CASE CLAMPED SHUT A permanent fixture of i ndustry

In the age of industrial automation, new technology is being introduced at a rapid pace and it can be easy to overlook the crucial static fixtures that quite literally hold production lines together. One such component is the humble toggle clamp, which has been helping engineers meet this requirement for decades. In this article, Marcus Schneck, CEO of norelem, celebrates this unsung hero of industry


hey may be considered less glamorous than many other

components used on productive assembly lines, but you would be hard pressed to visit an engineering shopfloor that does not utilise a toggle clamp for the temporary fastening of parts. Whilst many operators are familiar with how a toggle clamp operates, few are aware of the careful design engineering it takes to couple reliability and functionality with ergonomics and convenience.

TOGGLING BETWEEN CLAMPING DESIGNS Whilst a standard component, toggle clamps come in a wide range of different designs, with applications requiring different locking configurations, including push-pull, latch, can, vertical, and hook operations. All of these applications require different sizes and clamping pressures, so it is always advisable to seek assistance from a manufacturer or supplier prior to specifying a clamp for operation. norelem, for example, has 36 different varieties of toggle clamp, in over 120 sizes, for the clamping of workpieces by drilling, bending, welding and sawing. While it is virtually impossible to

manually position a part without the use of a clamp, many engineers still experiment with different types of clamp to provide an important fastening mechanism on the assembly line. Stepped clamps, swing clamps, clamping hooks, variable, and pneumatic clamps are all useful components, and all satisfy different applications. For example, a variable toggle clamp is often used when an operator has to fasten a lot of workpieces with different heights, quickly and reliably, whilst a toggle clamp is better suited to applications where continuous clamping adjustment is required, with an almost identical clamping force for different cycles. Key to the toggle clamp’s improved


consistency over variable clamps is the ease at which they can be used for repeated operation, with a pivot mechanism being created as soon as the handle is actuated. This ensures simple and reliable fastening when pressure is exerted, made possible through the toggle clamp’s unique ergonomic design.

KNEE LEVER PRINCIPLE – A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH A toggle clamp needs to be operated with very little exertion or force, in order to allow for fast, repeated fastening, without the operator having to over- extend the force applied. Manufacturing these products with ergonomically designed handles can make attachment and re-attachment easy. However, for this ease to be repeatable, the toggle clamp needs to offer high clamping forces. To guarantee locking and self- restriction when the dead centre position of the clamp is exceeded, manufacturers of toggle clamps design their products according to the knee lever principle. This calculates the maximum counterforce required to create a secure hold, with very little expenditure. This principle has become widely associated with toggle clamps, which work on the same theory. This controllable clamping force makes these components an optimal solution in drilling, welding, grinding and inspection fixtures. In the timber industry in particular, extreme deformations can be avoided by using toggle clamps when bonding or building fragile sheets.

GOING BACK TO BASICS Like many components, toggle clamps can be powered through a variety of sources, via pneumatics, hydraulics, and electricity, for example, but perhaps the most common is the manually actuated toggle clamp. This is largely a consequence of the low cost of

purchasing a manual toggle clamp, but these savings can cause operators to overlook the overall cost of clamp ownership. Often, low-cost driven companies do not consider the likelihood of downtime or the need to replace poor quality clamps. The overall lifecycle of norelem’s latest generation of toggle clamps, which come with ergonomic handles, is typically around 300,000 clamping cycles, and it can be easy to see when the clamp bushes start to become worn – a sign that the entire clamp needs to be replaced. Assembly-line operators are advised to specify toggle clamps that are manufactured with high- grade, durable materials such as steel or stainless steel. Sourcing toggle clamp replacements from a standard parts supplier such as norelem, can also ensure that replacement parts are delivered instantly, reducing the risk of downtime, and enabling engineers to get on with the more pressing requirements of their day-to-day duties. As the manufacturing industry moves

closer to Industry 4.0, the focus is increasingly on automation and connection, as many engineers upgrade their systems and machinery in favour of more cutting edge designs. One component that requires no upgrade is the humble toggle clamp, a fixture that owes much to its simple design and functionality. The effortless fastening that toggle clamps create with minimal force has made this standard component a mainstay of industry for decades. Even as the manufacturing sector enters a new, automated era, its design brilliance means that it will continue to be a permanent fixture on any assembly line.



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