The productivity of a machining centre is increased by using standard elements of the Lang modular automation system, available from workholding solution provider Thame Workholding. This system, based on patented 'positive lock technology', requires just 2 to 3 mm of clamping depth on a square or rectangular workpiece to provide what is described as 'the maximum holding power at minimum clamping force'. Advantages resulting from this innovative method of fixturing include material savings due to minimal wastage; fast set-up; and unrestricted access for five-face machining, which facilitates the use of short cutting tools. In addition, this modular system offers an inexpensive route to unmanned operation during evening hours and weekends. A specific pattern of indentations is stamped into two opposite sides of a workpiece, a process that takes between three to five seconds using either a bench- or trolley-mounted unit with a maximum between-jaws clamping range of 355 mm. The stamped workpiece can then be positioned (and, if required, re-positioned to an accuracy of +/-0.02 mm) in a Makro Grip centre vice, the jaws of which have a matching pattern of holding teeth. The Makro Grip vice is equipped with precision clamping studs, for precise zero point location on a 27 mm-deep Quick Point pallet. This is one of the lowest zero point clamping pallets on the market, with clamping of the vice instigated mechanically or pneumatically, via a single tightening screw. The workpiece can then be transferred via an integral vertical elevator into an Eco Tower, a space-saving vertical configuration magazine capable of storing up to 120 Quick Point pallets. Stored pallets slide down the Eco Tower's spiral chute under gravity, the number of spirals determining the unit's storage capacity, and are transferred, as required, to the designated machine tool by an Eco Feed handling unit. This can be fitted with either a uni-axial gripper or, as an option, with a 90º swivel gripper. The floor-mounted Eco Tower and Eco Feed units, can be sited to provide either a front or side entry load/unload capability for various makes and models of machining centre, such as, the Mazak Variaxis 730-5X, Hurco VMX-1, Chiron FZ 12K S, Hermle C 800 U, Deckel Maho DMU 50 and XYZ 710 VMC. An alternative to the Eco Tower is the Eco Compact, which is the latest addition to the Lang system and a cost-effective load/unload option specifically designed for small batch production. The Eco Compact features a horizontal indexing table capable of holding up to ten Quick Point pallets that are accessed by an integrated Eco Feed handling unit. Whatever the eventual configuration of a Lang modular automation system, the low pneumatic drive forces involved mean that no housing, enclosure or other form of man/machine safety barrier is required. This gives the operator complete freedom to access any part of the working environment around the machine tool.