Toolholders fit shop’s up-close-and-personal part production

November 27, 2019 - 12:45pm

Article from Rego-Fix Tool Corp.

Nueva Precision, Milliken, Colorado, is, for the most part, Eddie Casanueva and his wife Leandra operating out of a garage. And while many job shop owners would want to grow and expand their businesses, the Casanuevas are content with keeping the shop at its current size because, according to them, customers benefit from dealing directly with the person making their parts. This, as well as the shop’s advanced manufacturing technology, makes Nueva Precision a trusted partner to its customers and an agile supplier.

Nueva Precision's Eddie Casanueva and his wife, Leandra.

It may be a small shop, but Nueva Precision is extremely progressive, tackling some of the industry’s most sophisticated components for such applications as overseas defense drones, the International Space Station and satellite rockets. To do so, Casanueva keeps pace with the latest machine tool technology and software. Unfortunately, the shop’s toolholders hindered it from taking full advantage of a new CAM software package, which meant they would need to find a new solution.

The shop had integrated a new vertical machining center into its operations, one with much more accuracy and speed thanks to its 15,000-rpm spindle. However, Casanueva’s limited knowledge of the CAM software he was using at the time kept him from generating the optimized toolpaths capable of taking full advantage of the machine’s capabilities. This was when he upgraded his CAM software to one he was familiar with from his early days, learning CNC machining while he attended college at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

With the new software package, he could create far more aggressive toolpaths, but his toolholders were unable to handle the increased speeds and cutting forces. As a result, cutters would pull out of the holders, and to lessen the risk of that happening, Casanueva would have to slow down his machining speeds – and man the machine at all times.

“I knew that if I had the latest in machine tools and CAM software, I was going to need the latest in toolholders,” Casanueva said. “Within a week of having my new CAM software, I had an endmill pull out and literally cut into a job’s fixtures.”

It was during the 2018 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago that Casanueva began his search for a better toolholding system. His initial thought was shrink-fit holders, but he decided to instead try the powRgrip (PG) toolholding collet system from Rego-Fix after spending a considerable amount of time evaluating it.

Eddie Casanueva inserts a cutting tool into the powRgrip toolholding collet system from Rego-Fix.

“Honestly, I did waver back and forth on which type of toolholding system to use,” Casanueva said. “But in the end, I realized shrink-fit wasn’t a good fit for the shop. It lacked the flexibility the PG holders provided. Plus, once we had them in use, the PG holders eliminated our cutter pullout problems, and their extremely low runout allows us to take full advantage of the aggressive toolpaths and high spindle speeds from our new CAM software and VMC.”

Nueva Precision uses mostly solid milling cutters, and its PG system generates clamping forces equal to or higher than shrink-fit holders. The system is safe, precise, cost-effective and includes a holder, collet and load/unload unit that generates six tons of force. For Nueva Precision, the PG system eliminates the need for any type of holder heating unit, as well as the time spent waiting for shrink-fit holders to cool enough for handling.

The PG system relies on the interference between holder and collet to generate its clamping force. Unlike shrink-fit or hydraulic holders, PG uses the mechanical properties of the holder material to generate tremendous gripping force with a TIR below 0.0001". Because the PG system is user-friendly, Casanueva presses in a tool or removes it from a holder in less than 10 seconds, and without any heating involved, he can use those tools immediately after a tool change.

The PG system relies on the interference between holder and collet to generate its clamping force.

“The minute I started using PG, particularly in my rough milling operations, any problems with cutter pullout disappeared,” Casanueva said. “Now I use the holders for any applications where there is even the slightest risk of cutter pullout, when running extremely aggressive toolpaths and for finishing operations on extremely high-end, expensive parts.”

He does acknowledge that other types of holders would work for some of these applications, but said that the PG system excels for all of them, which allows him to eliminate the hassle and costs of having multiple systems. He also benefits from PG holders for his 4-axis rotary milling work. In these instances, the small, slimmer nose profiles of his PG25 and PG15 holders allow him to access tough-to-reach part areas and stay clear of workholding and fixturing.

Most of Nueva Precision’s parts are machined from aluminum, titanium and stainless steels, as well as more exotic alloys designed for demanding aerospace applications. Customers often supply these raw part materials to the shop already tested and inspected. Many parts Casanueva works with must be heat-treated prior to machining, so there is no post-processing done that could compromise material and/or part integrity.

Nueva Precision tackles some of the industry’s most sophisticated components for such applications as overseas defense drones, the International Space Station and satellite rockets.

“This means I basically machine hardened parts, some of which are as hard as 59 HRC,” he commented. “The part geometries are challenging enough, but then add to that their extreme surface hardnesses, and one realizes why I use a toolholder system like PG.”

Job lot sizes at Nueva Precision typically involve only a few pieces, but some can run into the thousands over the full span of a long-running job. And while the lot sizes are low, some jobs can take months because of multiple components that are then fitted together with zero play.

Nueva Precision wasn’t Casanueva’s first machine shop venture. Before starting Nueva Precision, he sold a thriving and well-known off-road vehicle parts business because, according to him, what he truly loves about machining is being out on the floor and working closely with customers to solve challenging engineering problems. Now he says that kind of tightness with customers is the key to Nueva Precision’s continued success. That, and the most advanced machines and software along with tooling, in particular Rego-Fix PG toolholders, that let him take full advantage of both.

A selection of tools and holders at Nueva Precision.

Shop Gets an Off-Road Start

During his schooling for mechanical engineering in New Jersey, Eddie Casanueva was into off-roading, making all the vehicle modifications himself. He would compete at several events around the country, and this “hobby” eventually led to the manufacturing lab at his school.

The lab, funded by the state, was a manufacturing center that supported campus research. Casanueva wanted to get a student job there, but the lab didn’t hire students – until a mishap involving a forklift at the lab occurred. Apparently, someone had accidently driven a forklift into the back of a pickup truck at the lab, and Casanueva offered his and the services of the winch on his off-road truck to pull out the forklift.

Afterwards, he asked the lab director if he’d look at his resume for work at the center. He was hired on the spot for sweeping floors and other odd tasks. This is where he learned all about machining. And with his increased machining knowledge, he designed and produced more custom components for his off-road vehicle.

As these custom-machined parts garnered more and more attention at the off-road events he attended, Casanueva realized he could produce and market them commercially. It was at this time that the manufacturing lab hired him as a full time CNC machinist, and he worked out an arrangement with the lab to rent machine time to produce his custom parts to sell.

His fledgling business continued to grow to the point where he decided to leave school and pursue the business full time. He took on a business partner, incorporated in 1999 and established the SpiderTrax Inc. brand. The two then moved the business out to Colorado in 2001, and within six months, hired their first employee.

In the beginning, they outsourced a lot of their part processes, but in 2005 the shop decided to add some serious CNC machines and soon outgrew its facility. It moved operations into a 15,000-sq.-ft. facility with eight machining centers and 20 employees manufacturing parts 24 hours a day. Then, in 2017, he sold the business and started Nueva Precision.

While he had been manufacturing in Colorado for several years, he had no customers when he officially opened his new shop’s doors for business. But within two months, word had spread to the point that he had so much work that he had already hit capacity with the equipment he had at the time, including a toolroom lathe and vertical machining center. That lineup has since grown to encompass three CNC vertical machining centers, a turning machine, high-end CAM software and a powRgrip Toolholding System from Rego-Fix.

Related Glossary Terms

  • alloys


    Substances having metallic properties and being composed of two or more chemical elements of which at least one is a metal.

  • centers


    Cone-shaped pins that support a workpiece by one or two ends during machining. The centers fit into holes drilled in the workpiece ends. Centers that turn with the workpiece are called “live” centers; those that do not are called “dead” centers.

  • collet


    Flexible-sided device that secures a tool or workpiece. Similar in function to a chuck, but can accommodate only a narrow size range. Typically provides greater gripping force and precision than a chuck. See chuck.

  • computer numerical control ( CNC)

    computer numerical control ( CNC)

    Microprocessor-based controller dedicated to a machine tool that permits the creation or modification of parts. Programmed numerical control activates the machine’s servos and spindle drives and controls the various machining operations. See DNC, direct numerical control; NC, numerical control.

  • computer-aided manufacturing ( CAM)

    computer-aided manufacturing ( CAM)

    Use of computers to control machining and manufacturing processes.

  • endmill


    Milling cutter held by its shank that cuts on its periphery and, if so configured, on its free end. Takes a variety of shapes (single- and double-end, roughing, ballnose and cup-end) and sizes (stub, medium, long and extra-long). Also comes with differing numbers of flutes.

  • gang cutting ( milling)

    gang cutting ( milling)

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

  • lathe


    Turning machine capable of sawing, milling, grinding, gear-cutting, drilling, reaming, boring, threading, facing, chamfering, grooving, knurling, spinning, parting, necking, taper-cutting, and cam- and eccentric-cutting, as well as step- and straight-turning. Comes in a variety of forms, ranging from manual to semiautomatic to fully automatic, with major types being engine lathes, turning and contouring lathes, turret lathes and numerical-control lathes. The engine lathe consists of a headstock and spindle, tailstock, bed, carriage (complete with apron) and cross slides. Features include gear- (speed) and feed-selector levers, toolpost, compound rest, lead screw and reversing lead screw, threading dial and rapid-traverse lever. Special lathe types include through-the-spindle, camshaft and crankshaft, brake drum and rotor, spinning and gun-barrel machines. Toolroom and bench lathes are used for precision work; the former for tool-and-die work and similar tasks, the latter for small workpieces (instruments, watches), normally without a power feed. Models are typically designated according to their “swing,” or the largest-diameter workpiece that can be rotated; bed length, or the distance between centers; and horsepower generated. See turning machine.

  • machining center

    machining center

    CNC machine tool capable of drilling, reaming, tapping, milling and boring. Normally comes with an automatic toolchanger. See automatic toolchanger.

  • mechanical properties

    mechanical properties

    Properties of a material that reveal its elastic and inelastic behavior when force is applied, thereby indicating its suitability for mechanical applications; for example, modulus of elasticity, tensile strength, elongation, hardness and fatigue limit.

  • 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.

  • stainless steels

    stainless steels

    Stainless steels possess high strength, heat resistance, excellent workability and erosion resistance. Four general classes have been developed to cover a range of mechanical and physical properties for particular applications. The four classes are: the austenitic types of the chromium-nickel-manganese 200 series and the chromium-nickel 300 series; the martensitic types of the chromium, hardenable 400 series; the chromium, nonhardenable 400-series ferritic types; and the precipitation-hardening type of chromium-nickel alloys with additional elements that are hardenable by solution treating and aging.

  • toolholder


    Secures a cutting tool during a machining operation. Basic types include block, cartridge, chuck, collet, fixed, modular, quick-change and rotating.

  • toolroom lathe

    toolroom lathe

    High-precision lathe built to hold tighter tolerances than regular, general-purpose lathes can hold. See lathe; turning machine.

  • total indicator runout ( TIR)

    total indicator runout ( TIR)

    Combined variations of all dimensions of a workpiece, measured with an indicator, determined by rotating the part 360°.

  • turning


    Workpiece is held in a chuck, mounted on a face plate or secured between centers and rotated while a cutting tool, normally a single-point tool, is fed into it along its periphery or across its end or face. Takes the form of straight turning (cutting along the periphery of the workpiece); taper turning (creating a taper); step turning (turning different-size diameters on the same work); chamfering (beveling an edge or shoulder); facing (cutting on an end); turning threads (usually external but can be internal); roughing (high-volume metal removal); and finishing (final light cuts). Performed on lathes, turning centers, chucking machines, automatic screw machines and similar machines.

  • turning machine

    turning machine

    Any machine that rotates a workpiece while feeding a cutting tool into it. See lathe.


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