Right angle heads provide a great benefit when milling difficult to access features on a variety of different sized parts. Beyond the complexities determining the cutting capability of the angle head, the integration process also involves a series of clearance verifications, specifically to where the positioning block is mounted onto the spindle face, and sheet metal clearance during a tool change operation.
The traditional method to verify right angle head applications using 3D models works well, but not all job shops and manufacturers have their machines modeled to simulate clearances for tool changes. In many cases, as certain as we are that right angle heads are fully capable of a particular machining operation, unless we could fully assure the application and integration of the unit, many customers still feel unsatisfied, suspecting a risk of possible inoperability.
With customer angle head requirements becoming more demanding and frequent, we decided to invest in a 3D printing machine. Our initial thoughts were to print positioning blocks in order to verify the tool changer arm clearance, but this soon evolved into printing different styles of angle heads that could be mounted into shell mill holders or inserted into end mill holders. This further developed to more advanced designs that mimic not only the shape of the angle head, but also into designs that allow customers to orient the angle head positioning pin in the exact location for additional verification.
Soon after printing a few of the best selling models of our right angle heads, the qualification and clearance verification process was reduced from weeks, to just days. After the initial verification of the customer’s machining operation and confirming any issues with clearance, we are now able to send a printed unit that allows customers to work with a physical unit that’s dimensionally accurate; providing them with reassurance that the angle head will meet their specific needs.