Plowing Ahead with Quick-Change Towers

New hydraulic workholding tombstones with quick change jaws from Kurt provide major productivity improvements for Western Products, a manufacturer of plows and spreaders.

New hydraulic workholding tombstones with quick change jaws provide major productivity improvements for this manufacturer of plows and spreaders.

Minimizing setups, keeping the spindle turning and multitasking with one CNC machining center instead of two machines are keys to success when making precision parts. For Western Products (Milwaukee, WI), its new hydraulic ClusterTowers tombstone with quick change jaws from Kurt Manufacturing Company (Minneapolis, MN) did all this and more when it replaced a 15-year-old dedicated fixture setup in its machining operations.



Western is an industry-leading manufacturer of CONTRACTOR GRADE® plows, with over one dozen hydraulic driven models. They now run their milling operations with the new Towers at top machine speed – 15,000 rpm and 350 ipm with part-to-part repeatability of 0.0005 in.

According to Brian Thoreson, the machine shop supervisor, concentricity from one operation to the second operation is greatly improved. Scrap, while never a huge concern before, is reduced by half with the new setup.

A primary and a secondary manifold that regulates the hydraulic pressure operates these plows. To handle the constantly changing pressures efficiently with no leaks over many cycles, these manifolds must be precision machined with very tight tolerances.

“The growth of our Snowplow product line required that we improve our manufacturing processes,” explained Thoreson. “For the past 15 years, we used dedicated hydraulic tombstones equipped with swing clamps to hold the manifolds for machining in specific fixtures. Different manifold sizes required a different fixture.

“As our product line grew,” he continued, “the number of different manifolds grew and the quantity requirements for each model varied. We decided to see if there was a more efficient workholding process available to improve quality while allowing us to continue using our existing machining centers. Michael Dulmes, our Kurt Workholding sales representative, convinced us otherwise. He really helped us develop a much more efficient workholding process.”

Western Products manifolds are 5-3/4 in by 3-3/8 in and 7.6 x 5.6 x 2.8 in with differing ports and other features. The manifolds are precision machined out of 6061 aluminum, a heavy duty, corrosion resistant material for high-pressure applications.

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