Mounting and Indexing Work

An efficient and positive method of holding workplaces to the milling machine table is important if the machine tool is to be used to its fullest advantage. The most common methods of holding are clamping a workpiece to the table, clamping a workpiece to the angle plate, clamping the workpiece in fixtures, holding a workpiece between centers, holding the workpiece in a chuck, and holding the workpiece in a vise.

   Page 4-13 of this manual shows a variety of mounting and holding devices. Regardless of the method used in holding, there are certain factors that should be observed in every case. The workpiece must not be sprung in clamping, it must be secured to prevent it from springing or moving away from the  cutter, and it must be so aligned that it may be correctly machined T-slots, Milling machine worktables are provided with several T-slots which are used either for clamping and locating the workpiece itself or for mounting the various holding devices and attachments. These T-slots extend the length of the table and are parallel to its line of travel. Most milling machine attachments, such as vises and index fixtures, have keys or tongues on the underside of their bases so that they may be located correctly in relation to the T-slots.


Clamping Workpieces to the Table

   When clamping a workpiece to the worktable of the milling machine, the table and the workpiece should be free from dirt and burrs. Workpieces having smooth machined surfaces may be camped directly to the table, provided the cutter does not come in contact with the table surface during milling. When clamping workplaces with unfinished surfaces in this way, the table face should be protected from damage by using a shim under the workpiece. Paper, plywood, and sheet metal are shim materials. Clamps should be located on both sides of the workpiece if possible to give a full bearing surface. These clamps are held by T-slotbolts inserted in the T-slots of the table. Clamp supports must be the same height as the workpiece. Never use clamp supports that are lower than the workpiece. Adjustable step blocks are extremely useful to raise the clamps, as the height of the clamp bar may be adjusted to ensure maximum clamping pressure. Clamping bolts should be placed as near to the workpiece as possible so that the full advantage of the fulcrum principle may be obtained. When it is necessary to place a clamp on an overhanging part, a support should be provided between the overhang and the table to prevent springing or possible breakage. A stop should be placed at the end of the workpiece where it will receive the thrust of the cutter when heavy cuts are being taken.

Clamping a Workpiece to the Angle Plate

   Workpieces clamped to the angle plate may be machined with surfaces parallel, perpendicular, or at an angle to a given surface. When using this method of holding a workpiece, precautions should be taken similar to those mentioned for clamping work directly to the table. Angle plates are either adjustable or nonadjustable and are generally held in alignment by keys or tongues that fit into the table T-slots.

Clamping Workpieces in Fixtures

   Fixtures are generally used in production work where a number of identical pieces are to be machined. The design of the fixture depends upon the shape of the piece and the operations to be performed. Fixtures are always constructed to secure maximum clamping surfaces and are built to use a minimum number of clamps or bolts in order to reduce the setup time required. Fixtures should always be provided with keys to assure positive alignment with the table T-slots.

Holding Workpieces Between Centers

   The indexing fixture is used to support workplaces which are centered on both ends. When the piece has been pre­viously reamed or bored, it may be pressed upon a mandrel and then mounted between the centers.

   Two types of mandrels may be used for mounting orkplaces between centers. The solid mandrel is satisfactory for many operations, while one having a shank tapered to fit into the index head spindle is preferred in certain cases.

   A jackscrew is used to prevent springing of long slender workplaces held between centers or workplaces that extend some distance from the chuck.

   Workpieces mounted between centers are fixed to the index head spindle by means of a lathe dog. The bent tail of the dog should be fastened between the setscrews provided in the driving center clamp in such a manner as to avoid backlash and prevent springing the mandrel. When milling certain types of workpieces, a milling machine dog is held in a flexible ball joint which eliminates shake or spring of the dog or the workpiece. The flexible ball joint allows the tail of the dog to move in a radius along the axis of the workpiece, making it particularly useful in the rapid milling of tapers.

Holding Workpieces in a Chuck

   Before screwing the chuck to the index head spindle, it should be cleanedand any burrs on the spindle or chuck removed. Burrs may be removed with a smooth-cut, three cornered file or scraper, while cleaning should be accomplished with a piece of spring steel wire bent and formed to fit the angle of the threads. The chuck should not be tightened on the spindle so tightly that a wrench or bar is required to remove it. Cylindrical workplaces held in the universal chuck may be checked for trueness by using a test indicator mounted upon a base resting upon the milling machine table. The indicator point should contact the circumference of small diameter workpieces, or the circumference and exposed face of large diameter pieces. While checking, the workpiece should be revolved by rotating the index head spindle.

 Holding Workpieces in the Vise

   As previously mentioned, five types of vises are manufactured in various sizes for holding milling machine workplaces. These vises have locating keys or tongues on the underside of their bases so they may be located correctly in relation to the T-slots on the milling machine table (Figure 4-22).

   The plain vise similar to the machine table vise is fastened to the milling machine table. Alignment with the milling machine table is provided by two slots at right angles to each other on the underside of the vise. These slots are fitted with removable keys that align the vise with the table T-slots either parallel to the machine arbor or perpendicular to the arbor.

   The swivel vise can be rotated and contains a scale graduated in degrees at its base which is fastened to the milling machine table and located by means of keys placed in the T-slots. By loosening the bolts which clamp the vise to its graduated base, the vise may be moved to hold the workpiece at any angle in a horizontal plane. To set a swivel vise accurately with the machine spindle, a test indicator should be clamped to the machine arbor and a check made to determine the setting by moving either the transverse or the longitudinal feeds, depending upon the position of the vise jaws. Any deviation as shown by the test indicator should be corrected by swiveling the vise on its base.

   The universal vise is used for work involving compound angles, either horizontally or vertically. The base of the vise contains a scale graduated in degrees and can rotate 360° in the horizontal plane and 90° in the vertical plane. Due to the flexibility of this vise, it is not adaptable for heavy milling.


Figure 4-22. Locating key and vises.

   The all-steel vise is the strongest setup where the workpiece is clamped close to the table. This vise can securely fasten castings, forgings, and rough-surface workplaces. The jaws can be positioned in any notch on the two bars to accommodate different shapes and sizes.

   The air or hydraulically operated vise is used more often in production work. This type of vise eliminates the tightening by striking the crank with a lead hammer or other soft face hammer.

   When rough or unfinished workplaces are to be vise mounted, a piece of protecting material should be placed between the vise and the workpiece to eliminate marring by the vise jaws.

  When it is necessary to position a workpiece above the vise jaws, parallels of the same size and of the proper height should be used. These parallels should only be high enough to allow the required cut, as excessive raising reduces the holding ability of the jaws. When holding a workpiece on parallels, a soft hammer should be used to tap the top surface of the piece after the vise jaws have been tightened. This tapping should be continued until the parallels cannot be moved by hand. After the workpiece is set, additional tightening of the vise should not be attempted, as such tightening has a tendency to raise the work off the parallels. Correct selection of parallels is illustrated in Figure 4-23.


Figure 4-23. Mounting workpiece in the vise.


Figure 4-24. Application of holddown strap.

     Whenever possible, the workpiece should be clamped in the center of the vise jaws. However, when necessary to mill short workpiece which must be held at the end of the vise, a spacing block of the same thickness as the piece should be placed at the opposite end of the jaws. This will avoid strain on the movable jaw and prevent the piece in slippping. If the workpiece is so thin that is impossible to let it extend over the top of the vise, hold down are generally used. See figure 8-24. this straps are hardened pieces of steel having one vertical tappened to form an angle of about 92 degree with the bottom side and the other vertical side tappened to a narrow edge. By means of this tappened surfaces, the workpieces is forced downward into the parallels, holding them firmly and leaving the top of the workpiece fully exposed to the milling cutter.


   Indexing is the process of evenly dividing the circumference of a circular workpiece into equally spaced divisions, such as in cutting gear teeth, cutting splines, milling grooves in reamers and taps, and spacing holes on a circle. The index head of the indexing fixture is used for this purpose.

Index Head

  The index head of the indexing fixture (Figure 4-19) contains an indexing mechanism which is used to control the rotation of the index head spindle to space or divide a workpiece accurately. A simple indexing mechanism consists of a 40-tooth worm wheel fastened to the index head spindle, a single-cut worm, a crank for turning the worm shaft, and an index plate and sector. Since there are 40 teeth in the worm wheel, one turn of the index crank causes the worm, and consequently, the index head spindle to make 1/40 of a turn; so 40 turns of the index crank revolve the spindle one full turn.

Index Plate

The indexing plate (Figure 4-25) is a round plate with a series of six or more circles of equally spaced holes; the index pin on the crank can be inserted in any hole in any circle. With the interchangeable plates regularly furnished with most index heads, the spacing necessary for most gears, boltheads, milling cutters, splines, and so forth can be obtained. The following sets of plates are standard equipment:


Figure 4-25. Index plate and sector.

Brown and Sharpe type consists of 3 plates of 6 circles each drilled as follows:

Plate I -15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 holes

Plate 2-21, 23, 27, 29, 31, 33 holes

Plate 3-37, 39, 41, 43,47,49 holes

Cincinnati type consists of one plate drilled on both sides with circles divided as follows:

First side -24, 25, 28, 30, 34, 37,38, 39,41,42,43 holes

Second side -46, 47, 49, 51, 53, 54, 57, 58, 59, 62, 66 holes


   The sector (Figure 4-25) indicates the next hole in which the pin is to be inserted and makes it unnecessary to count holes when moving the index crank after each cut. It consists of two radial, beveled arms which can be set at any angle to each other and then moved together around the center of the index plate. Suppose that, as shown in Figure 4-25, it is desired to make a series of cuts, moving the index crank 1 1/4 turns after each cut. Since the circle illustrated has 20 holes, turn the crank one full turn plus five spaces after each cut, Set the sector arms to include the desired fractional part of a turn or five spaces between the beveled edges of its arms, as shown. If the first cut is taken with the index pin against the left-hand arm, to take the next cut, move the pin once against the right-hand arm of the sector. Before taking the second cut, move the arms so that the left-hand arm is again against the pin; this moves the right-hand arm another five spaces ahead of the pin. Then take the second cut, and repeat the operation until all the cuts have been completed.

NOTE: It is good practice always to index clockwise on the plate to eliminate backlash.

Plain Indexing

The following principles apply to basic indexing of workpieces:

   Suppose it is desired to mill a project with eight equally spaced teeth. Since 40 turns of the index crank will turn the spindle one full turn, l/8th of 40 or 5 turns of the crank after each cut will space the gear for 8 teeth, If it is desired to space equally for 10 teeth, 1/10 of 40 or 4 turns would produce the correct spacing.

   The same principle applies whether or not the divisions required divide equally into 40, For example, if it is desired to index for 6 divisions, 6 divided into 40 equals 6 2/3 turns; similarly, to index for 14 spaces, 14 divided into 40 equals 2 6/7 turns. These examples may be multiplied indefinitely and from them the following rule is derived: to determine the number of turns of the index crank needed to obtain one division of any number of equal divisions on the workpiece, divide 40 by the number of equal divisions desired (provided the worm wheel has 40 teeth, which is standard practice).

Direct Indexing

   The construction of some index heads permits the worm to be disengaged from the worm wheel, making possible a quicker method of indexing called direct indexing. The index head is provided with a knob which, when turned through part of a revolution, operates an eccentric and disengages the worm.

   Direct indexing is accomplished by an additional index plate fastened to the index head spindle. A stationary plunger in the index head fits the holes in this index plate. By moving this plate by hand to index directly, the spindle and the workpiece rotate an equal distance. Direct index plates usually have 24 holes and offer a quick means of milling squares, hexagons, taps, and so forth. Any number of divisions which is a factor of 24 can be indexed quickly and conveniently by the direct indexing method.

Differential Indexing

   Sometimes, a number of divisions is required which cannot be obtained by simple indexing with the index plates regularly supplied. To obtain these divisions, a differential index head is used. The index crank is connected to the wormshaft by a train of gears instead of a direct coupling as with simple indexing. The selection of these gears involves calculations similar to those used in calculating change gear ratio for lathe thread cutting.

Indexing in Degrees

   Workpieces can be indexed in degrees as well as fractions of a turn with the usual index head. There are 360 degrees in a complete circle and one turn of the index crank revolves the spindle 1/40 or 9 degrees. Therefore, 1/9 turn of the crank rotates the spindle 1 degree. Workpieces can therefore be indexed in degrees by using a circle of holes divisible by 9. For example, moving the crank 2 spaces on an 18-hole circle, 3 spaces on a 27-hole circle, or 4 spaces on a 36-hole circle will rotate the spindle 1 degree, Smaller crank movements further subdivide the circle: moving 1 space on an 18-hole circle turns the spindle 1/2 degree (30 minutes), 1 space on a 27-hole circle turns the spindle 1/3 degree (20 minutes), and so forth.

Indexing Operations

      The following examples show how the index plate is used to obtain any desired part of a whole spindle turn by plain indexing,

  • Milling a hexagon. Using the rule previously given, divide 40 by 6 which equals 6 2/3 turns, or six full turns plus 2/3 of a turn or any circle whose number is divisible by 3. Take the denominator which is 3 into which of the available hole circles it can be evenly divided. In this case, 3 can be divided into the available 18-hole circle exactly 6 times. Use this result 6 as a multiplier to generate the proportional fraction required.

Example: 2 x 6 = 12
                3x6 = 18-

      Therefore, 6 full turns of the crank plus 12 spaces on an 18-hole circle is the correct indexing for 6 divisions.

   Cutting a gear. To cut a gear of 52 teeth, using the rule again, divide 40 by 52. This means that less than one full turn is required for each division, 40/52 of a turn to be exact. Since a 52-hole circle is not available, 40/52 must be reduced to its lowest term which is 10/13. Take the denominator of the lowest term 13, and determine into which of the available hole circles it can be evenly divided. In this case, 13 can be divided into a 39-hole circle exactly 3 times. Use this result 3 as a multiplier to generate the proportional fraction required.

Example: 10 x 3 = 30

               13 x 3 = 39

Therefore, 30 holes on a 39-hole circle is the correct indexing for 52 divisions. When counting holes, start with the first hole ahead of the index pin.

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