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CNC Tool Holder & Collet Maintenance

CNC Tool Holder And Collet Maintenance

Taking proper care of your collets and tool holders will increase the life of your collets, tool holders, CNC bits, and spindle. Not only will it increase tooling life but it will also improve cut quality. I like to think of tooling maintenance like changing the oil in a car. Sure, the car will run without ever changing the oil. However, there is a risk of blowing a gasket and warping other parts of the engine until it ultimately fails. The same goes for a CNC router. The more time a spindle is in use while being out of balance, the more of a chance it risks failing. For those of you who want to get the best out of your CNC machine investment, let’s discuss tooling maintenance.

Did you know that both the collet and tool holder have a life cycle.? Collets should be replaced every two to three months. They can even be damaged without any visible signs. A very common problem is metal fatigue which can be caused from overtightening. Be sure to use a torque wrench and tightening stand to escape this problem. Regardless, over time the gripping power will reduce with use and heat. This is why it’s very important to replace these in a timely manner. Tool holders, on the other hand, have a much longer life cycle. They should be replaced every one to two years. Like the collets, these will break down over time. Fretting and bronzing are common as tool holders get older. This is all of course dependent on the use of these tools. If a collet and tool holder is only used for an hour a week, then yes it may last longer. However, that’s if the collet is removed from the tool holder and both are cleaned and kept in a dust-free area. I have a habit of cleaning my tools after every use then putting them back in the original packaging. Not every operator has this luxury because of time constraints. So, for most of you, replacing them in a timely manner, even if they aren’t used as often, is the best option.

Besides replacing these parts when needed, It’s also important to take care of them while in use. Proper cleaning is essential for reaching full life cycles of each and achieving best cutting results. Here are the cleaning steps that should be done on a regular basis. This should be done every time a tool is changed or replaced from a collet/tool-holder.

Step 1

Use air to blow off as much from the tool holder and collet as possible. Blow off any debris, dust, and material chips. Build up often happens within the gaps of the collet. Not blowing these out could cause the collet from not being able to tighten properly.

Step 2

Use a clothe rag or paper towel to wipe off any leftover dust or material chips that are stuck to the collet and tool holder. Sometimes using a piece of paper, folded up a couple times, will help get hard to reach chips lodged in the collet gaps.

Step 3

Use the Spindle Wiper Kit to clean out the spindle opening, tool holder opening and center of collet. These are made to clean the hard to reach areas. This is especially important in the spindle and collet opening because they are nearly impossible to clean without this kit.

Step 4

Use the Nu-Tool Cleaning Protectant & Rust/Debris Remover to thoroughly clean the collet and tool holder. The rust/debris remover is only needed when rust or heavy debris are present on your tooling. For the most part, the protectant is the go-to product. This should be used to aid in cleaning every time a CNC bit is replaced. At the VERY minimum, these should be cleaned weekly to get the most out of your tooling.

If these steps are regularly taken, you will get the most out of your collets and tool holders. Your cut quality will be the best that it can be and your spindle will be in balance which in turn will allow it to last longer. Again, treating your machine like you would a car by giving it regular maintenance will help you get the best out of your Multicam CNC machine investment.

Greg Smolka (Author)

CNC Tooling & Application Manager

Here to help with tooling recommendations (bits, knives, collets, tool holders, maintenance kits, torque stations, etc.) and cutting recommendations (feeds/speeds, tips/tricks, # of passes, etc.).