Buying Time: Quick Change Tooling

It’s the 47th lap of the Indianapolis 500. You’ve been leading the pack all morning but the left rear tire is getting a bit squishy. After signaling the crew to get ready, you barrel down pit lane and slide to a stop before the garage, just as the tire changers come running out equipped with … monkey wrenches?

To a racecar driver, quick changeover means the difference between victory and defeat. But it seems machine shop owners and manufacturing engineers aren’t getting the message. Talk to most any machine tool expert and you’ll hear the same thing: fewer than 10 percent of all 2-axis lathes are equipped with quick-change tooling.

That Stuff Ain’t Cheap!

“A lot of people don’t see the benefit of quick change,” said Michael Minton, national application engineering manager for Methods Machine Tools Inc., Sudbury, Mass. “People are looking for ways to reduce setup time, but the perception of high cost gets in the way of the benefit of quick change. Machine and tooling suppliers need to do a better job of explaining the technology to end users. Given the proper application, the benefits clearly outweigh the cost.”

Quick change toolholders cost several hundred dollars each. The blocks to mount them to the turret could be more expensive than a Caribbean cruise. Adding insult to injury, lead times can be long. Once you’ve purchased a new CNC machine, you might wait 8 to 10 weeks for delivery of a quick change tooling package and spend another 20 percent over the machine’s $150,000 price tag. “It is very hard to convince a guy who just bought a 2-axis lathe that it’s a viable solution,” Minton said.

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