Precision and Customization

Northfield is a custom workholding solutions company based in Island Park, New York.

Always looking for a chance to innovate, the Northfield team were excited to bring their years of work holding expertise to the medical industry creating parts for joint replacement.

As usual we were expected to achieve the appropriate tolerances requested. This included concentricity, accuracy, and repeatability from part to part. We achieved this while also allowing easy operation and quick tooling change over.


We were tasked to create two separate solutions. The first was to develop a collet chuck solution to hold shoulder joint inserts to ‘finish-turn’ the outside.


Secondly, we were asked to hold multiple knee-joints simultaneously with a specific grip force. They also required special clearance for milling tools and part sensing ports. These allow the machine to acknowledge the parts were loaded and ready to be manufactured.



The main challenge with the shoulder parts was holding a half sphere from the inside on a minimal surface area to allow the finishing operation on the outside.

The knee joints required custom air chucks to hold various sized parts to clamp and finish mill. These work holding solutions needed to have ‘air-detect’ and a force analyser to assure the proper jaw force is applied to the parts throughout the entire manufacturing process.


Northfield offers a large range of standard precision collet chucks, that grip a part internally. This job was unique as we developed a special contoured collet with a specific shape. It was then finish milled to enable holding several different part sizes. We also added a locating surface that uniquely has a small surface area yet is robust and accurate enough to allow a long tooling lifetime.

Multiple Northfield chucks can be seen here in use simultaneously. Four different sized parts needed to be held at the same time in the machine. Our customer wanted to finish the second operation of all the parts at once. This was achieved by creating a base plate with easy air porting.

A force analyser was delivered that works together with our custom tooling. A turn-key solution with specific grip force..

Do you have a special working holding requirement? Then get in touch now. Our sales team are always available to answer your questions.


Satisfying Unusual Requirements Is Just Business As Usual At Northfield

Monogram Aerospace manufactures highly sophisticated aerospace fasteners. If you have ever flown in a commercial airliner, you have probably seen Monogram fasteners dotting the wings of the plane.

What makes these fasteners special is that they are installed and tightened from one side, much like pop rivets, although that would be a crude description of these high tech components.  Each fastener has a hole drilled dead center through the head and shaft, then an actuating rod is inserted. When the fastener is installed, a ratchet tool is used to twist the actuating rod. This causes the end of the tube to deform outwards and hold the fastener in place. (Monogram’s fasteners are made of a special alloy that deforms to a specific size and shape.) The actuating rod is snapped off and the fastener is secure.

Monogram asked Northfield to develop a chuck to hold these fasteners during machining  (hard turning and tapping). To accomplish this we had to address several challenges.

The Northfield Solution
Monogram stressed the importance of holding the parts concentric during machining.  If not, the build up of stress factors on the fastener during use could cause it to fail.

Achieving this concentricity was complicated by the large size of the fastener head that the chuck jaws would have to grip over. In addition, because there were two head styles – flat head and button head – our chuck would also have to accommodate two different datums for axial banking.  Adding a further complication was the fact that Monogram manufactures fasteners in literally hundreds of different sizes and lengths. This meant that our chuck would have to allow quick changeovers from one set-up to the next.

The chuck that we provided satisfied all of the challenges while providing a part-to-part repeatability of 0.0001 inch. For the flat-head style fasteners, the gripping operation is fairly straightforward. The chuck jaws open wide enough to clear the head of the fastener. The part is pushed into the chuck until it reaches a standard fixed stop. The jaws close and the part is ready to be machined. The only special feature was a modification we made to the stop to allow for a continuous chip to exit through the stop and out one side.

The gripping operation for the button head style fastener is more complex. Again the work piece goes all the way into the chuck, as if it were a standard style banking.  Then, the jaws begin to close in sequence with a pusher piston mounted on the face of the chuck that pushes the part back out so that the button head banks right on the back side of the jaws. Using this system, we were able to locate the part with greater accuracy then had been possible before.

To accommodate the variety of diameters and lengths being machined, the chuck is equipped with a sub-jaw/insert combination. This allows Monogram to change from part to part by removing three screws which hold the three inserts and one stop pad.

In addition, the chuck has a flow control valve installed inside the chuck body that lets the operator adjust the speed of the pusher piston compared to the speed of the jaws for the button head family of parts. When the pusher is not in use, the flow control valve is set to cut off the air supply completely making the pusher/piston a fixed stop. Using our chuck, Monogram is able to run their machines twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Cycle times are measured in seconds and as mentioned earlier, repeatability is within 0.0001 inch.


Unusual shapes - Just business as usual for Northfield

Northfield customer Mascotech Sintered Components, is the second largest powdered metal automotive parts maker in the world. This is not a new technology but it is one that can provide tremendous financial savings in parts processing.

As the name implies, the process starts with metals in powdered forms. Typically, several alloys are combined to create a new material with specific properties. The powdered metals are put into a mold and compressed under several hundred tons of pressure. This causes them to fuse. The piece is released from the mold (this is called the green state) put into an oven and sintered. The result is a strong, economically produced near net to totally complete component.

In addition to doing the powdered metal work, Mascotech also performs roughing and finish machining on some of their parts. This is where Northfield comes in.

Transfer Case Component
For this automotive transmission component, Mascotech needed to finish the bore and cut two grooves that would hold a snap-ring and a wave spring.

What made this part challenging from a work-holding perspective was that putting in the grooves with a forming tool develops up to 20 horsepower. That meant that the part would have to be held very securely while the material was being removed. Yet the part has thin walls, making it difficult to grip without deforming it. And, since all the machining operations would be done at the same time, maintaining roundness was critical.

We solved the problem by outfitting our standard 8″ Model 800 3-jaw chuck with special full circle jaws that locate and grip the circumference of the part with a drive pin to pick up most of the torque.

Water Pump Component
Like many powdered metal parts, this water pump component comes out of sintering nearly complete, but still needing a few final operations. In this case that means machining the bore and flange cutting the treads and tapping the holes.

To hold this part, Northfield provided one of our standard Model 670 2-jaw chucks fitted with special jaws to grip the outside diameter of the part. Special orientation pins are used to locate the part for finish machining.

Crankshaft Sprocket
The final piece is one of a family of sprocket gears. After sintering, the material has a particle hardness of 58/63 Rockwell “c” scale. Mascotech needed to hard turn the bore.

What made this job challenging for Northfield was the keyway between the gear teeth.  It makes one section of the work piece very thin and introduces an interrupted cut during machining of the bore. Our solution employs a 4″ diaphragm chuck with six jaws to grip the major diameter of the gear teeth and three pads for axial banking. One of the jaws has a drive pin to insure no slippage while holding the part very gently. Using our chuck, Mascotech was able to achieve a roundness spec of less than 0.0002 inch when machining the bore. Mascotech utilities Northfield work holding for over 80% of their turning applications at their Ridgway, PA facility.


Northfield Chucks Help Dana Corp Stay On The Road To Success

Dana Corporation manufactures drive shaft components for the big three auto makers. At Northfield, we’re proud of the part we play in helping them solve their production challenges.

For this application, Dana needed us to provide a chuck that would be mounted on a balancing machine to hold a drive shaft on one end gripping the component called a slip yoke. These drive shafts are for the Daimler Chrysler Corporation.

Getting a grip on the situation.
The workholding task was complicated by several factors. The shape of the part – long and thin – the grip force required to hold a 5ft. long drive shaft – the accuracy 1/10,000 T.I.R. – and the speed – as high as 8,000 rpm – during the balancing process.

Normally, balancing operations are performed at only 900 rpm, but Dana needs to balance this part at simulated road conditions. Since the shaft will deflect (bend) at high speeds, this is the state they want it balanced at. For production cars, drive shafts typically rotate up to 3,000 to 5,500 rpm. However, this component would be used in Daimler Chrysler’s stock (racing) cars. These high-performance vehicles hit 200 mph with their drive shafts rotating at 8,000  rpm.

Sometimes, two chucks are better than one.
To solve the problem, Northfield engineers decided to use a diaphragm chuck, rather than a sliding jaw chuck. But before making the final decision, we did several tests using solid models on our CAD systems, to ensure that our diaphragm chuck wouldn’t lose grip force at these high rpms.

Our solution basically consists of two separate diaphragm chucks, with two separate sets of jaws, mounted one in front of the other. This is done to accommodate the long, thin shape of the part. With one set of jaws gripping near the front of the piece and the other gripping near the rear, the result is accuracy of a 1/10,000 T.I.R. and repeatability to 50 millionths of an inch and extreme rigidity. The chuck also uses a male spline driver mounted in the center of the chuck to help drive the shaft on start up and stop, and guide the shaft into the jaws during loading. These drivers are .002in. undersize of the internal spline and must not influence the centering of jaws. The spline driver is a gauge quality piece of tooling supplied by Michigan Spline Gauge Co. that provides a concentricity of less than 50 millionths with the chuck.

In Dana’s production car area, the chuck runs the same component. In the stock car area, however, it is used to run a few different components. Parts and tooling can be switched and still maintain an accuracy of less than a 1/10,000 T.I.R.

One final note, to meet Dana’s safety standards, we designed this chuck to be air opened with a self-contained clamping system (using the spring pressure of the diaphragms for clamping) that would hold the part in the chuck if air pressure and power were lost during the balancing operation.