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Machined parts all exactly at limit of tolerance (MMC) - is there a practical reason?

Aries6776

Plastic
Joined
Oct 20, 2022
I've just had a first iteration design machined. It's all within tolerance but on 6 internal diameter features they have hit the bottom of the tolerance to within 0.01mm on a range of 0 to -0.05mm and on the one external diameter they have hit the absolute max size. So my question is, they've obviously aimed to hit the minimum hole size and the maximum shaft size (unless it's some amazing coincidence on all 7 features), is there some practical reason that they've done this?

I'm a design engineer by trade and I've done a little bit of machining. I always aimed for the middle of the tolerance band by default. The assembly will still work (it's within tolerance) but I'm going to have a batch of these made and I'm wondering if I need to adjust the tolerance if they are always going to hit maximum material condition because it makes fitting a little bit more time consuming. I'm asking here just in case I'm missing something obvious before I speak with them again.

The work was done on a 3 axis CNC, not sure of the make.
 

sfriedberg

Diamond
Joined
Oct 14, 2010
Location
Oregon, USA
Speaking as a fellow engineer, set your tolerances so you don't have to do any fitting. If a transitional fit is inconvenient and you can't go to a fit with greater clearance, then add a lead-in chamfer or similar feature to make assembly less fussy. If the shop meets your specified tolerances, the parts are good, and you don't get to kvetch. :-)
 
Joined
Nov 19, 2007
Location
marysville ohio
Speaking as a fellow engineer, set your tolerances so you don't have to do any fitting. If a transitional fit is inconvenient and you can't go to a fit with greater clearance, then add a lead-in chamfer or similar feature to make assembly less fussy. If the shop meets your specified tolerances, the parts are good, and you don't get to kvetch. :-)
I always aim to make IDs just bigger than on size within tolerance and ODs just smaller than on size within tolerance.
 

Aries6776

Plastic
Joined
Oct 20, 2022
Thanks for your replies. I'm aware I can adjust the tolerances, I'm just wondering if there was a reason for them making the parts to the maximum material condition? Is it a test to see if I know what I'm doing? Or is it something amusing for them? I worked with an experienced machinist who would delight in making exactly what you put on a drawing, even though he knew it would ruin the part! It didn't happen to me but he did it to a few other junior designers. Or is it just a cautious machinist who doesn't want to risk oversizing holes or over reducing a turned shaft? Or is it a way to get me to spend more money, because I'd need remedial work to adjust the fits?

I got around the issue by just sticking some parts in the freezer and others in the microwave ;)
I didn't want to specify tighter tolerances to keep costs down but practically I don't think it will make any difference because they have easily hit the numbers. I'm just trying to work out why they have done this so I know how to deal with them. Do I want to give them repeat business?
 
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Clive603

Titanium
Joined
Aug 2, 2008
Location
Sussex, England
Setting tolerances and fits has always been a bit of a black art. Especially if you need "real nice" fits without grading parts for selective assembly.

Lot to be said for making first off test parts to minimum hole and maximum metal conditions to verify that the extreme pair actually assemble easily enough. Something I always tried to do.

You aren't the first person to discover that a pair of end tolerance fits that, according to the book, should work just fine are just too much faff to assemble on the bench. Time to move the limits a touch I think.

These days CNC machines are so good that calling out a 0 to - x and 0 to + y pair is asking for trouble. You will get some 0, 0 pairs that won't fit without a BFH. Always the last couple or three so no margin for a quick swopsie!

Clive
 

guythatbrews

Hot Rolled
Joined
Dec 14, 2017
Location
MO, USA
Put this question to the shop that made the parts. It is entirely possible you got lucky the part is barely in tolerance instead of out of tolerance. Not all shops do good work, and some will sell non-conforming stuff with impunity.
 

jaguar36

Cast Iron
Joined
May 13, 2015
Location
SE, PA
Most likely its to allow for rework if something goes wrong. If the tool breaks or they messed something else up, having the most material left gives them the highest chance they can rework it and still have it meet the tolerance.
 

Mtndew

Diamond
Joined
Jun 7, 2012
Location
Michigan
is there some practical reason that they've done this?

Could be.
Sometimes if a feature is a bitch to machine they will take it just into tolerance and be done with it.
Or that's just the habit of the machinist/shop that made the part for you.

But you put the tolerances on the print, if being at one end of those tolerances makes more work for you, then change the tolerance if you can and be done with it.
 

Sam I

Plastic
Joined
Nov 6, 2020
How were the parts modelled (assuming you supplied 3D CAD files)?

Most models that come to me are set at one end of the limit and so this ends up being the programmed size generated from my CAD/CAM package. I would personally adjust a wear offset at the machine to account for any part variation but I'd stay pretty close to programmed size as changing the offset changes every diameter cut with that tool and can have unwanted consequences elsewhere. If I hit within .01 mm of a programmed diameter at the machine I'd be pretty happy and leave it be. If I thought there could be a problem I'd have to go in and modify the CAD model or the part program (although personally I don't like modifying the program directly as it gets overwritten should there be a change in the CAM system).

Sometimes I get a customer who supplies the models at mid limit and it saves a lot of time and effort having to modify the models. As a programmer I really appreciate it when that happens!

This only applies however if your machinist is using CAM to generate the programs for the machine.
 

VTM

Cast Iron
Joined
Jun 8, 2018
Could be.
Sometimes if a feature is a bitch to machine they will take it just into tolerance and be done with it.
Or that's just the habit of the machinist/shop that made the part for you.

But you put the tolerances on the print, if being at one end of those tolerances makes more work for you, then change the tolerance if you can and be done with it.

It could be this. A former employee always did this. If he had .005 He'd use .0048 every time. Drove me nuts.
 

Kingbob

Hot Rolled
Joined
Dec 1, 2009
Location
Louisiana
Most likely its to allow for rework if something goes wrong. If the tool breaks or they messed something else up, having the most material left gives them the highest chance they can rework it and still have it meet the tolerance.

My guess is exactly this as I am also guilty of this and do it for this exact reason. I make valve parts and often times plants during unplanned outages will authorize re-machining of parts just to get them to function until replacements can be found/made, were talking turn around times of a couple of hours or valve parts ridding on airplanes. So please don't immediately assume mischief on the part of your machine shop. I think you should accept it for what it is, a valuable learning opportunity. Move your dimensions around, adjust your tolerances and move on.
 

cngbrick

Aluminum
Joined
Dec 22, 2012
Location
NB, Canada
Asking the shop/machinist would probably get you your answer.

Ultimately, your model and drawing are tools to communicate your requirements to the machinist. The machinist has to assume that meeting the tolerances will produce a part acceptable for you, this is a contractual obligation. It's unfair to expect the machinist to guess that you expect the part to be made to the middle of the tolerance. It is your job to clearly state your requirements. You can certainly solicit advice from the machinist before establishing your tolerances if you intend to work with this machinist but don't take their advice and then use another shop unless you are upfront about the situation and fairly compensate them.
 

GregSY

Diamond
Joined
Jan 1, 2005
Location
Houston
The bottom line is you gave tolerances and they met them...they owe you no further reasons or explanations. There's a good chance their answer would be 'it just turned out that way'.

30 years ago....we had an order for a large synchronous motor for a ball mill. This was around 13,000HP 180RPM. The motor was assembled and tested fine, when it got to the jobsite it was installed...for those who don't know large plants, installing a new ball mill and motor - just the installation - is a long and expensive process. Anyway, they started the unit and right away the rotor rotated...but the shaft didn't.

Turns out the drafter had specified the ID of the rotor hub at the exact dimension of the OD of the shaft, and no one in engineering caught it. It was a good enough fit to run unloaded, but not good enough to transmit 13,000HP at 180RPM. This is about a 24" diameter, forged steel, and normally this interface is an interference fit which requires the hub to be heated and the shaft to be frozen before they are stabbed together.


Typical hub:
 

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Tonytn36

Diamond
Joined
Dec 23, 2007
Location
Southeastern US
Given the tighter tolerances it is possible that the parts measured nominal in the non-temperature controlled shop they were made in, but now in your temperature controlled place they are to edge of tolerance.
 

BT Fabrication

Stainless
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
Location
Ontario Canada
Tolerance is all up to the designer.
Most i've seen in general tolerances are plus or minus 0.005" if its nothing important.
Shafts are usually obviously tighter tolerance but all depends on the application if its a press fit or shrink fit interference needed.
The archilles heel is the tighter the tolerance is more of a pain, thus costs more $ to make if you need to hold 0.001" vs 0.0001", the extra zero will always add extra zeros to the bill.

Being on the machinist size, ID bores we all like to shoot smaller, as you can always hone or ream it out. Much harder to add material back, especially if it's a first run part. A quick hone and a polish can take off a few thousandths of an inch quickly if needing to be opened up a bit and only takes minutes.
Most of the time bringing parts back and adding material back to a shaft or bore requires the whole part to be remade at more $$ cost.


End of the day, they hit tolerance, if you have found it needs to be different, change the tolerance or sizing to match exactly what you require or communicate it to the people making the part and have it in writing communication by email etc. That way you will know its on paper and can specify what you really need, I have had customers not know, had to go back and forth a couple times for changing specs just like this as it was told to be press fit but was exact diameter of the shaft and would have been a slip fit.
 

eKretz

Diamond; Mod Squad
Joined
Mar 27, 2005
Location
Northwest Indiana, USA
I also always shot for the mid to high side of a given tolerance on internal sizes and the mid to low side on external sizes, but I was never doing high production runs. That's on parts that were slip fit. I was targeting easy fit up and assembly for whoever had to put the parts together. As a supervisor I asked the guys under me to do the same also. See, I supervised the assembly/millwright guys too - and they would pitch a bitch if the parts didn't go together easily - whether actually in tolerance or not. That's on top of it costing the company more money as time to get the parts assembled. The other question is did the guys making the parts know that they would be assembled together? If it's a large shop the people running the parts may not even talk to each other.

However, I can understand why a shop doing very high production might make their parts to MMC to allow rework if sizes started to drift. But only if the material was very expensive or the machining took a very long time. Otherwise it's simply more efficient to throw another piece of stock in the CNC and push "Start."

Anyway, in the end, this is a matter of tolerancing. If they hit the provided target you have no grounds for complaint. If you need a different target hit, you need to provide it and pay accordingly. If you are friendly with the shop, you might be able to discuss the situation and ask if they can shift a bit on the tolerance band if possible. They may well accommodate you if you're a good customer and the parts aren't too complex. I wouldn't ask that on a first time job though, just change the tolerance to be more in line with what you'd like, as the others have already said.
 
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Mr.M

Cast Iron
Joined
Sep 28, 2012
Location
MN, USA
Thanks for your replies. I'm aware I can adjust the tolerances, I'm just wondering if there was a reason for them making the parts to the maximum material condition? Is it a test to see if I know what I'm doing? Or is it something amusing for them? I worked with an experienced machinist who would delight in making exactly what you put on a drawing, even though he knew it would ruin the part! It didn't happen to me but he did it to a few other junior designers. Or is it just a cautious machinist who doesn't want to risk oversizing holes or over reducing a turned shaft? Or is it a way to get me to spend more money, because I'd need remedial work to adjust the fits?

I got around the issue by just sticking some parts in the freezer and others in the microwave ;)
I didn't want to specify tighter tolerances to keep costs down but practically I don't think it will make any difference because they have easily hit the numbers. I'm just trying to work out why they have done this so I know how to deal with them. Do I want to give them repeat business?
This issue that is costing you more money as you say is because you have it toleranced wrong. Nothing nefarious on the machinists part.
 

Finegrain

Diamond
Joined
Sep 6, 2007
Location
Seattle, Washington
I don't know if the ID's were small enough to have been reamed, but if so, the shop making the parts may have used the lower limit for the reamer sizes. I usually do that. Reamers rarely make too small of a hole, but they often make a hole that is slightly oversize. So if the hole is, say, 7.98mm +.01/-0, I'll start with a 7.98mm reamer.

.05mm is a pretty generous tolerance though, so for your parts, I personally would have used a reamer a bit bigger than the min size.

Regards.

Mike
 

jim rozen

Diamond
Joined
Feb 26, 2004
Location
peekskill, NY
Oftem problems like this can be short-stopped by a) designing so it assembles at any point in the tolereance stack-up, and b) stapling the two drawning together and putting a note saying "part 1 to be press fit assembled into part 2." Or as they say in the greeting card business, 'insert tab A into slot B.'
 








 
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