours a week, Sean’s next project is finding a more balanced life style. For now, he is content to enjoy his new job, watch the Syfy Channel and monitor the progress of private aerospace companies as they take their first steps into interplanetary travel.

  • Strong Connections in OCTG

    In the first two articles in this series, we related how SMW Autoblok revolutionized the OCTG industry with it’s innovative self-centering technology and how to align large diameter oil country pipe on center.

    photoedit-fullBut one serious problem remained. One section of pipe is about 40’ long and pipelines have to go on for miles. How do you join sections of tubing together with joints that have the strength and integrity of the pipe itself? As outlined in our last article, you could thread the pipe and link it end to end, but this is cost prohibitive and is best used for specialized applications. That’s why the most common way of joining pipe in oil fields today is coupling.

    Simply put, a coupler is a two-sided device that connects two pieces of pipe together. It is less expensive than Integral joint connection and just as strong; however, threads have to be timed perfectly to each other (equal on both sides) to prevent leaks or bursting. And by equal, we mean exact.

    The Old Way: Labor Extensive and Error-Prone
    Originally, machining a coupler took more than six steps. An operator would machine one side of the coupler on a lathe, open the door, take the workpiece out, index it by hand, put it back in the lathe, close the door and then machine the second side.

    Not only does this extend the cycle time, but critical workpiece positioning references (also called clocking) can be lost in the manual process. These need to remain constant throughout the machining process in order to make an accurate part. This potential for error could result in a faulty coupler, meaning leaks or broken pipes in the field.

    Breaches in an underground pipeline are unacceptable, both financially and environmentally. Our engineers set out to find a better way to machine couplers and mitigate that risk.

    SF RAZ2G chuck indexing_editedThe New Way: Clamp Once, Machine Twice
    The results of our R & D efforts was the SF-RAZ2G two position hydraulic ring indexing chuck – the first workholding specifically designed for the machining of couplings in one set up.

    The SF-RAZ2G clamps the coupling on the outside diameter so the thread can be machined on the first side, then it hydraulically rotates the coupling 180° on the centerline so the other side can be threaded. The coupling does not have to be reoriented for the second threading – the clocking is a perfect match.

    Accuracy and Speed 
    The SF-RAZ2G distributes the clamping forces over six jaws to prevent deviation from roundness or other distortion. The indexing process takes mere seconds and eliminates the time it takes to open the door, manually reorient the part, close the door and hit cycle start. If you do the math, it’s quite a time saver over the course of a year.

    In addition, since the workpiece is held so securely by the SF-RAZ2G, the cutting tool speeds and feeds can be increased, taking even more time out of the process. If you want to take another step and add machine tending robotics, the SF-RAZ2G comes automation-ready.

    The Pipeline is a Lifeline
    Our contributions to OCTG, as outlined in this series of articles, have a direct impact on the average consumer. Every drop of oil that makes it safely from the pump to the refining plant helps keep oil prices down. That is good for the oil companies, our economy and our planet.

    If you would like to discuss your workholding requirements in oil country or anywhere in the United States, please contact us.

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