Like many shop owners, Brian O’Rell, president of Vanderhorst Brothers Inc. (VBI) in Simi Valley, California, knew that his strategy for workholding fixtures would "make or break" the productivity of his shop’s newest machining center. This machine, a five-axis VMC, was designed with multiple pallets. Because VBI specializes in repeat orders for complex aerospace components, Mr. O’Rell needed a system that would allow him to set up a fully fixtured pallet dedicated to each job and then store the fixture pallets for immediate use whenever the job repeats.

The fixtures had to be affordable because he needed a lot of them. They had to provide rigid clamping without distorting the workpiece. They had to allow quick loading and unloading of the parts to keep setup time within the targets demanded by lean manufacturing. The fixtures had to get the workpieces away from the surface of the pallet so the spindle could reach all exposed faces of the workpiece for five-axis machining without interference. Finally, they had to minimize the clamping stock required in workpiece blanks to reduce material waste.

Mr. O’Rell was not entirely satisfied with the workholding fixtures available commercially, so he decided to make is own.His original design was based on traditional mating dovetail methods he had been using for sometime. The initial batch of fixtures worked well enough that he recommended them to another shop owner, David Fisher of S & H Machine, Inc. (S&H) in Burbank, California. Mr. Fisher had a new five-axis machine identical to Mr. O’Rell’s and was struggling with the same workholding challenges.

Mr. Fisher immediately recognized that the fixtures would worked well in his shop, too, but S&H Vice President and Production Manager Dao Ha had his own ideas to improve the design. So the two shops combined their ideas, refined the clamping concept and decided to bring it to market. Thus, Raptor Workholding Products (RWP) was born, a joint venture of the two companies.

(Excerpted from Modern Machine Shop Magazine)