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Combine Modular Fixturing With Simple G-Code For Big Time Savings

Mar 29, 2017   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Beginner, Blog, GCode, Techniques  //  No Comments

Modular Fixturing can be a huge time saver when setting up different fixtures you use over and over again. For example, most of us use milling vises frequently, but we alternate them with various kinds of plate fixtures for holding multiple parts. Throw in the desire to set up a 4th Axis every now and again and you have a series of common fixture configurations showing up on your CNC Machine’s table. Here’s a two vise setup, for example:

modular fixturing machining vises

Modular fixturing for two vises, courtesy of NYCCNC.com

Without modular fixturing, you’re installing those vises on a T-Slot table, tramming them so they’re square to the table’s travel, and then spending more time indicating to locate the part zeros / work offsets for each vise.

It seems easy enough, but it probably takes 10 minutes each time you have to do it.  What if you could get it done in half that time or less?  What if you could almost eliminate the possibility of human error as well?

Modular Fixturing and some simple g-code programming can accomplish that for you.  Here’s how:

First, the Modular Fixture will let you drop those vises into exactly the same place with tight tolerances on that table every time.  That means you can count on their location, and you won’t need to tram the vises either.

Wow!  Now I’m starting to get your attention.  But how does it work?

Well, you can see there’s a grid of holes in the fixture plate.  It’s permanently mounted on the machine table and doesn’t move.  Also, each vise is on its own subplate.  Using dowel pins, you are able to precisely locate the vises to the same grid position, and the pins are going to align those vises repeatably and to tight tolerances.  In addition to the dowel pins, you’re bolting down the vise subplates into the grid of holes.

Okay, so that all makes sense, now where does the g-code come in?

Well, you may want to just leave some work offsets set up on your machine all the time for something as common as where the vises go.  But on the other hand, with some controls, you run out of work offsets pretty quickly.  You’ll have to reuse them, since they’re scarce.  Or, you’re in a shop environment where someone else may have changed a work offset without telling you.  You can’t rely on them staying the same.

How do you handle that?

Well, you could indicate the work offset from the vises (or fixtures) each time.  That wastes the potential of the modular fixturing setup though.

What if you could run a little g-code program to set the work offsets up for each fixture?  Maybe you have a standard library of these little initialization programs, or maybe a USB key with the program accompanies each fixture.  Either way, if you could just run that little program and initialize your work offsets to the proper values for your fixture, that would be very slick and could save you a lot of time, right?

Lucky you–it turns out that a g-code called “G10” is perfect for doing exactly that!

With G10, you can set the values for any work offset.  Let’s say the coordinates of the fixed rear jaw, left front corner, on the left vise in the picture above are X20.0 Y11.733 Z0.0 on that left jaw when you drop it into the proper grid position on the fixture plate.  You’ve also got a set of fixed coordinates for the right vise.  Run your short g-code program with a couple of G10’s in it, and Bob’s your uncle (not really), the work offsets are set and you’re ready to start running parts.

For full details on how to use G10, check out the new chapter I just created for our free g-code course:  G10 setting tool and work offsets.  You are going to love how easy it is to use G10 and how much it helps you to automate your setup further with modular fixtures.  Hey, if you’ve never done any g-code programming, don’t worry.  We have a free course on the basics of g-code programming, G10 is easy, and our G-Wizard Editor software will even simulate it so you can practice your G10 work before you have to run it on a live machine.

Soon you’ll wonder why you wasting so much time setting things manually!

 

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Combine Modular Fixturing With Simple G-Code For Big Time Savings
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