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Pleased to Meet You: Stepping into SMW Autoblok’s IMTS Booth Opens a World of Opportunities

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Technology and innovation are at the heart of IMTS, as well as at the heart of SMW Autoblok, a global engineering and manufacturing company providing state-of–the-art workholding, clamping and tooling solutions.

SMW Autoblok participates in IMTS because, “Everything else pales in comparison to what happens at IMTS,” says Gary Downs, President, of SMW Autoblok. “That’s why we have been an exhibitor since 1966.”

The company has manufacturing facilities in Meckenbeuren, Germany and Caprie, Italy. These facilities continuously develop new technology, and the company catalog grows thicker every year with new products. Covering the United States and Canada, SMW Autoblok’s facility in Wheeling, Ill., takes the products made in Europe, but then differentiates itself with a full-service facility that includes onsite engineering, installation, maintenance, repair and more than $7 million in products and parts inventory. A service facility also exists in Conroe, Texas, just outside of Houston.

Crossing the Invisible Line

Design Engineer Rob Martinez (left) and Vice President of Engineering Ron Shibovich review a SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD design. The customer, holding on a call in Shibovich’s office, receives a prompt answer.

Downs wants IMTS attendees to know that they should have no fear about crossing that “invisible line” that seems to exist just outside trade show booths.

“Walking the show is great, but unless you engage, you don’t even know what types opportunities you are missing,” says Downs. “The products we bring to IMTS are new and innovative, and we are there to sit down, discuss your issues and make sure you leave with a solution.”

Larry Robbins, Vice President of Sales, believes IMTS offers exposure to ideas that visitors won’t find anywhere else.

“Customers come into our booth feeling like they have a bottomless pit of problems. They think they need to keep throwing more money down to solve all these issues. They don’t. We walk them around [our exhibit] and show them that it’s not that difficult to stop the bleeding and start being profitable.”

“Part of my job is to solve customer’s problems on a daily basis,” says Ron Shibovich, Vice President of Engineering. “We are exposed to lots of situations, so we have a huge databank on which we can draw. Don’t feel as if you’re imposing on us if you bring part prints and problems to us at the show.”

Kyle Downs, Director of Marketing and Project Management, says that, “Whether in the field or at a trade show, we encourage you to cross that invisible line and invite yourself into our booth, or us into your facility, so that we can see your problems and work together to find the best solution.”

The Engineering Advantage

While SMW offers one of the broadest product lines, Shibovich wants people to know that SMW is much more than a standard chuck and workholding company.

“Yes, we have excellent off-the-shelf products, but many people don’t realize that we provide all the services to support our products, start to finish. It’s truly a turn-key solution,” he says.

SMW Autoblok uses quick-change jaws in its own machining operations, demonstrating some of the lean techniques that it encourages customers to employ.

Following up on Robbins statement about bleeding money, Shibovich notes that, “We can take a standard core off-the-shelf product and design special jaws, locators and workholding to hold the customer’s part,” he says. “The core-based product is standard, but we’re designing top-tooling and workholding around an individual need.”

Robbins specifically recalls solving a problem for a customer in the aerospace industry.

“We created a self-contained cylinder that was made to an OEM-specific pallet base. We created a hydraulic cylinder solution that wasn’t possible in the past to power energize a chuck that has very specialized features,” he says. “It’s called a 2+2+2 equalizing chuck that adapts to a very thin-walled part so that the part was held in its natural state to be machined.”

“We don’t force a standardized chuck into a place where it doesn’t belong,” adds Gary Downs. “We start with innovative products and then provide innovation in our engineering department to develop customized solutions.”

The Industry’s Broadest Product Line

SMW Autoblok is the largest manufacturer of closed-center rotating hydraulic cylinders in the world (the cylinder actuates the chuck).

SMW Autoblok offers products for turning (closed center power chucks, open center power chucks, quick jaw change power chucks, application chucks, collet chucks, mandrels, steady rests), grinding (steady rests, diaphragm technology, high precision face drivers, pneumatic pancake cylinders, segment sleeve mandrels), stationary workholding (including zero point positioning systems), jaws for many common power chucks and much more.

In addition to its extensive product line, SMW Autoblok offers products that competitors do not, such as its proofline® series of fully sealed chucks. These quick jaw change power chucks don’t require daily maintenance, a big advantage for a high-production environment where the trend is to keep the spindles running longer and longer.

Other trends that SMW Autoblok is keenly aware of include lean manufacturing. Accordingly, quick-change tooling requires less floor space per machine, as it allows for working on more than one part by having the ability to change between part families. Taking the concept one step further, SMW Autoblok’s Chuck Switching System allows users to change chucks so that they can move from one product to another completely different product. Savings can be tracked remotely as well, a trend providing the ability to monitor chucks offline.

IMTS offers a close-up view of an automatic indexing chuck, featuring a reinforced body and requiring no re-clamping to machine multiple faces. They are designed for high productivity machining of complex workpieces in a single setup.

SMW Autoblok also offers a large variety of quick jaw change chucks. As Kyle Downs explains, “It takes 10 minutes for a standard chuck jaw change and one minute for a quick jaw chuck changeover. If you’re doing six a day, that’s one hour of time savings. It’s easily documented.” These savings grow exponentially if jaws need to be re-bored.

Further, indexing chucks can do in one step what a manufacturer may be doing in multiple steps. “The index has separate axes of rotation for the chuck to rotate about,” says Shibovich. “It also has a dividing head on the clamping piston and assembly that rotates 90 degrees to machine parts in different degree increments. You don’t need to machine them in multiple operations because indexing can be done in one operation. It decreases capital expenditure on anything that requires multiple operations on multiple faces.” Additional AXN styles are available for components that have non 90-degree indexed faces.

Other products, such as the BB-FZA-2G air 3+3-jaw sequencing chuck, have three integrated centering jaws and three independent compensating jaws. Integrated centering jaws move axially forward to center the pipe exactly at the area to be threaded and eliminate manual operations of shimming the pipe and material.

If choosing the right workholding option sounds too complex, Gary Downs urges visitor to relax. Meeting with SMW Autoblok at IMTS is a no-strings-attached consulting experience. He understands how show visitors can feel, because he is one himself.

“Although we exhibit and connect with our customers, many of whom are exhibitors, we are also attendees. We bring our entire staff to the show,” he says. “To continuously improve our own operators, we are always looking for ways that help us create more innovative products, and the ideas we don’t know about yet are at IMTS.”

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