Zero point clamping systems
Minimum set-up time. Maximum reliability.
A zero point clamping system is a system that allows you to clamp parts with accuracy, speed, ease and flexibility using retractable nipples and fast-closing clamps. Zero point clamping systems from STARK can be operated hydraulically, pneumatically, electrically or mechanically.
The zero point clamping system helps to optimise set-up times and reduce machine downtimes, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the machining time for workpieces.
By using a zero point clamping system, the machining time for the workpieces on the machine can be used to set up further pallets outside the machine while the machine is running.
The STARK zero point clamping system reaches a level of accuracy of up to 0.003 mm and can achieve a clamping force of up to 52,000 N.
STARK zero point clamping systems
STARK zero point clamping systems enable safe and precise clamping for a wide variety of applications, such as turning and milling, direct workpiece clamping, modular kits with tower clamping and much more. They increase productivity as well as flexibility in production and optimise set-up times in a precise and process-safe way with repeat accuracy. The broad portfolio of zero point clamping systems for the metalworking and plastics-processing industries is expanded continuously as a result of customer-specific developments.
Maximum productivity thanks to the zero point clamping system
- STARK zero point clamping systems help you to maximise your productivity. Set-up and checking processes are no longer required at all, which leads to greater efficiency and accuracy in production.
- The STARK zero point clamping systems allow set-up work on processing machines to be carried out with ease.
Automation & set-up time optimisation
Systems for innovative production
Driven by immense technological progress, machine tools and machining tools have undergone rapid enhancement and continuously increased productivity at the same time. The only thing that still requires downtimes is setting up the workpieces on the machine tools.
As a pioneer of zero point clamping technology, STARK’s strategy is always designed to optimise set-up times. This is why STARK offers innovative solutions for complete automation projects.
Given the ever smaller batch sizes, increasing diversity of parts and variants, low stock levels and sales-related production, the set-up times and resulting set-up costs represent a cost factor that is becoming ever more important.
Companies that can offer significantly reduced set-up times and thus lower set-up costs as compared to their competitors are at a major advantage. They are able to implement minimum batch sizes or even produce single pieces profitably. This enables just-in-time production and assembly that is synchronised with sales. This type of strictly customer-related production also reduces storage costs, which then arise only during the production cycle.
External set-up, transfer to the processing machine and all the way to zero point clamping with repeat accuracy – these are the production advantages of using STARK pallet changers.
- Load the existing machinery more efficiently
- Unmanned production
- Increased machine running time
- Set-up during primary processing time
- Minimised set-up costs
- Standardised set-up processes
- Increased quality by avoiding faults
- Reduced rejects
- Cross-machine zero point clamping technology, standardised inside micrometres
- Increased productivity
Managing director Martin Greif talks about zero point clamping systems
Zero point clamping systems are one of the silver bullets for increasing machine running time effectively. The STARK company, which is located in the State of Vorarlberg in Austria, is considered a pioneer when it comes to zero point clamping technology. The company has been continuously enhancing precision technologies and turning them into high-tech products since 1977.
Mr Greif, what is a zero point clamping system and what are its distinguishing features?
As the name indicates, zero point clamping systems have two functions. On the one hand they are used for clamping, and on the other hand for positioning. Zero point clamping systems are based on clamping modules that are integrated either in the machine table or in fast-clamping plates. Once these modules have been aligned and fixed in place, the reference point of the machine has been defined. The modules are then used to clamp workpiece carrier pallets, clamping elements or workpieces directly using one or more clamping pins.
Do customers know how to use this clamping system these days or is there still a need for explanation here, for example with new customers?
The market has changed considerably over the last ten years and, in the meantime, it’s safe to say that the zero point clamping system has arrived at both the university level and the workshop level. We are also noticing this at trade fairs: interested parties have done in-depth research in advance and are aware of the crucial advantages of such a clamping system. However, we do see that there is a need for explanation when it comes to truly understanding all the advantages of the system. Targeted consulting on which family of elements can be used for which application is the prerequisite for lasting customer satisfaction. Electrification has also opened up completely new markets where our systems can be used, and there is certainly still a need for explanation here.
What are the advantages of a zero point clamping system?
One huge advantage of zero point clamping systems is that they are incredibly flexible because the clamping system operates independently of the system and the external set-up has a positive effect on productivity because it does not take up any production time. While this is commonly referred to as saving set-up time, I believe it is more appropriate to speak of increasing machine running times. Other crucial advantages include reproducibility, saving time, positioning that is accurate down to the µm and, of course, considerable cost savings.
What about the costs?
That depends to a great extent on the machine’s running time and the number of changing cycles. As a rule of thumb, you can say that a zero point clamping system pays off in between six and 12 months.
What is the unique selling point of your zero point clamping system, or could you say that all zero point clamping systems are the same?
We certainly have the widest range of products on the market, with the most varied product families, combined with extensive application expertise and sound consultation expertise. STARK has 12 different product families with up to 200 product variants within one family. This allows us to find the right solution for our customers every time.
From a technical point of view, what is known as active insertion is a defining unique selling point of STARK. Many of our competitors offer a locking system where the retractable nipple is fixed in place – only fixed in place – with sliders or balls. Our system carries out active insertion onto the planar support, which dampens oscillations and vibrations considerably, thereby increasing the quality of the workpieces and the service life of the tools used. A lot of studies have been conducted on this topic and they confirm that our system offers the greatest process reliability on the market and achieves the highest levels of accuracy as well.
Which trends can you derive in the field of zero point clamping technology, including with respect to digitalisation?
On the one hand, new technologies and designs are opening up new industries and on the other hand, the use of sensors that describe the condition of the element and the process itself.
We developed the first electric zero point clamping system back in 2011 and presented it at the trade show in Hanover that same year. In the meantime, STARK is supplying this type of system for various different applications. However, an electric zero point clamping system, for example in a machining centre, makes little sense as long as there is no standardised electrical interface on the machine table. There is still some catching up to do here with regard to signal transmission and energy density. Our customers are currently using electric zero point clamping systems on measuring machines or assembly lines, i.e. wherever there is not a hydraulic system and a pneumatic system is ideally to be avoided.
What about solutions in the field of automation?
The topic of automation in connection with zero point clamping systems has been on the table for a long time. The zero point clamping system is one of the central components if you want to implement automated or unmanned production. However, this requires a reliable cleaning system and continuous monitoring technology. This comes as standard with the automation-capable zero point clamping systems from STARK.
In addition to the topic of automation, we presented our robot gripper with integrated media supply for a zero point clamping system at this year’s EMO trade show. It allows you to perform an automatic pallet change even on machines that are not equipped with a dedicated media supply on the machine table.
What is your most successful clamping technology product?
The largest product family, STARK.classic, is still our most successful product. It is highly robust, has an extremely low installation height and can achieve the highest levels of accuracy. The breadth of our solution portfolio, which ranges from simple applications and integrated media ducts all the way to models for partial and full automation, is also impressive. We should point out, though, that this is already the 5
What is STARK doing to secure its position as an innovation driver and provider of ideas in the context of zero point clamping technology?
We invested in a new building and new, state-of-the-art machinery in 2017. Our most important new acquisitions include CNC grinding machines with robot loading, a fully automatic turning milling centre, a five-axis machining centre with a pallet station, ultra-modern parts cleaning and an encapsulated measuring room including a new 3D measuring machine. We will continue to place our focus on further investments in machinery and increasing automated processes in the coming years.
What about research and development?
We have invested a great deal in this area at the location as well. Over the past two years, we have increased our capacities in the research and development department fourfold. We have invested not only in state-of-the-art measuring systems, an air-conditioned measuring room and our own test laboratory, but, above all, in staff. The industry is changing and it’s important that we are present on the market at the right time and with the right technologies, products and solutions. This is why this aspect plays a very important role in the company. After all, we want to continue to play a major part as a trendsetter in the field of zero point clamping technology.
How important is the service organisation?
It’s very important. The Stark company has four product and service areas. First of all, we have conventional component sales, then customer-specific solutions, where we develop customised solution on the basis of the comprehensive Stark product range and adapt them to meet individual requirements. The third area is development projects. Here we develop individual solutions for the desired application if the standard solution does not yield a satisfactory result. The fourth area is our service centre, which provides advice and support to our customers around the world with commissioning, training and, of course, maintenance.