Safer Part Loading and Unloading

A workholding pallet with four automation chucks.

As we kept thinking about ways to reduce the number of touches and interactions, we started thinking about automation. Specifically, our UNILOCK automation chucks. These enable a much more streamlined load and unloading process. 

Instead of clamping and unclamping by hand, multiple people fussing with part fixturing and relocation, these chucks open and close with the flip of a switch. A single operator can recognize if a part is locked and ready to machine or unlocked and ready to move without having to make multiple touches or ask for assistance. 

Automation chucks are typically used for robotically loaded systems or large systems that use a crane to lower parts into position. When it comes to safety, you are trying to identify if the workholding chuck is open or closed, so as to avoid unnecessary manual contact and/or issues like loose parts and collisions.

There are two ways this is done. Electrical or pneumatic proximity switches that signal if the chuck is closed, making the part safe to machine; or open, making it safe to remove the part/fixture. The fewer people required and the less they must maneuver around the part and tight spaces, the better.  

We talk safety with every new special design and several of our chucks come standard with this type of safety. Pneumatic proximity sensors also can be added to existing chucks. In some cases, air blasts from chucks are capable of cleaning mating surfaces as they load in or out, helping to eliminate yet another touchpoint. 

In the end, digitalization and connectivity are key to reducing employee overlap or unnecessary interaction. It may seem simple, but knowing if a workholding chuck is open or closed without having to consult a partner or reach into the machine, goes a long way.