All About Grinding Quills

Everything you need to know to specify the right quill for your precision grinding application

QuillAnyone who does CNC grinding knows what a grinding quill is, but few actually understand the important contribution the quill makes to optimized abrasive machining processes.  In the rush to fine tune their grinding operations, abrasive machinists turn their attention to such things as feeds & speeds, abrasive wheel shapes and materials, dressing options and appropriate coolant choices.

Quills seem to be too mundane to merit much consideration. That is generally a mistake, because, like other grinding process variables, quills have an important role to play. Selecting the right quill for the job can make a tremendous difference in whether or not you realize your grinding process objectives.

The Quill’s Purpose

The purpose of the quill is to get the wheel into the part to reach the surfaces you need to grind.  It is a highly customized and tightly toleranced tool that serves as an extension of the spindle itself.

It would not be economical for spindle manufacturers to produce thousands of different spindle designs to reach into every possible interior geometry.  Instead, they produce a single design with a standard interface to which customers can design quills to suit their individual requirements.  A well-designed quill has a long lifespan, allowing the user to mount grinding wheels to it over and over again.

Quill Features and Nomenclature

quill nomenclature

Quill Material Choices and Trade-Offs

Quills are generally constructed from one of three materials, each with its own pros and cons:

Tungsten Carbide Quills are the ideal choice for precision internal grinding applications because they are very stiff. Of the materials available, tungsten carbide is the most expensive, but is long lasting and ideally suited to precision grinding applications because of its rigidity, which results in the least amount of deflection under load. For the tightest possible part tolerances, carbide can’t be beat. Due to it’s brittle nature, however, care must be taken when handling carbide quills to prevent breakage.

Heavy Metal Quills are ideally suited for applications where vibration absorption is desired.  Heavy metal has a cost and stiffness in-between that of tungsten carbide and steel, and it’s damping characteristics make it particularly desirable for certain applications.  Heavy metal is relatively soft, so may not be the ideal choice for applications where the quill is subject to frequent abrasion, for example when mechanically removing glued-on wheels.  Also, as the name suggests, the material is quite “heavy”, so care must be taken to ensure it is properly balanced.

Hardened Steel Quills are the least expensive and fastest-delivery choice but do not measure up to the other alternatives in terms of tensile strength and stiffness. However, they are an acceptable choice, particularly if a short, stubby quill geometry can provide sufficient stiffness to suit the requirements of the application.

quill material properties

Typical Quill Materials

On the Horizon….New Advanced Quill Materials. New materials utilizing Metal Matrix Composites (“MMCs”) are beginning to gain a foothold in the industry. Examples include quills constructed from a combination of carbon-fiber/steel and also from solid ceramics. Although generally more expensive these materials offer high stiffness at a fraction of the weight of traditional materials.

Quill Configurations: Mounting to Spindle

Quills are generally mounted to the grinding spindle via one of two methods. The chosen method depends on the spindle manufacturer’s design.

Threaded Spindle Methodscrew-in quillThis is the most common quill/spindle interface.  It comprises of three key features; a) the precision thread, b) a tight-tolerance locating diameter to ensure the quill screws-in on center, and c) a ground face on the back of the quill shoulder to ensure a square and solid support once the desired mounting torque is achieved.

Taper-Lock Method taper-lock quill Less common than the threaded interface, the taper-lock design has the advantage of simplicity with one locating surface that provides both concentric positioning and support.

Quill Configurations: Wheel Mounting

There are several methods by which wheels may be mounted to the working end of the grinding quill. These choices are governed by customer preference along with the requirements of the application.

Glue-on by Customer: glue-onUsers may select a style of quill that allows the wheel to be glued to it. This approach provides excellent stiffness at the lowest costs because less precision machining is required to manufacture the quill. However re-gluing replacement wheels to this type of quill requires removing the worn wheel and residual glue from the quill, gluing on a new wheel and allowing for the glue to set. Manufacturers who use this approach generally invest in additional quills so that they have pre-mounted wheels available as needed.

Glue-on by Meister: Customers may also elect to send used glued-on wheels and quills back to Meister where wheels are carefully removed, and the quills are cleaned of residual glue and inspected to make sure they are still in good condition. Then new wheels are mounted on the quills as part of a low-cost continuous process. Meister trues all of its wheels before they leave the factory. In this case they are trued while mounted on the quill; so that grinding surfaces are in proper alignment to begin grinding immediately after changeover. Many users find that this approach saves time, provides better control over wheel and quill inventories, avoids the re-use of damaged quills, and results in more efficient changeovers.

Screw-In Mounting: screw-inScrew-in wheel mountings allow for fast wheel changes on the fly without having to remove the quill from the spindle. The precision threaded mount makes alignment of the wheel very easy. This style is frequently used in high production applications that require frequent wheel changes. The quills are more complex due to the internal threads required, however fewer of them are needed in inventory because they can stay on the machine.

Collet Mounting: colletFor shops that perform many short run-grinding operations using abrasive wheels of different sizes, it is possible to mount a variety of straight-shank mounted wheels to a single quill using a precision-machined collet system. This gives manufacturers the flexibility to change wheel sizes frequently without always having to swap out the quill. Carbide wheel shanks provide excellent rigidity and a given size quill can accommodate a wide range of wheel sizes.

Thru-coolant quills: There is one other quill configuration abrasive machinists should be aware of– quills that allow for the passage of high-pressure coolant from the spindle directly to to the grinding zone. This approach provides exceptional flushing of debris from grinding operations within deep holes and pockets. Not all machines have the ability to accommodate thru-coolant but when they do, this allows a precision grinding operation to make the best use of it. In some cases thru-coolant spindles are used in conjunction with specially designed wheels with holes allowing for passage of coolant thru the quill and the wheel directly onto the grinding area.

Rules of Thumb

Here are some rules of thumb to make sure the quill you are using or designing is adequate for your application:

Quill Length: The shortest possible quill that allows the wheel to reach the part and to be dressed for the full usable life of the wheel.  For bore-grinding operations with oscillation, it is generally a good idea to design the quill long enough to be able to push at least ½ of the wheel thru the bottom of the bore you are grinding.  Also, when moving to the deepest position, you need to consider how much room is required at the nose of the spindle for peripherals like coolant nozzles, gauge fingers, etc.

Quill Diameter: To insure good rigidity, optimal quills have the largest possible shaft diameter that will fit safely inside the feature being ground, while still allowing dressable life on the wheel and adequate flow of coolant in/out of the grind zone.

Stiffness: When designing your quill you should keep in mind that the effective stiffness is proportional to:  (E)*(D) / (L³) , where:

  • E – Modulus of Elasticity of the chosen quill material
  • D – Diameter
  • L – Length

For example, when comparing possible design alternatives, an increase in diameter of 10% will increase stiffness by 46%. Reducing the length by 10% will increase stiffness by 37%. Changing from steel to carbide will increase stiffness by 257%.

Bottom Line

The wheel of choice and the quill should be designed to work in harmony with each other.

Users who specify precision super-abrasive wheels for their grinding application and couple them with a less than adequate quill undermine the total performance of their abrasive system. This is why Meister routinely presents the most appropriate wheel specifications, wheel geometries, and quill configurations as part of a single superabrasive system. Each of these elements works in concert to give the user the best possible result for the application.

The Swiss precision of Meister Grinding Quills provides the rigidity and accuracy required for close tolerance grinding along with durability to assure long-lasting performance.

About Bruce Northrup

Vice President and General Manager of Meister Abrasives USA
This entry was posted in Technology / Products and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to All About Grinding Quills

  1. Daniel Rey says:

    I greatly enjoy your news letter and articles. The topics posted are interesting, educational, practical and easy to understand and apply. Thank you – keep up the good work.

  2. Pingback: Specify the Right Grinding Quill

  3. sandeep says:

    sir what should be the tolerance on threads

  4. How did you derive the equation for the effective stiffness?

    • Hi George. For simplicity we used the formula for the maximum deflection of an end-loaded cantilevered beam and assumed the area moment of inertia for a circular cross-section. The idea is to illustrate how sensitive the stiffness of the quill is to changes in diameter and length and how it pays to optimize your design…

      • Thank you. I was confused by the fact that the beam deflection equation was “flipped” from what you have here. But that makes sense as the deflection amount is inversely proportional to stiffness. k=force/deflection.

        Thanks again

  5. Nipun Sabharwal says:

    If Quill is not stiff enough, and the dressing arrangement is such that the single point Dresser is stationed at one end and the wheel traverse at a particular feed, does it lead to making the wheel Eccentric as it move towards discard dia.?

    • Bruce Northrup says:

      Thank you for your question.
      In our experience if the quill is not stiff enough, you might get deflection during dress, which leads to the wheel being tapered. You might also see a vibration, which could be the cause of eccentricity.

  6. Louis Lukanik says:

    Is there a particular method you suggest for “bringing-in” the runout on a quill when it’s being installed in a spindle? Obviously the geometry of the quill should be good but when the back face of the quill mates to the face of the shaft, there can be runout-how would you recommend “adjusting” it?

  7. Bruce Northrup says:

    Hello Louis. You are limited in what can be done, but here are a few thoughts:
    1) make sure everything is perfectly clean on all surfaces
    2) use a dial indicator to check runout when it is “snug” but before it is fully tightened.
    3) lightly tap the quill on the “high” spot, then tighten the rest of the way

  8. TODD HEATH says:

    Would you be able to offer a recommendation for the torque tightness required?

    • Bruce Northrup says:

      Hello Todd.
      due to the variety of different thread sizes and materials used for quills, we do not have a standard torque spec. We therefore advise our customers to check with their spindle manufacturer.
      Thank you.

  9. PRABHAKARAN says:

    Hello sir, How you balance quill and how we can ensure quill is balanced or not.

    • Bruce Northrup says:

      Hello.
      Many of the quills we manufacture are ground to very tight tolerances and may not require balancing. We test them on a small balancing machine, specifically designed for this task. If balancing is required we remove a small amount of material on the shoulder of the quill. For steel, these “balancing marks” show up as small circular holes (drill point). For carbide, we grind small flats on the shoulder.

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