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CNC Machinery Maintenance: Tool Holder and Collet

The collet chuck is the most common alternative to jaw chucks in CNC. It was originally developed to make it easier to machine smaller parts. Collet chucks are designed to work with capacities as large as 6 inches, although they most commonly hold workpiece diameters of 3 inches or less. CNC machinists love them because of the additional clearance they provide.

And the tool holder? Well, you can probably guess what that does. Anyway, let’s take a look at how you’d perform proper maintenance on both the tool holder and collet:

Maintaining Your Tool Holder

Examine your tool holder for wear on each of the four major parts (taper, pull studs, v-flange, collet pocket/nut). If you find any wear at all, simply replace the tool holder. The wear will only cause more imperfections in the quality of your final product.

We’ll get into some of the specifics below:

You should look for wear and tear where the taper meets the spindle. If the metal spindle and table rub on one another, you’ll notice signs of fretting. The vibration and heat from their rubbing leads to damage which you notice as small, copper-colored pits or marks on the taper.

Your collet has an inside and outside diameter. Check the inside diameter for scoring marks. Cutting tools may have spun in there, resulting in damage. Replace the collet if you notice any.

Even if you don’t observe damage, the collet could actually be worn out through “metal fatigue.” This happens when you use your CNC machine and heat transfers directly from the tool to the collet. Over time, you may notice the collet needs more tightening than before to remain in the correct position. You may want to replace your collet after every 400 – 600 hours of run time.

Check collet nuts for looseness. Any looseness in the collet assembly leads to a loss of accuracy. Tighten the collet nut – but not too tight. Tightening too much wears away the threads. A standard collet nut requires about 20-22 foot-pounds of torque. Your manufacturer may recommend a little less.

The spindle your tool holder attaches to must not be worn. If it is, you’re going to notice problems in your final cut.

Those are just some simple things you want to pay attention to maintain on your CNC machinery.


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