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Why Laser Tracker Technology Is More Efficient For Aluminium Extrusion Press Alignment

Using a laser tracker, a metrology engineer can quickly capture high tolerance dimensional measurements – including conventional level and square measurements. By Hubert Meagher, director of metrology services, OASIS Alignment Services LLC.

The misalignment of components within an aluminium extrusion press can cause significant issues such as inconsistent die performance, uneven wear, premature failure or excessive wear of dummy blocks, and in extreme cases, damaged and/or broken stems, containers and tie rods. Misalignment in the press not only causes equipment damage and increased downtime, product issues such as out-of-spec wall thickness and other product defects can occur leading to increased scrap levels, higher costs and ultimately, unhappy end customers.

Inspection & Alignment

For many years, aluminium extrusion press alignment was performed using traditional alignment methods such as machinist levels, trammel rods, plumb bobs, piano wires and optical tooling. Though these traditional methods and tools have stood the test of time and are still often used today, they can be limited and extremely time consuming (which means longer downtime!).

Fortunately, with the capabilities of the newer, innovative 3D metrology tools, such as laser trackers, the inspection and alignment of aluminium extrusion presses is much more efficient, quicker, and cost effective.

Laser trackers work exceptionally well for aluminium extrusion press alignment. Using a laser tracker, a metrology engineer can quickly capture high tolerance dimensional measurements – including conventional level and square measurements. Additionally, because laser trackers work seamlessly with metrology analysis software, data is presented in real-time, allowing for necessary adjustments to be made swiftly.

One of the problems associated with the maintenance or alignment of extrusion presses, is their operating temperature. Traditionally, a long cool-down period had to occur before an alignment could be performed.

Although extrusion presses still cannot be serviced while in operation, with laser trackers adapted with next-gen components, specifically the T-Probe technology used with the Leica AT960 laser trackers, metrology engineers can now attain measurements in hot areas that could not be measured before. This capability allows the manufacturers of aluminium extruded products to significantly reduce press downtime – one of the greatest benefits of using modern 3D metrology tools for press alignment.

More Than Replacements

Laser tracker technology can do more than replace traditional tooling and methods, using these instruments metrology engineers can inspect for:

  • Platen-to-platen vertical and horizontal offset
  • Platen-to-platen “twist”
  • Centreline coincidence of ram, container, and die
  • Travel profile of ram, crosshead, and stem
  • Ways wear and alignment
  • Container and die platen movement
  • Tie rod length
  • Tie rod extension under load
  • Dynamic movement of components
  • Foundation stability studies

About the author

Hubert Meagher, B. Eng, spent many years in the field as an alignment engineer specialising in precision measurement prior to his role as Director of Metrology Services at Oasis Alignment Services, LLC. He is an expert in using both optical tooling and portable metrology tools in manufacturing facilities.

Oasis Alignment Services LLC is North America’s largest provider of precision measurement, machine alignment, and maintenance/installation services.

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