More and more, we are asked this fairly simple question from shops who want to purchase BIG-PLUS® dual contact tooling from sources other than us. One would certainly think that this must be the situation, given that more than 100 of the world’s top selling machine tool builders have adopted the BIG-PLUS spindle system as their own standard. The truthful answer to anyone who asks is that this system has not been standardized by any governing body such as ISO, DIN, JIS, or ASME.
This comparison of licensed BIG-PLUS vs. unlicensed BIG-PLUS tooling shows how little or no taper contact in the unlicensed tool holder can allow “float” in the spindle taper with no positive radial location, causing large cutter runout and immediate fretting corrosion on that spindle face that can severely damage the spindle.
BIG Daishowa, the original developer of this system and a major reason that it has been so widely accepted throughout the world, still holds all of the proprietary information and, more importantly, the grand master gages that are used for reproducing spindles and tooling. Access to this information and gaging is well protected by BIG and is only provided to those companies who acquire a license agreement, mostly to protect the integrity of the system, which uses very close tolerances in order to function at its designed performance level.
The popularity of BIG-PLUS has surged over the past ten years as many shops have tried the system and have witnessed for themselves the huge benefits in higher performance and accuracy over standardized taper contact tooling systems, such as CAT or BT. Other dual contact systems, such as HSK, have also seen a rise in popularity for similar reasons, but perhaps not with all of the same benefits of BIG-PLUS. Unfortunately, all of this increased popularity and demand has been accompanied by a surge in unlicensed copies to the market that offer all kinds of promises and prices never seen before.
I cannot fault a shop for purchasing cheap dual contact tooling after being told by their supplier that it will work just as good as the originals for half the price. After all, human nature wants to find the best offer at the best price – that sort of deal is capitalism at its best. As consumers, we are all confronted with choices every day about buying similar products that do similar functions from a wide range of suppliers and costs. For me personally, I usually decide to buy cheap only when I know the product will be used one time and then thrown away. On all other purchases, I’m in it for the long haul and willing to pay higher prices. At the end of the day, I want to be confident I made the right choice for the long term, and I’m willing to pay more for my peace of mind.
Master gages for tooling are quite common. Generally all of them are traceable to a known master to compare the accuracy for rate of taper for production of tool holders, such as CAT or BT. ISO dual contact systems such as HSK rely on the use of a grand master gage that all other master gages are produced to, thereby guaranteeing that all HSK tool holders are the same everywhere in the world. Our company decided to find out how the world’s leading suppliers of HSK tool holders compared to the tolerances of the ISO standard. After acquiring more than 30 HSK-A63 taper tools from our competitors from all over the world and making a detailed quality inspection of the taper itself, we found that 50 percent of the samples were not in tolerance.
What are the consequences to a poorly researched choice in BIG-PLUS tooling? Unless all of the tools are marked “BIG-PLUS® Spindle System-License BIG DAISHOWA SEIKI,” the use of tooling not made by BIG Daishowa or its licensees may result in unsatisfactory performance and/or damage to very expensive spindles. Conditions producing such unsatisfactory performance include:
Jack Burley is the vice president of sales and engineering at BIG KAISER Precision Tooling Inc., 2600 Huntington Boulevard, Hoffman Estates, IL 60192, 847-228-4011, Fax: 847-228-0881, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.bigkaiser.com.
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