by Alan Miller
Originally published in Fabricating & Metalworking Oct 24, 2018
Shrink-fit and hydraulic holders are both useful in low clearance, tight work envelopes found in moldmaking and multi-axis machining applications. When deciding which one to use, their differences will guide your choice. Here are some of the fundamental contrasts to help you decide which holder type is best for your work.
Hydraulic holders (shown here) and shrink-fit holders share a middle-of-the-road gripping strength: about half that of a milling chuck and about double that of collet chucks. The superior vibration control of hydraulic chucks makes them good choices for finish milling, reaming and drilling work. While they may not be as precise, the rigidity of shrink-fit holders makes them effective in moderate to heavy milling work where clearance is an issue, and in many high speed scenarios.
Shrink-fit and hydraulic holders are especially useful in low clearance, tight work envelopes because of their relatively slim design. This has made them effective in moldmaking applications and more coveted since the widespread adoption of multi-axis machinery. Hydraulic and shrink-fit holders also share a middle-of-the-road gripping strength: about half that of a milling chuck and about double that of collet chucks.
These similarities are why we’re taking the time to compare the two. When it comes to deciding between one or the other, it’s the differences that will guide the choice. So let’s dig into some of the fundamental contrasts that may help you decide which holder type is best for you and your work.
When it comes to the holders themselves, shrink-fit is generally a slightly lower cost. The delicate hydraulic clamping systems built into the holders add cost when compared to the simple and solid bodies of shrink-fit holders. Where the major difference lies is in the equipment needed to heat the shrink-fit holders.
When heated to the proper temperature, the resulting growth of the ID allows the tool to be slipped into the bore. Once cooled, the holder expands, gripping the tool. This process, especially the induction heating, involves cost. Shrink-fit heating systems start at around $5,000 and go up from there. They also require fairly significant power, adding a slight ongoing expense.
If you want to see a full return on your shrink-fit investment and then some, maintenance is critical. When dealing with temperatures that can approach 600 deg F, the stakes are heightened.
This is why we recommend using dry cutting tools without oil on them. From there, diligent attention must be paid to the cleanliness of holder bores and tool shanks. Any contamination will be baked onto the metal and progressively deteriorate performance.
When it comes to hydraulic chucks, maintenance is straightforward as long as the hydraulic chamber stays sealed. To ensure the hydraulic system performs consistently, we recommend using test pins to gauge its force over time.
Training, Handling and Safety
Hydraulic chucks are infinitely simple. A turn of a wrench locks the tool in place. When it comes to shrink-fit systems, there are a few more factors to consider when getting the team up to speed, including safety considerations. Aside from the operators who handle the tooling and heating system directly, others on the floor need to be made aware of the risk of burns.
Heating stations are usually benchtop arrangements because of the power requirements. This means hot metal will need to be transported across the floor in one form or another. Another training consideration is that tools can be overcooked, so to speak. This will cause permanent damage that harms performance. Operators must understand, know how to prevent and diagnose this.
As mentioned earlier, hydraulic chucks use a simple wrench to lock in the tool. Tools can also be swapped at the machine or offline. When it comes to shrink-fit setups, they must be done exclusively offline where the heating and cooling can be powered. Most heating cycles can be as fast as 15 seconds.
Cooling can take several minutes, even with assistance like air. Having extra compatible holders is a viable solution to speed concerns, if you’re comfortable with the additional investment. All that being said, there are significant time-saving opportunities to be found setting up tools offline. We believe strongly in tool measuring systems and recommend offline setup when and where applicable.
Hydraulic chucks have two specific advantages in terms of vibration and accuracy. The first is that shrink-fit tools and holders are dependent on the heating and cooling processes being consistent. This brings us back to the maintenance section above; the slightest imperfection in the holder bore, not to mention the natural inconsistencies in the heating and cooling processes, can be multiplied at the cutting edge in the form of vibration or runout.
There is also the chance of some variation from operator to operator. Hydraulic chucks are less reliant on these variables and their production is imminently consistent. Once a master bore is established during manufacturing and assembly, it’s a repeatable process over thousands of cycles.
This translates to consistent clamping tolerances and forces over the life of the holder. The second advantage is the natural damping characteristics that hydraulics provide. That’s not to say shrink-fit holders are ineffective in terms of vibration management. Their runout is five times better than side-lock holders.
Roughing and Finishing
That brings us to some application talk. While they may not be as precise, shrink-fit holders’ rigidity makes them effective in moderate to heavy milling work where clearance is an issue, and in many high speed scenarios. The superior vibration control of hydraulic chucks makes them good choices for finish milling, reaming and drilling work.
Roughing and Finishing
Up to this point, you may think I’m an advocate of hydraulic chucks over shrink-fit holders, but that’s not the case. We offer both products. In fact, shrink-fit holders are fundamentally the perfect tool holder. From an engineering perspective, there are no moving parts, no additional components, they use the properties of the holder itself to grip the tool and they’re symmetrically round. But as we all know, a manufacturing floor is not a perfect environment. Variables must be considered when choosing equipment.
Should the choice between hydraulic chucks and shrink-fit holders come up, the factors discussed here will help guide your choice.
Below are excerpts from a Cutting Tool Engineering article by the same title. To read the entire article please click HERE.
Author Kip Hanson, Contributing Editor, Cutting Tool Engineering
Kip Hanson is a contributing editor for Cutting Tool Engineering magazine. Originally Published: September 12, 2017 - 3:00pm
Shopping for a machining center was simpler when buyers had only two basic spindle choices: CAT or BT. Both of these “steep tapers” have an angle of 3.5 in./ft., or 7" in 24" (7/24), and are based on the 1927 patent by Kearney & Trecker Corp., Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing Co. and Cincinnati Milling Machine Co.
With the development of automatic toolchangers in the late 1960s, machine tool builders in Japan modified the patented design and invented the BT standard. In the 1970s, tractor manufacturer Caterpillar Inc., Peoria, Ill., changed things again with a flange design now known as CAT, or V-flange.
During the late ’80s, machine tool builders began offering vertical and horizontal CNC mills with spindle speeds higher than the 6,000 to 8,000 rpm common at the time. As rpm increased, so did problems with steep-taper toolholders.
Chief among them is the tendency for the mating spindle and toolholder tapers to stick together. This is caused by the expansion of the spindle housing at high speeds, which allows the toolholder to be pulled upward into the spindle taper, jamming it in place.
HSK spindles, like the one shown in the illustration below, offer advantages steep-taper styles can't.
One way to eliminate this problem is by extending the toolholder flange upward, thus creating a hard stop against the spindle face and preventing further Z-axis movement.
This is the approach taken by BIG KAISER Precision Tooling Inc., Hoffman Estates, Ill. Jack Burley, vice president of sales and engineering, said the BIG-PLUS system—developed in 1992 by BIG Daishowa Seiki Co. Ltd., Osaka, Japan—relies on a bit of elastic deformation in the spindle to provide dual points of toolholder contact at its face and taper, eliminating upward holder movement as the spindle expands.
He said it’s also more rigid, with tests showing that the deflection on a CV40 BIG-PLUS toolholder measured at 70mm (2.755") from the spindle face is only 60µm (0.002") when subjected to 500kg (1,102 lbs.) of radial force, roughly half that of a traditional V-flange toolholder.
“There are now roughly 150 machine builders that either offer BIG-PLUS or have it as a standard,” Burley said. “The beauty of the system is that it can use either standard toolholders or BIG-PLUS interchangeably. So for drilling and reaming work, you can use a conventional collet chuck, but for heavy milling cuts or profiling operations at higher spindle speeds, BIG-PLUS improves accuracy and tool life.”
Burley does not recommend BIG-PLUS for older machines that have never seen these toolholders, because CAT and BT taper-only contact holders tend to bellmouth the spindle over time, leading to undesirable results.
BIG-PLUS, like any dual-contact toolholder, requires particular attention to cleanliness, as chips caught between the spindle face and the toolholder can cause serious problems.
He also recommends staying below 30,000 rpm when using 40-taper holders, noting that higher speeds are better handled by HSK spindles and holders.
Keep It Clean
Bill Popoli, president of IBAG North America, North Haven, Conn., said the company started building steep-taper spindles in the late ’80s, but 95 percent of its work has since transitioned to HSK spindles. As mentioned earlier, the extreme accuracy needed to guarantee near-simultaneous contact between the spindle face and taper is challenging, requiring micron-level tolerances in toolholder and spindle alike.
These requirements were impossible to meet when steep taper was first developed, Popoli said, resulting in looser standards overall for CAT and BT spindles than the ones applied to HSK spindles and toolholders. Because of this, purchasing an HSK or equivalent toolholder automatically makes one “part of the club” when it comes to balance, accuracy, repeatability and tool life.
That’s not to say, however, that shops firmly married to steep tapers should settle for less. Popoli recommends purchasing the highest-quality tooling possible and paying close attention to the stated tolerance.
Always stay below 20,000 rpm with 40-taper holders, and reach no more than 30,000 rpm with 30-taper ones. Use balanced holders and high-quality retention knobs that have been properly torqued—otherwise distortion at the small end of the taper may occur. And whatever the taper type, keep the spindle and toolholder clean at all times.
Bob Freitag agreed. The manager of application engineering at Minneapolis-based metalworking products and services provider Productivity Inc. said the lines are evenly split between traditional 40- and 50-taper CAT or BT tooling (much of which is BIG-PLUS) and HSK.
“It really depends on the application,” Freitag said. “Most of our die and mold machines in the 20,000- to 30,000-rpm range will have an HSK63A or HSK63F. When you get up around 45,000 rpm, you’re probably looking at an HSK32. But in horizontal machining centers and lower-rpm, high-torque verticals, you’ll see mostly steep tapers, as this is generally preferred for deep depths of cut and lower feed rates, where you’re removing a lot of material at once.”
For shops that want to make the leap to an HSK machine but are leery of investing in new toolholders, Freitag advised:
“Anytime you buy a new machine, you should buy new toolholders to go with it. If not, the imperfections of the old toolholders will soon transfer themselves to the spindle on the new machine.”
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