Ajax was recently challenged with producing a four-nut backing plate for a refrigeration unit hinge. The company’s solution checks all the tight tolerance boxes.  The article gives you a view from the tool designer’s perspective. Includes Video.


We’re Americans. It’s in our nature to want to make things better.

For example, advanced manufacturers like Ajax Metal Forming Solutions have become experts at tight tolerance manufacturing. In this manufacturing environment, the parts the company produces cannot vary more than +/- .002 of an inch. Parts produced to tight tolerances can reduce and even eliminate final product assembly problems. That, in turn, reduces production costs (and headaches).

But let’s be practical. Tight tolerance manufacturing is really all about skilled professionals teaming up to find new ways to exceed customer expectations. More parts in less time, better quality, more consistency, and faster turnaround. That result is measured not in thousandths of an inch, but in happy customers and business growth.

Jayson Marcott, Tool Designer at Ajax, was assigned to produce a four-nut backing plate for a refrigeration unit hinge. In this case, the tolerance specification was +/-.005 of True Position. The solution he arrived at is impressive.

The pilot pin on this tool can pilot the blank and the nut hardware at the same time for spot-on weldments.

Jayson created a pneumatic feed system that can weld four locations on a material blank with only one electrode. This method produces far more parts than could be done manually, and with terrific quality results. A single operator can load material blanks and hardware into individual hoppers, initiate the production cycle, and the tool runs until the hoppers are empty.

“To me, the pilot pin on this tool is what makes it special,” Jayson said. “It can pilot the blank and the nut hardware at the same time before applying weld pressure.  If there is. 001 of clearance between the nut and the pilot and the part and the pilot, then we’re at .002 inches of nominal. That’s excellent.”

Jayson designed this tooling solution using SOLIDWORKS CAD/CAE solid modeling software.SOLIDWORKS enables Jayson to create production tools rapidly while bringing creative solutions to bear on any design challenge. Computer simulation capabilities in SOLIDWORKS helps compress the design process and avoid costly delays.

Innovation Counts

Jayson believes that tooling innovation will be increasingly important as tolerance demands increase over time. “At times in the past, we measured parts that were borderline on tolerance,” Jayson said. “That’s not good enough. With the tooling and other production improvements we’ve made, parts are very close to nominal all the time. Our non-conformance reports these days are minimal.”

This tool needs to be kept in perfect operating condition, and due to the high volume of parts, it requires troubleshooting and a well-trained operator to meet production goals.

Jayson’s tooling solution uses a programmed series of pneumatic actuators to feed materials from the hopper into position.

The Team Approach

Tight tolerance manufacturing tends to affect departments throughout the organization, Jayson said. “We prefer a team approach at Ajax,” he said. “Getting the part right for our customer involves not only tooling, but materials selection, procurement, quality control, and especially customer and team communication.”

Care has to be taken during the initial phases of the project to avoid cost and time frame issues, Jayson said. The benefits of tighter tolerances to the customer are obvious. Customers want their final assembly process to go smoothly with very little assembly fallout. “Costs can get out of line if we hit difficulties along the way. That’s where planning and good team communication comes in.”

Future Ideas

Jayson plans to continue pursuing new tooling ideas related to tight tolerance manufacturing. “There’s just no stopping advancements in metal forming,” Jayson said. “Our customers will continue to want more precision in their metal formed parts. The technologies are there. Our job is to learn better ways to apply them.”

Jayson designed this tooling solution using SOLIDWORKS CAD/CAE solid modeling software. SOLIDWORKS enables Jayson to create production tools rapidly while bringing creative solutions to bear on the design challenge.  Computer simulation capabilities in SOLIDWORKS help speed the design process along.

Tooling Innovation

Jayson believes that tooling innovation will be increasingly important as tolerance demands increase over time. “At times in the past, we measured parts that were borderline on tolerance,” Jayson said. “That’s not good enough. With the tooling and other production improvements we’ve made, parts are very close to nominal all the time. Our non-conformance reports these days are minimal.”

This tool needs to be kept in perfect operating condition, and due to the high volume of parts, it required troubleshooting and a well-trained operator to meed production goals.

Jayson sums up future manufacturing challenges in two ways: quality and consistency. “There’s really no standing still anymore,” he said. “Today, there’s ongoing market pressure to keep production costs low while improving the delivered result. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”

 

Jayson Marcott is a tool designer at Ajax Metal Forming Solutions in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Jayson is certified in SOLIDWORKS, Logopress 3D tool & die design software, aMastercam Mill CNC applications, Methods EDM (electronic discharge) machining. Jayson’s credits also include a Class A 4-year apprenticeship in sheet metal.