Tag Archive: Workholding

  1. History of Workholding

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    What do a French cannon, a wooden chair and a car have in common?

    Don`t worry they are not walking into a bar. But if they were it probably would end with all of them ordering the same drink and swapping it around because what unites them is the concept of interchangeability.

    Now before you start throwing chairs at castle walls during your next siege let me explain it a little further.
    Whilst the products are not interchangeable with each other the parts each product is made of are.

    Each of those products marks an important step during the industrialization to go from handmade single parts to mass produced interchangeable ones. This concept is also known as the interchangeable manufacture.

    One of the first people to advertise for this was Lieutenant General Jean- Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval, a French artillery officer. His concept laid the groundwork for the de Vallière system, which was essential for the success of the Napoleonic Wars.

    While he did not achieve true interchangeability, he did inspire others who would.

    Jean- Baptistes idea of standardization spread not only all over Europe but also to America where in the early 19th century multiple engineers, including Captain John H. Hall, Simeon North and Eli Whitney, were tasked with finding a way to quickly produce weapons for the newly formed American army.

    They eventually managed to achieve true interchangeability and mechanization- two essential parts of what became known as the American system of manufacturing.

    Before we move on there is one more name that is noteworthy in this endeavor: Eli Terry Sr.
    While he did not manufacture guns (he was a clockmaker) he is considered the first person in American history to accomplish interchangeable parts with no government funding.

    But when do the chairs come into play?
    The answer can be found in a small town in the Czech Republic, called “Koryčany”. Back in the day this city belonged to a region called “Moravia” and was a part of the Austrian- Hungarian Empire.
    But neither a Moravian nor an Austrian or Hungarian would become famous here. It was in fact a German called Michael Thonet, who obviously loved to travel all over Europe.

    The design of Thonets chairs is still around today. But it wasn’t just the look that made them the talk of the town at the Great London Exposition in 1851. It was how he made them. Thonet was the first person to ever successfully mass- produce furniture. But he didn`t stop there. Unlike every other piece of furniture Thonets chairs could be dismantled for transport and quickly and easily be assembled after. Kind of like a 19th century version of Ikea.

    The key that made all this possible once again was the standardization and interchangeability of parts.

    The fact that furniture was now mass-producible made it cheaper, which meant that larger portions of the population were able to decorate and re-decorate their homes with new furniture. Safe to say once mass production made its way to consumer goods it never left. The American system of manufacturing had officially arrived in Europe.

    But there was one guy who took mass production even further: Henry Ford.

    Henry Ford did a lot of great things in his life- he pioneered the five-day work week; he created the franchise system – but more than anything he believed in lowering production cost.

    Ford saw the American system of manufacturing and took it one step further.

    But how did he do it? By the time the Ford Motor Company was founded the concept of standardization and interchangeability was over 100 years old. Factories with different production lines were also common at this point. What is it that made Ford the true Master of Mass Production?

    The answer is in his tools. It was always in the tools.

    Back in 1816 Simeon North managed to get ahead of his competition after inventing milling machines.
    Thonet invented a special machine to form and quickly bend wood into the furniture shape.

    And Henry Ford? He created tools for every step of his production. Every single part of the production line had its own special purpose machine tool. From multi spindle drill presses to multiple head milling machines. Everything was planned out. Every step was truly standardized. Therefore, every piece was 100% interchangeable.

    This made the price of the Ford T model drop from 825$ (26,870$ today) in the first year to 360$ (10,131$ today) only 8 years later. Which meant that nearly every American was able to afford a car and drive. For comparison the average cost of a car back then was 1000$ (28,141$ today). This means simply by using better and specialized tools Ford

    was able to save over 10,000$ production cost per car.

    Standardization and Interchangeability might have been the key ingredient to mass production, but it was the machine tools that made these two things possible.

    The machine tools paved the way for tight tolerances and a high repeating accuracy, which allowed us to produce the same part over and over again.

    To say Ford was right for believing and investing in these tools might be an understatement.

    Investing in the right machine tools is an investment in the future of your company.

    The big question that remains is: what are the right tools for your specific production line?
    Today there are a thousand different tooling companies and machine manufacturers to choose from. This is a whole article in its own, but the short answer is:
    The key to success lies in interchangeability. Therefore, look for a tool that offers you a high repeating accuracy (TIR).

    In conclusion, it doesn’t matter what it is, you want to build the key to success always stays the same. No matter if it’s cannons, chairs, cars or something different like airplanes. The right tools will not only save you money but also time and help you achieve a better standard of quality.

    Whatever challenges your specific use case might bring, with over 50 years of experience we at MicroCentric Corporation will be able to help you find the best solution for your problem.

    No matter if it`s turning, milling, drilling, grinding or anything else– each MicroCentric product is backed by superior design and precision workmanship for reliable, long-term performance and unmatched accuracy.

    Contact us today at 800.573.1139 – 516.349.7220   for more information or read more about different tooling solutions here: https://bit.ly/44cp4td