Having identified a gap in the UK automotive market for a highly-efficient subcontractor that specialises in the production of premium quality, low volume components, the founders of Opus International Products established their business in 2013.
In less than ten years the company has grown rapidly to become a major force within its chosen sector. With customers that include premium vehicle, supercar and electric car manufacturers, Opus now works with OEMs, first tier suppliers and manufacturers at all levels of the production chain.
To help reduce changeover times and to increase its machine tools’ levels of efficiency, Opus International Products’ managing director, Rob Coles recently searched for a workholding system that would improve the company’s machining productivity.
As a result, a selection of the latest workholding systems were purchased from Lang Technik UK. Now in constant use, the new systems have enabled Opus International’s machine tools to significantly increase their output.
Mr Coles explains: “In addition to relatively small batch numbers, many of the components we produce feature complex configurations with challenging dimensional tolerances. These factors create a range of manufacturing difficulties, not least the ability to achieve maximum machining efficiencies.
“By using Lang Technik workholding on our Haas machine tools we have achieved the incremental production increases we were aiming for. Now, before inserting a workpiece blank into one of our new Lang Makro-grip vices our staff are able to use the Lang Technik stamping unit to make very accurate, minute indentations into the workpiece. Then, as the ‘male’ features on the jaws of the Lang vices exactly engage with the workpiece’s pre-stamped ‘dents’, we are able to achieve excellent holding power while only needing to apply minimal clamping forces.
“As a consequence, our Makro-grip vices are able to securely hold each workpiece with the application of minimum pressure. Therefore, we are able to securely hold, from the softest, to the hardest of materials, under all machining conditions without fear of deformation. In addition, as the Lang Technik stamping unit makes its indentations into only the last 3mm of workpieces, we are able to make savings on material.
“As all of the indenting preparation work is carried out before each workpiece is placed into the machine tool, the use of the Lang stamping unit and Makro-grip vices has slashed our machining downtimes.”
Lang Technik’s pre-stamping technology and Makro Grip vices are claimed by the manufacturer to be fundamentally different from the clamping methodologies of other workholding manufacturers. The workholding specialist says the advantages gained from the system means that it has become the benchmark clamping method for secure 5-axis machining.
The toothed jaws of conventional vices must satisfy two distinct functions – in addition to indenting a workpiece’s material, they must also securely hold the workpiece. Conventional vices are only able to exert a maximum pressure of approximately 4-6 tons, therefore the effective penetration of conventional vice jaws into workpiece materials can be extremely difficult, especially when clamping harder materials.
To guarantee that the workpiece is penetrated correctly, a vice’s teeth must remain sharp to continue to be effective. Although, as vice teeth are subjected to high levels of torque and wear, their clamping ability inevitably declines over time. Also, when using conventional vices during the machining of soft, distortion prone materials, jaws’ teeth also tend to lose their holding power as they are inclined to work free of the workpiece under machining forces.
The use of Lang’s stamping technology overcomes these problems by applying up to 20 tons of pressure during pre-stamping to guarantee the creation of precise indentations into the workpiece, even when applied to the hardest of materials.
As a result, following pre-stamping, as the teeth of the Makro Grip vice engage perfectly with the pre-stamped indents, only low clamping pressure is required to hold a workpiece securely. In addition to holding the workpiece in the Makro Grip vice under the most severe machining conditions, the truncated pyramidal shapes of the pre-stamped indents prevent the vice’s teeth from impacting deeper into the workpiece by providing a definitive penetration limit.
Despite the application of relatively low clamping pressure, the clamping forces exerted onto workpieces held in Makro Grip vices actually become higher the harder and more resistant the material being machined is. Also, as workpieces are prepared before being loaded into the machine tool, non-productive downtime is considerably reduced.
Also making a significant contribution to Opus’ machining efficiencies is Lang Technik’s Quick-Point system. In essence, the flexible Quick-Point system acts as an interface between the machine tool’s table and its workholding.
Designed to reduce setup times and to allow work to be quickly and accurately transferred from one machine to another with excellent location repeatability, Quick-Point is available in a wide range of variants to suit all machine tools and applications. The high-precision exchange of clamping devices, fixtures and workpieces between machines using the system can be carried-out within seconds with location repeatability within 0.005mm.
Mr Coles concludes: “The help we received from Lang Technik before we placed an order enabled us to cover the maximum amount of workholding applications with minimum workholding products. Such are the machining efficiencies we have gained through use of the company’s systems, as we continue to ramp-up our production levels we will be returning to them for further products.”