Three Safety Considerations That Impact Every Tooling System’s Design

Like many manufacturing companies, REGO-FIX makes safety its top priority, and we’re proud to offer a number of products that make it easy to achieve secure, safe operations, including the original ER collet and the powRgrip® System. But given the speed of modern spindles, it requires more than excellent toolholding to ensure operator safety. In fact, built-in safety features have become the norm across the entire tooling spectrum, from the spindle itself down to the tip of the cutting tool. Here are three of the main areas manufacturing OEMs focus on in terms of operator safety – and the techniques they’ve used to make the industry safer than ever before.

Chip Control

Chips are the natural result of machining, and while there may be no perfect chip size, smaller is generally better – especially given that long, stringy chips are one of the leading causes of operator injury. Of course, most operators are trained to avoid reaching into a pile of long chips. But if chips have caused the tool to jam or must be disentangled from the workpiece, interacting with these dangerous shards of sharp metal can be unavoidable.

For this reason, tools are often designed with features such as variable helices, chipbreakers and advanced flute geometries to promote better chip formation and evacuation. The cutting tool’s holder can also play a large role in chip control, particularly when chatter becomes an issue. Of course, a tooling system’s rigidity is another area where manufacturing OEMs have strived to prioritize safety.

Vibration Damping

Vibration usually occurs when the part and the tool bounce off each other, and once chatter begins, it only gets worse; vibrations generate even more vibrations, which can lead to catastrophic tool failure. Naturally, toolholding solutions like powRgrip make up a large part of the vibration damping technology in use in today’s shops. With powRgrip, optimized rigidity and an extremely strong connection allows the system to hold runout to ±3 µm. However, for the highest level of safety, vibration damping must be built into every part of the tooling system.

On the workpiece side of the connection, the tool tip geometry and cutter design must take vibration into account. Many toolmakers use features such as variable flute spacing, which prevents the harmonic resonance that can be produced by equally spaced flutes. Tuned mass dampers may also be used, particularly for long tool overhangs. And on the machine side of the connection, more spindles than ever have telemetry systems that detect vibrations and adjust cutting speed to compensate.

Tool Wear

Tool deterioration during machining is inevitable, but tool safety doesn’t have to suffer as a result. To maximize operator safety as well as productivity and tool life, toolmakers focus their efforts not on preventing wear, but controlling it. After all, while tool wear may be inevitable, the way that tool wears can mean the difference between a predictable process and a catastrophic failure.

The rigidity of holders like REGO-FIX’s ER collets and powRgrip system can dramatically improve tool life simply by preventing vibration and chatter. However, the tools themselves must be designed for fully predictable wear. Advanced coatings like TiAlN or TiSiN can make a large impact on tool wear, for example – an effective coating will often improve edge strength while preventing particular kinds of chemical and physical wear. The rake angles and radii of the cutting tools also play a large role.

In the world of manufacturing, safety has become a core part of our mission, and nowhere is that more visible than the interface between workpiece and tool. Sometimes, the danger can even be invisible – tooling suppliers have developed geometries specifically designed to handle dangerously high levels of noise produced by some machining applications, for example. However, between tooling suppliers, machine tool spindle manufacturers and toolholding specialists like REGO-FIX, operators are safer than ever before.