Clamping technology accelerates work at model builder's shop

Published
July 12,2022 - 07:00am
Minimize set-up times with AMF zero-point clamping technology: At MT-Technologies, the workpiece is  clamped in just a few simple steps for five-sided machining.

Long before a new car model hits the streets, you could already touch it at MT Technologies -– if everything were not so top secret. The model maker manufactures entire vehicles as a reference, and test models made of aluminum for numerous OEMs.

What the experts produce with high machining performance from solid blocks, mostly in batch size, must first be clamped very efficiently. Thanks to the intelligent zero-point clamping technology from AMF, this can be done quickly, flexibly, with high repetition accuracy, and with process reliability using the modular principle.

With the intelligent zero-point clamping technology from AMF, further aspects that go beyond the clamping plate can be accomplished, too. This means that the roof element can be securely clamped for five-sided  machining.
With the intelligent zero-point clamping technology, the roof element can be securely clamped for five-sided machining.

“The impulse came from the Formula 1,” said Mario Goth, remembering a visit in 2013 to the Sauber team in Switzerland. The manager of mechanical production at MT Technologies saw with astonishment how effectively the racing engineers clamped individual parts with AMF clamping technology.

What the master model builder triggered in his production operation has now grown into a continuous zero-point clamping system on all necessary machines. With Andreas Maier GmbH & Co. KG from Fellbach (AMF), the Ingolstadt-based company has a competent partner at its side that takes on the challenges of its customers and can offer customized solutions from standard products.


Clamping and set-up processes simplified and accelerated

The workpieces are clamped directly on the pallets. The zero-point clamping modules in the clamping pallets hold the pull-studs
The workpieces are clamped directly on the pallets. The zero-point clamping modules in the clamping pallets hold the pull studs of the structural and spacer elements. They are available from 20 to 100 mm.

"At MT Technologies, they listened to us intently from the very start," said Erik Laubengeiger from AMF, who provided customer support at the time. Their readiness was great to simplify the complex clamping operations of the aluminum ingots and significantly reduce the long setup and calibration times.

"After all, most of the parts that we manufacture are small batches or individual parts of a maximum of four," said Goth.

When it is finished, the 1:1 scale model looks like a real car, but one made of aluminum. Even the doors and trunk lid can be opened. And it even sits on aluminum rims. And, the designers and engineers can make an initial three-dimensional image of a newly planned car model and walk around it. Attachment and cladding parts are also attached at the OEMs to verify the fits for subsequent series production. In addition, the clips in the aluminum model are already attached. The final aluminum model can later be found on the assembly line as a test and gauge model.

Small power packages securely grip

The raw aluminum blocks for the individual parts, such as the floor assembly, side parts, roof, boot lid, and wheels must be manufactured with corresponding precision on the giant gantry milling machines and clamped precisely beforehand. Two work tables with dimensions of 1300 x 2000 mm and two with 1300 x 1000 mm as well as another one are used in the Jobs LinX machines. They are equipped with 50 or 20 K10 zero-point installation clamping modules from AMF at intervals of 200 millimeters.

"With the defined grid pitch, each work table offers us the greatest possible flexibility in positioning the elements," said Goth. And if a clamping point should be outside the grid or even outside the plate, that is not a big challenge. "With clamping rails, multiple clamping bars, or other numerous clamping elements from AMF, we can reach every point that we need for safe clamping." 

The system is just as easy and logical as Lego

The workers place modular spacer elements on top of each other on the work tables with integrated zero-point clamping modules and cross-T-slots until the block or the blank reaches the appropriate height so that five-sided machining is possible. The clamping can be planned just as easily as with a Lego building kit.

The AMF range of connecting, construction, and counterbalance elements as well as various adapters is almost inexhaustible. The upper interface to the workpiece is again a mechanical zero-point clamping module K10, which positions and clamps the M8 or M10 pull-studs screwed into the workpiece in a process-reliable manner.

"The system is just as easy and logical as Lego. Everything fits together and can be positioned quickly and precisely thanks to the zero-point clamping technology,” said Christian Vogel from AMF, who is currently in charge of the Ingolstadt-based company.

The clamping modules in the work table are opened hydraulically at an operating pressure of 60 bar. Each one pulls in the correct pull-stud with ten kilonewtons and then holds it tightly with 25 kilonewtons. Since the modules are intelligently designed and carefully manufactured, they can do this with a repetition accuracy and precision of less than 0.005 millimeters (<5 µm). And since they are mechanically locked by spring force and tensioned without pressure, the pressure lines are removed after the clamping operation. 

Collision-free 5-side machining thanks to direct clamping 

For direct clamping, the holes necessary for the pull studs are made directly in the unmachined part or aluminum block. The engineers already allow for that. To ensure that subsequent processing takes place without any interfering contours and is collision-free, AMF makes CAD data freely available in many common formats for all of its products. "This is an indispensable aid beforehand," said Vogel.

The cutting capacity is immense. This adds up to a processing time of up to 40 hours. A car's trunk lid may be milled out of an aluminum block with an initial weight of 1.7 tons, which finally only weighs 90 kilograms. All in all, aluminum blocks of various sizes, totaling around 20 tons, are required for a vehicle. It takes about five months for a vehicle to be finished in its original size. Since several spacious halls ensure the strict separation of individual projects from one another, the model-building experts at MT-Technologies can produce up to ten models a year.

Experience and craftsmanship for a 1:1 model

Finally, a new vehicle model in its original size stands in front of the observer long before it comes onto the road. For car manufacturers, this is an indispensable part of a new model’s development phase.

And thanks to the experience in model construction and the manufacturing skills of the 150-year-old long-established company, the developers at MT-Technologies already know whether the car will meet their expectations at an early stage. Whether it will then be as classy as a Formula 1 racing car is not realistic, however.

Related Glossary Terms

  • calibration

    calibration

    Checking measuring instruments and devices against a master set to ensure that, over time, they have remained dimensionally stable and nominally accurate.

  • computer-aided design ( CAD)

    computer-aided design ( CAD)

    Product-design functions performed with the help of computers and special software.

  • gang cutting ( milling)

    gang cutting ( milling)

    Machining with several cutters mounted on a single arbor, generally for simultaneous cutting.

  • milling

    milling

    Machining operation in which metal or other material is removed by applying power to a rotating cutter. In vertical milling, the cutting tool is mounted vertically on the spindle. In horizontal milling, the cutting tool is mounted horizontally, either directly on the spindle or on an arbor. Horizontal milling is further broken down into conventional milling, where the cutter rotates opposite the direction of feed, or “up” into the workpiece; and climb milling, where the cutter rotates in the direction of feed, or “down” into the workpiece. Milling operations include plane or surface milling, endmilling, facemilling, angle milling, form milling and profiling.

  • pitch

    pitch

    1. On a saw blade, the number of teeth per inch. 2. In threading, the number of threads per inch.

  • sawing machine ( saw)

    sawing machine ( saw)

    Machine designed to use a serrated-tooth blade to cut metal or other material. Comes in a wide variety of styles but takes one of four basic forms: hacksaw (a simple, rugged machine that uses a reciprocating motion to part metal or other material); cold or circular saw (powers a circular blade that cuts structural materials); bandsaw (runs an endless band; the two basic types are cutoff and contour band machines, which cut intricate contours and shapes); and abrasive cutoff saw (similar in appearance to the cold saw, but uses an abrasive disc that rotates at high speeds rather than a blade with serrated teeth).