What is a magnetic chuck?

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A magnetic chuck is a device, or work support, that uses magnetic force to hold a ferrous metal item during machining. Also refers to magnets used to attach a work support, such as a vise or other fixture, to the work machine. An electromagnetic chuck is a type of magnetic chuck that produces an adjustable magnetic pull, allowing it to hold a variety of workpieces. Processes using magnetic chucks can include drilling, grinding and turning. They are not just restricted to industrial use; some hobbyists use magnetic chucks.

There are three basic types of magnetic chucks. The permanent magnetic chuck has a series of magnetic inserts that are constantly polarized, which means they have permanent poles and constantly pull the part. Another type is the electromagnetic chuck, which is driven only while the electrical current is on. This chuck has the advantage of being able to turn off the magnetic pull, releasing the workpiece quickly and easily. The disadvantage of this chuck is that it releases the workpiece when the electrical current is interrupted, often putting the worker at risk of injury if this happens during a work process.

The third type is the electro-permanent magnetic chuck, which is a hybrid of the permanent and electromagnetic chucks. This device locks the part with an electric shock and then uses another electric shock to unlock it. If a power outage occurs while a part is running, the chuck will continue to hold tightly. Each magnet has an electrical coil around it that can reverse the magnet’s polarity extremely quickly. Another function of the coil is to control the amount of magnetic pull the magnetic chuck exerts.

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Magnetic chucks only support ferrous – iron-based materials, limiting the type of part a machinist can work with. A rare earth metal called neodymium iron boron, or neodymium, creates magnets that are at least five times more powerful than traditional magnets. Manufacturers often use it in industrial magnet applications. Machinists often prefer to work with annealed metal parts because hardened materials sometimes retain magnetism when the chuck or work support is off.

The advantages of using a magnetic chuck generally include reduced machine set-up time, reduced set-up processes, and reduced chuck damage to workpieces. Sometimes the magnetic force provides a stronger hold on the workpiece. Some magnetic chucks are strong enough to have a clamping force of 12 tons per square foot (10886 kg per 0.093 m 2 ), making them useful for removing heavy material.

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