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Guaranteed Performance Improvement: BIG KAISER Tooling and Workholding Solutions Reduce Set-up Time, Extend Tool Life, Cut Part Costs

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Although the story begins in Switzerland, it’s one familiar to many U.S. machine shops, machine tool companies and manufacturers….

“Our company was founded by my father in 1948. He started out working from his parent’s apartment where he had a small Hardinge lathe,” says Chris Kaiser, President and CEO of BIG KAISER Precision Tooling.

Alan Miller tests milling cutter performance before it ships to a customer.

“My father made small parts for laboratories. He saw a need back in the early '50s to have accurate boring tools, and that brought him to develop his own boring tools. That evolved all the way until today, where BIG KAISER is known for high accuracy tooling, boring tools, tool presetting equipment, work holding equipment that will give high precision, high value and increased performance at every level.”

The story of modest beginnings, a few key pieces of equipment, a vision and hard work have today produced a global company. The name BIG KAISER comes from the 2003 alliance between KPT/Kaiser Precision Tooling (which Chris Kaiser started in 1990) and BIG Daishowa Seiki, a global tooling manufacturer based in Osaka, Japan. To recognize the importance of this new strategic alliance and BIG Daishowa Seiki’s commitment to the North American market, KPT/Kaiser was renamed BIG KAISER Precision Tooling.

Based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., the company operates from a 33,000-sq.-ft. facility that stocks more than 400 modular tool components, most of them available for overnight delivery. The headquarters also features 5,000-sq.-ft. showroom and training facility that holds about 60 people. BIG KAISER’s product portfolio includes milling, drilling, tapping and boring tools, tool holders, angle heads, spindle speeders, coolant inducers, tool presetters workholding and a variety of accessories.

The Value of Precision

The BIG-PLUS spindle provides dual contact, which increases rigidity; improving cutting tool life and accuracy.

When a CNC milling or turning machine comes with factory tooling, one can ask, “Why is there a need for separate tooling, much less tooling that commands a premium price?” For an explanation, stop by BIG KAISER’s exhibit at IMTS 2018 in the Tooling & Workholding Pavilion, where Jack Burley, Vice President of Sales and Engineering, will be happy to explain.

“While machine tool companies are very good at making precision machines, the accessory parts that go into the machine tools are probably not their best engineering capacity,” says Burley. “Conversely, we specialize in providing the connectivity from a precision spindle and taking it to the cutting edge. We have over three decades of experience and we have perfected the manufacturing, quality processes and engineering to do it right. That’s why using BIG KAISER instead of basic tooling packages is the best option.”

“A race car provides a good analogy,” says Kaiser. “If you buy a race car, you’ll put premium tires on it to compete in a high stakes race. If you have a machine tool that's worth a half a million dollars and you equip it with run-of-the-mill -type tool holding equipment, you are not going get the value out of that high cost machine tool.”

BIG KAISER has so consistently demonstrated the benefits of premium tooling that it offers a higher performance guarantee.

“If we quote a tool, we promise that we will improve the process by a certain percentage. If that does not happen, we will take the tool back,” says Kaiser. While every application is different, an improvement of 10 to 25 percent is common, and that improvement usually starts with better rigidity.

One of BIG KAISER’s marquis products is the BIG-PLUS spindle, which the company patented in 1992. The BIG-PLUS provides taper and face contact. Dual-contact improves rigidity by 1.3 to 1.5 times more compared to conventional tool holders, and improved rigidity helps ensure greater accuracy, especially at higher spindle speeds.

“While we’re proud of BIG-PLUS, we also manufacture one of the most extensive lines of HSK Tooling Systems,” adds Burley. “We always have customers or people coming to our IMTS booth and asking about the differences between BIG-PLUS or HSK. We don't say, ‘Okay, this one's better.’ Instead, we ask, ‘What kind of operations are you going to be using on that machine? Is it high speed? Is it low or high cutting torque? Long tools or short tools?’ We get into specifically how they are going to use the machine and guide them in making a decision to get the best results.”

By engaging with BIG KAISER at IMTS, visitors can learn exactly how tooling affects their costs. For example, not everyone realizes that every additional 0.0001-in. of run-out reduces tool life by a factor of 20 percent.

The Digital Era

In a manufacturing era that requires ever-improving performance metrics, the solution is not to lower costs by reducing tool pricing, but to reduce cost-per-part.

“Saving money comes from repeatable precision that reduces scrap and increases the cutting tool life,” says Burley. “BIG KAISER’s collet and tool holders save money because they are the best way to reduce consumables use by holding cutting tools accurately and rigidly. We guarantee you’ll burn up fewer tools.”

One way BIG KAISER improves accuracy is with its EWD precision digital boring head, which features absolute setting accuracy shown on a built-in digital display. These digital heads have an accuracy of 0.00005-in.

“Today, we can put a strand of hair in the EWD and move it 1/50th of its diameter, as well as digitally capture and communicate the history of adjusting that tool,” says Burley. “Even for companies who do not need that kind of accuracy, a digital boring head can help with Six Sigma requirements by documenting that you are holding repeatable tolerances.”

To communicate with the EWE, BIG KAISER offers an App for smartphones and tablets. Users can look at the adjustment history of the tool. If an operator makes a mistake, the engineering or quality team can use the data to determine what happened and when it happened and eliminate the cause. Further, the App guides the operator by providing fields to fill in about the material and depth, diameter and tolerance of the bore, as well as exact speed and feed parameters and adjustment instructions.

“Digital capabilities also address the industry’s aging workforce issues,” says Kaiser. “Using the EWD makes it much easier for an operator with less experience to achieve repeatable precision compared to using tooling with traditional analog displays.”

Lowest Hanging Fruit

Another way BIG KAISER has responded to the realities of an aging workforce is with its quick-change UNILOCK zero-point clamping chuck system, which can reduce machine set up time by up to 90% while increasing accuracy and repeatability to greatly improve overall efficiency.

UNILOCK utilizes spring pressure to drive multiple clamping pins against a tapered clamping knob. To facilitate palletization, the clamping knob is attached to a base plate, fixture or directly to a workpiece.

UNILOCK utilizes spring pressure to drive multiple clamping pins against a tapered clamping knob. Air pressure compresses the springs to back the clamping pins off of the clamping knob. This clamping process is achieved by bleeding the air pressure out of the chuck. To facilitate palletization, the clamping knob is attached to a base plate, fixture or directly to a workpiece. The result is quick and repeatable clamping.

“The UNILOCK system reduces changeover time to two minutes, and it mistake-proofs setup because there is only one way the parts can go together,” states Burley. Comparatively, a good machinist or set-up operator (e.g., the people who make the most money) can set up a new tool in 30 minutes (after cleaning off the tooling). A less experienced operator could take 1 to 3 hours.

As an aside, Burley comments that it’s incredible to think that many worktables have been made the same way, with T-slots, since the 1930s.

“These things have no accuracy, no repeatability and the set-up operator has to dial it in every time,” says Burley. “The machine tool manufacturers are focusing on speed, accuracy and making the controls easier. Fortunately, we’re thinking about how to attach workpieces to their machines faster and more accurately. Especially for high-mix, low-volume operations, reducing change-over time is the easiest way to reduce costs.”

Plan to Learn

BIG KAISER encourages everyone, from operators to owners, to discuss their applications and challenges at IMTS 2018. Even if someone just wants to meet the engineer that they worked with over the phone, they’re encouraged to visit.

Tool presetters measure the cutting edge of the tool so that it precisely matches job specifications. With a presetter, adjustments can be made offline in less than a minute. Conversely, on-machine adjustments can take up to 15 minutes.

“We bring half the company down to the show, so that the visitors have accessibility to our experts in tooling, work holding and tool measuring,” says Kaiser. “We show may of our tools in an active mode, and not only cutting tools, but also tool presetters, work holding and zero point locking systems that are palletized and integrated into the machine cycle.”

Kaiser is particularly passionate about booth design and customer engagement at the show. He is proud of the fact that BIG KAISER’s booth uses an open design that enables visitors to walk right up to displays and demonstrations.

“For visitors that don’t have time to wait until the right person is free, we have a scheduler to book appointments. This will make the best use of your time,” says Kaiser.

Following up on that point, Burley, who has been attending IMTS for more than 20 years, says that visitors need to develop a plan before the show. Find out which companies, processes, products and technologies will benefit your operation the most, then map a course using tools such as MyShow Planner (see video how to use MyShow Planner).

“Don’t underestimate the immensity of the show,” says Burley. “If you plan on attending IMTS and you've only allocated two days, make sure you allocate three. And if you've allocated three, make sure you allocate four. Whatever time you think it's going to take, it's always going to take more than your original estimate. After you visit the South Building and select a machine, take the time to visit the Tooling & Workholding Pavilion in the West Building so that you can optimize your investment.”

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