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Ask The Experts

Frequently Asked Questions About Both our PATCO Modular Tooling System Capabilities and Services
As an overview, can you tell me what the PATCO® "system" is?

It is an integrated collection of cast aluminum products in which fixture bases, having a matrix of counter-bored and tapped holes on a 50MM grid pattern, allow the movement and attachment of standards. The engineered movement (12.5mm) provides incremental positioning of template holding standards (we call them components). From the component, design and build are required to provide the desired supporting or clamping effect.

We have replaced items that were traditionally designed and built unique to a specific task and discarded after use. We've made standards that duplicate the function of an item, but are flexible for position and for reuse.

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What does PATCO® stand for?

Prototype Assembly Tooling Coordinates

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This seems so simple, why hasn't someone done this before?

This answer could fill chapters, but we think -- evolution, meeting required industry changes -- would be the most correct answer. Actually a product named Lego has done something similar.

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What kind of jobs do your customers use your system for?

Applications vary:

  • Clay styling set ups.
  • Die model verification cubing programs.
  • Laser trimming of sheet metal parts.
  • Assembly fixtures for prototype and pilot body builds.
  • Low-volume right hand drive production assemblies.
  • Assembly tooling for service parts.
  • CMM holding fixtures.
  • Complete body framing with our modular framer.
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Do I need training for my designers to use your system?

More of an awareness training. Our modular tooling really only replaces traditional items, which have more task or steps to complete to end up at the same function. There is no need to take a clean sheet approach to every tool. Design and construction standards are readily implemented based on the cost/performance requirements of individual organizations. More attention is usually given to developing a specific standard for design, to control performance and cost of build.

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Do you provide CAD designs of the components?

We have available an extensive library of 3D CAD files in Catia, Unigraphics and AutoCad formats. These are available at no charge.

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What is the best way to compare tooling cost of modular versus conventional?

We have found that a direct comparison usually provides a lot of information. The easiest way is to provide us with a job you have had built. We will take the information and return with a proposal showing our cost and timing. We will also show you the financial savings effect of modular tooling. See our example comparison...

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Do you have a basic start up system?

We recommend a PAM-1550 X 1850 Base and an assortment of components. This configuration will allow you to build any of the following: Door Sub Assembly, Front Body Hinge Pillar S/A, Tail Lamp S/A, Wheel House Inner S/A, Fender S/A, etc. Generally any assembly that will fit within the confines of the base.

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What is the lead time you need to supply me with a system?

We maintain a large volume inventory of the most popular standard components and we usually have a few bases on hand. Generally speaking though, by the time the details are designed and built, we will have the base completed.

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What is the dimensional tolerance of your PATCO® products?

We tolerance our bases from an A-B datum intersecting the center of the base. We generally tolerance +/-.025MM (.001 inch) from the datum out to within a 900MM boundary. Outside the 900MM boundary we use + / - .050MM (.002 inch)

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Normally temperature changes affect aluminum more than steel, does this cause problems with your system?

No, we control machining and inspection temperatures to achieve our tolerances for application usage in the range of 72-77 degrees. Most engineering activities maintain these temperatures as their comfort ranges. Where temperature becomes critical, is in the machining of the product. We control and monitor ambient, part, machine and coolant temperatures during the manufacturing process. Naturally, extreme temperatures either high or low will affect accuracy. Given that all materials expand and contract, the issue is the actual differences in the coefficient of expansion between the tooling and the items being held. The effects of temperature changes on dissimilar materials has never has been an issue for any of the applications our system has been used for. Our experience has been applications for sheet metal, wood composites, plastics and ferrous metals. (The expansion formula for aluminum is .0000117 per inch per degree).

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I noticed your tooling is painted Ivory when most shop tools are typically blue or some dark color, why Ivory?

This is an interesting story. We were asked to develop the process we now use for Model Validation and Environmental Cubing Fixtures. The department we were working with was losing some of its creditability because the current methods they were using were not accurate enough to support CAD, math data, driven requirements. In developing our system we decided the corporate blue color had become associated with their normal tools, which for this application was viewed as a negative. We chose the Ivory Tusk color to present a more clinical (lab) presentation and were successful in creating a more professional environment.

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Do I need any special tools or machines to use your system?

Not at all, an 8mm (5/16) allen wrench and a 19mm (3/4) open end or box wrench is all you need to assemble the components to the bases and to mount the templates to the components. Common to all our system applications, we use a standard 16 X 30 MM shoulder bolt to attach components together. This minimizes inventory of hardware and supports the simplicity and reusable nature of the system. You could use a torque wrench if you require confirmation of our recommended 35 lbs. torque specification.

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How much do you tighten the bolts?

We recommend 35 foot pounds torque. Because of the precision machining of all our products the bolts are used only to position and secure. There is no need to tighten with enough force to pull to surfaces together. Please refer to the guidelines and features section of our catalog.

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Can I buy the bases with Heli-coils in the holes?

Yes, although we do not recommend it. We rarely have a mechanical problem with the threads in the holes. If you were to have thread damage, at that time you can always insert a heli-coil. When you consider our 5 foot by 10 foot base has 1891 holes in it, at a conservative cost of $5.00 per hole to install a heli-coil, you would add $9,455.00 to the cost of the equipment. This will be to insure against something we have not seen as a problem in over 25 years of exposure to the tooling system.

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How does the aluminum hold up?

Naturally aluminum castings are more susceptible to dings and scratches than traditional cast iron or steel bases. Yet, in the industries we serve they hold up extremely well. Their applications are not in a harsh or abusive environment. To guard against misuse, one of our customers use 1/8 rubber cut to cover the base. This has proved to be an inexpensive and effective insurance against possible damage.

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Can aluminum be made more resistant to dings and marks associated from use?

Yes, there is a hard coating process we use that gives us approximately Rockwell 50-55 on the C scale according to the hard-coat sources. The limitation to this is generally the size of the product and the available tank size, as this requires immersion into a tank or vat. In the manufacturing process we have to undersize the machined casting to allow for a build up by the hard coating process. We normally use this process on items in body framer, model validation and environmental cubing applications.

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Can I get the bases casted in iron?

Yes, for the most part you can get all our products made from cast iron. We typically use a Class 40 iron for these requests. There are certain advantages of durability gained from using iron, however the functional penalty will be weight. Cast iron weighs 2.6 to 2.8 pounds compared to 1 pound of aluminum. The other penalty will be total cost. Although cast iron is a less expensive material than cast aluminum, the machining time is longer, the total cost of the product can be more than aluminum.

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Do your bases roll easy?

Yes, both the 3 and 4 wheel designs roll easily. Unlike a production environment where product is moved within the assembly line and all welding is through dedicated stations, prototype shops have fixed welding facilities and you bring the job to the welder. The weight of the fixture is an important factor. They are typically moved manually by employees without the aid of a lift truck or a goose. We have removable handle accessories and foot locks to use for both moving and preventing movement.

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Are the 3 wheel tables safe?

Yes, very much so. In designing bases, one of the biggest concerns is the effect uneven floors have on the top flatness surfaces. With the 3 points of contact you eliminate the floor effect. Admittedly, we were concerned with the same question. We have finite element analysis for the design of our products that document the theoretical effect of loads applied using unrealistic (high) loads concentrated over a small area as a safety factor. We have FEA reports for review if you would require them.

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Can I see a demonstration / example of your system?

We have a demonstration setup in our display area of a door inner sub-assembly as well as other tooling activities in process. Please contact us and we will be pleased to have you visit. Please contact our sales representatives to make arrangements.

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Do you have provisions for tooling balls or J corners?

We have products that convert our counter-hole locations to traditional tooling balls. They are shown in our catalog in the accessory section.

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What if I have a special situation? Will you build something special?

One of our strongest assets is modular tooling systems development. All you have to do is show us your needed application, define your operating constraints and tells us your goals. We will work with you to define the benchmarks required to attain as many advantages possible.

As an example, we have just recently developed:

  • New SLA modular tooling (a scaled down version of our assembly components) is being used to evaluate data generated SLA parts representing product (interior trim for example), for part interface and quality.
  • New Handle accessories are used to move the fixture bases around the shop using the handles instead of employees pulling or pushing on the fixture details (please ref: Why the Handle Accessories?).
  • New Slide Component will be used to eliminate 60 to 75% of the need to design and build dump units, providing time and money reductions.
  • New Clamp feet and clamp arms for use on production and prototype check fixtures to hold material at pin locations.
  • New Stainless Steel Retractable Pin Block is a reusable retractable pin block made of stainless steel, with Rulon� bushings and latching provisions. This is an extremely accurate assembly that accommodates different pin designs and sizes.
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Why the handle accessories?

Prototype is a problem solving function and the accuracy of locating templates and pins are critical to the development process. Recognizing this we have provided accessory handles so when employees move the bases around the shop, they do not use precision locators as handles and risk damage to the tool.

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Do you take credit cards?

No, we currently do not take credit cards.

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