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Creating Predictable, Productive Processes With Industrial AM

Creating Predictable, Productive Processes With Industrial AM

The recent emergence of the term additive manufacturing (AM) bears witness to an ongoing transformation in the use of additive technologies, away from low volume 3D printing and towards series manufacturing. This article by Renishaw explores the drivers behind this trend to industrial AM, and the technical developments that will be critical success factors in this transition.

What do we mean by industrial AM? Firstly, we are talking about a factory floor process rather than one that is used in the research lab or tool room, in which the focus is on making parts for series production rather than prototypes or tooling. Here, our goal is to use the unique capabilities of AM to maximise product performance, rather than merely to compress manufacturing lead times.

The outputs of an industrial AM processes are consistent, qualified parts that exhibit high integrity and that are suited to a long service life, rather than shapes for modelling or evaluation. Materials are chosen for their strength and integrity rather than their cosmetic appearance or ease of processing.

And finally, we need to consider far more than just the 3D printing aspect of an industrial AM process, extending our thinking to include the entire process chain that is necessary to design, build, finish and verify the AM products:

  • From research lab onto the factory floor
  • From prototypes and tooling to series production
  • From time compression to higher product performance
  • From shapes to consistent, qualified parts
  • From plastics to high performance alloys
  • From 3D printing to an integrated production process

Drivers For Industrialisation

In previous articles we introduced a staircase model of AM deployment which shows the progression that many firms go through in their use of AM. The higher staircase levels involve more sophisticated design for AM (DfAM) practices.

As you climb the staircase you use more and more capabilities of AM to create increasingly valuable products. The lower steps are primarily about production benefits such as time compression, tooling elimination and minimal material waste. As you move up through part consolidation and into DfAM optimised parts, your focus increasingly shifts to the impact that AM can have on product performance and the lifetime benefits that accrue as a result.

For more information about the capabilities of AM and their impact on product design, refer to the previous posts Additive impact part #1 and Additive impact part #2.

So, the value of industrial AM lies more in the product than in the production process. It is these product performance benefits that will ultimately drive the industrialisation of AM.

By creating products that perform in new and better ways, or by using AM to deploy new business models that provide a superior service to customers, we will create the value that will justify investment in AM processes and factories.

This industrialisation will apply in many fields, and not just in early-adopter sectors such as aerospace and medical devices. Look out for lightweight, efficient, attractive and customised AM products in many other markets, including consumer products.

Integrated Manufacturing Process Chains

I have said earlier that for an industrial AM process, we must consider more than just the additive process step. To be useful, every manufacturing process needs an effective chain of tools that work together to design, prepare, produce, control and verify the output.

AM is not an island: producing near-net shape parts is nowhere near enough when you’re looking in a production context. Anyone who promises that AM can make you anything you want is not telling the whole truth – few parts on exhibition booths are in the raw state that they emerged from the AM machine.

So, AM must be underpinned by an effective process chain with user-friendly design tools and a range of postprocessing and metrology activities before the parts it makes can be used in anger. Information must flow up and down the chain to link processes together, with control loops being used to minimise process variation:

Process chains of this type are now emerging, although the tools involved are not yet integrated and mature. A good example of this is the work that we have done with Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing to develop a manifold component for the £80m America’s Cup sailboat. The video below explains how the manifold is designed, as well as the chain of processes that are necessary to build, gauge, finish and inspect it.

Future Process Chains

The ideal process chain for industrial AM will start with CAD tools that are optimised for AM part design – an area of high focus for the CAD sector just now. Parts will be designed for AM from the ground up, rather than undergoing an adaptation process from a conventional design as something of an afterthought.

We also need close links between CAD and the world of AM build file preparation and post-process development. Our process development thinking must include optimisation across all the steps in the process chain, so that we don’t minimise costs in the build only to see them rise again in complex or manual finishing processes.

As it is in all manufacturing processes, metrology is the ‘golden thread’ through this process, transferring datums, providing feedback and verifying conformance. At each link in the chain, process controls act to minimise variation and deliver predictable outcomes

  • CAD tools optimised for AM part design
  • Integrated build file preparation and post-process development
  • Metrology as a ‘golden thread’ through the process
  • Process controls to minimise variation at each link in the chain

Productive AM processes

Successful industrial processes are productive and predictable. Variation is the enemy of productivity and it can be squeezed out through rigorous control of the environment, inputs, set-up and operation of each process step.

We are used to taking this approach with conventional manufacturing processes such as machining. This rigour underpins the automated factories that produce everything from the sleek phone in your pocket, to the fuel-efficient car you drive and the reliable aircraft that you fly in.

Renishaw uses a framework that it calls the Productive Process Pyramid to identify and control manufacturing process variation. Well-proven in the metal cutting arena, it applies equally to industrial AM. It comprises four layers:

Process foundation – Preventative controls applied in advance to ensure that process inputs and the operating environment are consistent.

Process setting – Predictive controls applied just before processing to ensure that the machine is ready to make good parts.

In-process control – Active controls applied during the process itself to monitor and respond to drift and unexpected errors.

Post-process verification – Informative controls applied after manufacturing is complete to verify the integrity of the output.

Summary

Additive manufacturing’s development from a prototyping technology into a mainstream production process will be driven by applications that make use of AM’s capability to produce high-performing products that cannot be made any other way.

Capable production processes will be supported by chains of tools that span the entire production process from design to verification, not just the AM process step. And industrial AM processes will be underpinned by layers of control that minimise variation and certify AM production quality.

With all this in place, AM can take its rightful place in the family of advanced manufacturing technologies used for series production.

 

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EOS Presents New Materials And Processes For Series Additive Manufacturing

EOS Presents New Materials and Processes for Series Additive Manufacturing

EOS presents four new metal materials—EOS StainlessSteel CX, EOS Aluminium AlF357, EOS Titanium Ti64 Grade 5, and EOS Titanium Ti64 Grade 23. They have been tailored to suit a broad array of applications, ranging from automotive to medical applications.

The company offers comprehensive data on the material properties of all four metals—such as the number of test specimens on which the mechanical properties are based on—as well as detailed scanning electron microscope (SEM) images that provide an insight into the material quality. Thus, this documentation and transparency makes it easier for them to compare DMLS 3D printing with traditional manufacturing technologies and other 3D printing technologies. Such data and openness are a requirement for the use of additive manufacturing (AM) in series production.

Hannes Gostner, Director Research and Development, EOS said: “At EOS, the development of systems, materials, process parameters, software, and services have always gone hand in hand. All of the elements are perfectly aligned to each other. The result is reproducible high-quality parts at a competitive cost per part. This combination is of crucial importance, particularly for series manufacturing.”

The New Metal Materials In Detail

EOS StainlessSteel CX is a new tooling grade steel developed for production with the EOS M 290 that combines excellent corrosion resistance with high strength and hardness. Components made from this material are easy to machine and enable an excellent polished finish.

EOS Aluminum AlF357 is the ideal material for applications that require a light metal with excellent mechanical/thermal strength. Components made from this material are characterised by their light weight, corrosion resistance and high dynamic loading. EOS Aluminum AlF357 has been specially developed for production with the EOS M 400, but it is planned to also make the material available for the EOS M 290 system in the near future.

EOS Titanium Ti64 Grade 5 has been specially developed for its high fatigue strength without hot isostatic pressing (HIP). Suitable for production with the EOS M 290, the material also offers excellent corrosion resistance, making it ideal for aerospace and automotive applications.

EOS Titanium Ti64 Grade 23 has also been specially developed for its high fatigue strength without hot isostatic pressing (HIP) and for production with the EOS M 290. Compared to Ti64, Ti64 Grade 23 offers improved elongation and fracture toughness with slightly lower strength. Thanks to these properties, it is particularly well suited to medical applications.

Reliable Component Characteristics As Basis For Series AM

The technological maturity of all its polymers, metals, and processes are classified in the form of Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs). The TRL concept was developed by NASA and is established in numerous industries. Level 5, for example, refers to a verification of the technical solution, while the highest, level 9, refers to full production capability with extensive statistical data documentation. With validated parameters for part properties, the company is both facilitating and accelerating the transition to series production using additive manufacturing.

Furthermore, for easy orientation, materials and processes are divided into two categories: TRL 3–6 refer to CORE products, whereas TRL 7–9 refer to PREMIUM products and address the usage for series applications. One of the aims here is to make new materials available on the market with a clear value proposition.

The new materials belong to the following categories:

  • EOS StainlessSteel CX: Premium, TRL 8
  • EOS Aluminium AlF357: Premium, TRL 7
  • EOS Titanium Ti64 Grade 5: Premium, TRL 7
  • EOS Titanium Ti64 Grade 23: Premium, TRL 7

 

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Tools For Large Part Manufacturing

Tools For Large Part Manufacturing

In principle, machining large parts involves the same cutting action and chip formation process as for small or mid-size parts. However, large dimensions demand a specific approach to machining, and manufacturers need to plan technological processes and choose more effective cutting tools in order to produce heavy parts that take up a great deal of space. Article by Andrei Petrilin, Technical Manager, ISCAR.

Transporting a part inside a shop floor, mounting the part in a machine tool and clamping it properly, and machine setup are major challenges. Workholding massive and large parts is not an easy task, and often requires non-standard solutions. Machining large parts involves removing a lot of material that may cause significant deformations due to unrelieved stresses. Another factor, which leads to dimensional problems, is thermal expansion caused by heat generation during cutting: the large sizes make it much more sensitive comparing with “normal-in-size” workpieces. The necessity to remove a significant material stock requires appropriate chip evacuation to prevent the chip re-cutting, which negatively affects the applied cutting tools.

The key for overcoming the difficulties lies in technology, based on effective process planning and utilizing the most suitable machine tools, optimal workholding, and minimal part relocation. Single setup machining represents an absolute ideal for machining a large part, and producers from fields such as  power generation, aerospace , railway,  die and mold making, and heavy industry make every effort to approach this ideal. And cutting tools play a meaningful role towards reaching the target.

A distinct feature of these industries is their substantial consumption of large heavy-duty tools, mostly indexable, intended for productive removal of large quantities of material, especially in rough and semi-rough machining operations.

Large part manufacturers expect the same from cutting tools as any other producer using metal cutting technologies: excellent performance, good tool life, and high reliability.  The latter two are especially essential because the large sizes lead to increased machining time, but replacing a worn tool in the middle of a pass and unpredictable breakage of the tool during cutting are totally unacceptable. In order to maximally meet the requirements of large part manufacturers, cutting tool producers provide various solutions, based on both standard and special designs.  As a leading company in the cutting tool industry, ISCAR’s years of accumulated knowhow and experience have proved to be advantageous in developing efficient solutions to these challenges.

 

Figure 1

Heavy-Duty Facing

It is hard to machine a large part without face milling operations. Rough and fine machining of free and bounded planes and preparing datum surfaces require various indexable face mills. ISCAR’s standard face mills possess nominal diameters up to 315 mm (12″), while special tailor-made tools might feature higher values. The inserts are mounted in face mills and vary in cutting geometry as they are intended for machining different groups of material. Significant removal of machining stock by milling is primarily an issue for the production of large parts from steel and cast iron and, slightly less, from titanium and aluminum.

ISCAR’s line of standard face mills includes many tool families for large part manufacturing. HELITANG T465 features cutters with a 65° cutting edge angle and carrying tangentially clamped inserts. The robust design enables productive machining with a depth of cut up to 19 mm (.750″). The HELIDO 890 family features 89° face mills with lay-down square double-sided inserts (Fig. 1). These efficient mills, which are truly indispensable in milling a plane near the shoulder, offer an important economic advantage: the square inserts provide eight indexable cutting edges for depth of cut up to 9 mm (.354″).

 

Figure 2

Extended Flute, Extended Effect

Indexable extended flute “long-edge” cutters are considered as winning tools for productive rough milling. In manufacturing large parts, they excel in machining deep shoulders and cavities. Extended flute cutters are also utilised in “edging” – milling wide straight edges, an operation which is common for various processes from machining slabs and ingots to primary contouring.

ISCAR’s line of indexable extended flute cutters varies in design configuration, integrating a shank- and arbour-type mounting method and a radial or tangential insert clamping principle. These tools work in hard cutting conditions and experience significant mechanical and thermal loading. Intensive material removal requires the appropriate volume of a tool chip gullet to ensure effective chip evacuation. The situation can be dramatically improved by applying ISCAR’s extended flute cutters carrying inserts with chip splitting geometry to divide a wide chip into small segments. As a result, cutting forces are reduced, vibrations are stabilized, and thermal problems are eased.

Although 90° tools are the most commonly used cutters, machining large parts also requires rough milling of inclined and 3D surfaces, for which ISCAR provides a family of tapered extended flute cutters with 22.5°- 75°cutting edge angles. In some cases, particularly in die and mold making, combined rough and shoulder milling is needed. The DROPMILL 3 extended flute ball nose mills were designed specifically for such applications.

Producing large-size aerospace components from hard-to-machine titanium alloys is an extremely metal-intensive process with a significant buy-to-fly ratio. The eventual weight of a part may be only 10%, or even less, of the original weight of a workpiece. The XQUAD extended flute cutter family, one of ISCAR’s newest products, is intended for high-efficiency milling of deep cavities and wide edges in titanium parts. These tools (Fig. 2) are suitable for machining with high pressure coolant supply, which significantly increases productivity and improves tool life. The tools have already proved themselves: for example, component producers have achieved a 700-1000 cm³/min (43-61 in³/min) metal removal rate (MRR) by using an 80 mm (3”) diameter XQUAD cutter.

In railway engineering, combine mills are used to ensure simultaneous machining on several areas of the part. These mills incorporate an extended cutting edge, formed by a set of successively mounted indexable inserts.

Figure 3

Productive fast runner

High efficiency machining by indexable extended flute cutters and large-diameter face mills can be likened to the work of a heavy excavator digging sand with a big bucket. The full sand bucket, operated by a powerful engine, slowly moves a large volume of waste material. At the same time, there is an alternative method for efficient excavating. Imagine a more compact track trencher with a rapidly moving digging chain. Each link of the chain removes a small volume of sand but does it fast. In metal cutting, this trencher is a high feed mill, which machines at shallow depths of cut but with a feed per tooth that is far higher than the usual rates – millimetres as opposed to tenths of millimetres.

Fast feed mills are applied mainly to rough machining of plane faces, cavities and 3D surfaces (Fig. 3). These tools are more typical in manufacturing large parts from steel and cast iron, although high feed milling (HFM) titanium and high temperature alloys is not uncommon today.

ISCAR has a wide choice of fast feed mill families, intended for cutting various materials in different applications. The “world” of ISCAR’s HFM cutters encompasses tool families in diameter ranges of up to 160 mm (6.3″) that can meet the requirements of the most demanding customer.

High feed milling requires machine tools with high-speed feed drive. Large part manufacturers often have heavy, powerful but slow machines that are not suitable for high feed face milling. For these customers, ISCAR developed moderate feed (MF) cutters.  Compared with fast feed mills, moderate feed cutters feature a higher cutting edge angle; they move slower but machine at higher depths and need more power to make them suitable for applying to heavy machines.

Large parts are often made from difficult-to-cut materials such as hard and high wear-resistant steel or cast iron. The welded part structure and the process of repairing worn parts by spraying fillers or soldering, add materials that are not easy-to-machine either. High speed milling (HSM) resolves these issues. Originally applied in die and mold making, high speed milling was developed as a productive method of milling hard steel that led to decreasing a part relocation, lessening setup, minimizing manual finish and polish, and, as a result, reducing cycle time. High speed milling features a small-in-diameter tool that rotates at high speed and mills material at shallow, light cuts.

The most suitable HSM tool is a solid carbide endmill and ISCAR’s MULTI-MASTER family of assembled endmills, which carry cemented carbide exchangeable heads, also represents a viable option. ISCAR’s line of solid carbide endmills offers various multi-flute tools in diameters of up to 20 mm (.750″), intended for high speed milling materials with hardness up to HRC 70. Decreasing machining allowances due to the production of more accurate workpieces for large parts, for example by using precise casting or molding, opens up new opportunities for high speed milling.

Figure 4

Exchangeable Heads Change The Dynamics

In many cases, manufacturing large parts is small-volume and even individual. In this context, minimizing machine tool downtime has critical importance. Intelligent process planning to considerably reduce setup time can help solve this issue. Each time a worn cutter is replaced, additional measuring and CNC program corrections are required, which increases downtime.

ISCAR’s families of rotating assembled tools with exchangeable heads – MULTI-MASTER mills and SUMOCHAM drills (Fig. 4) – enable substantial decreases in downtime. Face contact between a head and a tool body ensures that the head overhang is within strict tolerance limits, resulting in high dimensional repeatability of the assembly. Replacing a worn head does not require additional setup operations or removal of the tool from a machine.

Figure 5

U-Turn With Turn Milling

Turn milling, which is the method of cutting a rotating workpiece by a face milling cutter, is a good option for machining heavy rotary parts. In turning, the cutting speed is a function of rotating velocity. If the main drive of a machine tool does not allow rotation of large masses with the required velocity, due to limitations of its working characteristics, then the cutting speed is far from the optimal range and turning performance will be low. Turn milling offers an effective solution to the above difficulties. When turning large eccentric parts like crankshafts, off-centre masses of the parts cause unbalanced forces that adversely affect performance. Turn milling features low rotary velocity of a part, which prevents this negative effect (Fig. 5).

The majority of ISCAR’s indexable face-milling cutters are suitable for turn milling. The success of their application depends on cutter positioning with respect to the machined part, choosing optimal geometry of inserts,  and cutting data calculation. ISCAR’s specialists in the field studied turn-milling kinematics and developed an appropriate methodology for defining these parameters.

Reliable Performance

Machining large parts is a time-consuming process, during which the tools cut material for a long period, and this means that tool reliability, stability, and predictable wear are high priority issues. A sudden tool failure may seriously damage the part and even cause its rejection. A cutting tool manufacturer has a limited choice of instruments for improving reliability, including advanced tool design, progressive cutting material,  and technological development. Effective utilization of these instruments is the key to successful large part machining and ISCAR’s recently-introduced range of new tools and carbide grades provides that key.

 

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The Next Stage In The Evolution Of ISO Turning

The Next Stage In The Evolution Of ISO Turning

Ever smaller, ever lighter – many developments across vastly different industries are driven by the trend towards miniaturisation or lightweight construction. For mechanical engineering and suppliers, this results in entirely new challenges for metal machining.  Article by Walter AG.

Application example – impeller: The surfaces produced using the HIPIMS PVD process are extremely smooth. This reduces build-up on the cutting edge and the generation of heat thanks due to reduced friction. (Image Walter AG)

Even though it is most apparent in the field of communication and entertainment electronics, the trend towards miniaturisation is shaping many areas of industry: From the medical industry, to the automotive industry, right through to aircraft construction. For producers, this means that they must adapt their processes to increasing demands for dimensional stability and surface quality or even switch to new materials.

Particularly hard, but also particularly tough, materials (such as Inconel 718DA with 42 HRC in the aerospace industry or Ti-6Al-4V in the medical and food industry) have complex requirements for the indexable inserts during ISO turning. This is because tough materials have a high tendency for adhesion, especially when they have a high nickel content (Ni). This results in the chips sticking to the cutting edge forming a build-up on the cutting edge. The dimensional stability and the surface quality suffer. The fact that cutting edges become worn relatively quickly had to be accepted until now, especially in the case of high-strength materials.

During ISO turning operations with high to medium depths of cut, the CVD-coated indexable inserts which have previously dominated the market offer good to outstanding possibilities. However, they reach their limits in machining applications such as finishing and fine finishing, particularly where precision and tool life are concerned. This is where Walter’s machining specialists identified major potential for optimisation.

Gerd Kußmaul, Senior Turning Product Manager at Walter, describes the concept behind the new HIPIMS PVD-coated indexable inserts as follows: “Even if the fine finishing and finishing of ISO M, ISO S, ISO P and ISO N materials with the highest requirements for surface quality are still special or niche applications at the moment, we see great potential here due to dynamic growth in the market right now. Fine finishing involves turning operations which are designed to achieve a consistently good surface quality. This is in the range from Rz 1.6 µm to Rz 6.3 µm – throughout the entire tool life of the indexable insert. This is why for some time Walter has been looking for geometries and cutting tool materials that achieve this with process reliability. The new PVD HIPIMS coatings demonstrate ideal properties for achieving this with their extremely smooth surface and great layer adhesion on sharp cutting edges.”

Innovative Coating Technology To Ensure Best Performance

Walter is one of few indexable insert manufacturers to perform the new PVD HIPIMS process in-house and continuously expand the application possibilities with a dedicated PVD development team. HIPIMS stands for “High Power Impulse Magnetron Sputtering”. In contrast to conventional DC sputtering processes, the HIPIMS process involves subjecting the targets to short pulses of a few kilowatts of power. This produces a plasma density of 1013 ions per cubic centimetre, which have a high content of target metal ions. The bonding of the layers to the substrate is also excellent.

Indexable inserts with extremely sharp geometries, such as the FN2 or the MN2 “Aluminium geometry”, benefit from this coating process in particular because extremely stable cutting edges are produced. Even under high loads, the layers do not chip off and the cutting edges do not break away. In addition, the high level of edge stability ensures that the cutting edge is not only subjected to less wear, but that this wear also occurs evenly. The even wearing ensures dimensional stability and defined surface quality, even right up to the end of the tool life. Another advantage of the HIPIMS process is that the coatings are extremely smooth making them ideal for machining sticky aluminium alloys, for example; materials which would otherwise stick to the cutting edge during machining now reliably glide over it. Typical forms of wear such as built-up edges or significant flank face wear caused by chemical and physical reactions with the adhering material rarely occur. Walter’s new HIPIMS PVD grades WNN10 and WSM01 also have a long tool life.

Finishing of Inconel 718 DA – 40 HRC with Vc: 80 m/min: With identical cutting data, the new HIPIMS PVD-coated DCGT11T304-FM2 WSM01
indexable insert increased the tool life from nine minutes to 18 minutes compared to the
DCGT11T304-PF2 WXN10 indexable insert and consistently achieved a surface quality
between Rz 2 and Rz 4 μm throughout the entire tool life. (Image: Walter AG)

Long Tool Life, Increased Machining Volumes

Since the launch in 2017, sales for the HIPIMS PVD indexable inserts has grown consistently. Walter is pleased with the positive response from many customers who have already made the change from the previous WXN10 or WK1 cutting tool materials to the PVD-coated WNN10 or WSM01 indexable inserts. Walter Product Manager Gerd Kußmaul reports: “There must be good reasons to change the cutting tool material in established processes. Among other factors, the outstanding results achieved by the new HIPIMS grades with regard to tool life and surface quality speak in their favour. This is clear to see from the comparative tests. For instance, when performing finishing operations on tool steel X40CRMoV5-1 (DIN1.2344) with 54 HRC, it was possible to increase the tool life by 275 percent. And the surface value of Ra 0.8 µm was achieved throughout the entire tool life with process reliability. Another application was finishing Inconel 718DA at a cutting speed of 80 m/min, with the new grade WSM01 and achieving a cutting time of 18 minutes. In comparison to this, the previous grade WXN10 was only able to achieve nine minutes. In addition, a consistently good surface quality between Rz 2 µm and Rz 4 µm was achieved throughout the entire tool life.”

Process Reliability And Cost Reduction

Walter’s new HIPIMS PVD indexable inserts have potential to be effectively used anywhere that maximum precision, surface quality and process reliability are required. At the same time, these inserts have a positive effect on costs because the HIPIMS PVD coating, in conjunction with a carbide substrate, results in a cutting tool material that offers a long tool life with consistently high machining quality right to the very end. This is especially true for difficult machining steps such as fine finishing and for very sticky materials such as aluminium alloys with a high silicon content. In fact, the tool life and surface quality differences compared to previous indexable inserts are so significant that they result in a noticeable cost reduction in production.

In comparative tests, Walter achieved
a 73 percent increase in tool life quantity with
the WNN10 indexable inserts (compared
with previous cutting tool materials) for
machining red bronze. (Image: Walter AG)

Optimal Surface Quality When Finishing And Roughing

Walter developed the new WNN10 grade for finishing and roughing of ISO N materials such as aluminium-, copper- and magnesium-based alloys. The indexable inserts are available in two geometries. The FN2 geometry with 18° rake angle is ideal for finishing operations and for long, thin shafts that tend to vibrate. The MN2 geometry with 25° rake angle can be used universally for medium machining of non-ferrous metals.

The new grade WSM01 is available in the FM2, MM4 and MN2 positive geometries and in the MS3, NMS and NRS negative geometries. Its main area of application is finishing and medium machining of nickel- and cobalt-based high-temperature alloys (ISO S) but it is also used with stainless materials (ISO M) such as austenitic stainless steel 1.4301, 1.4404 or duplex steel 1.4462. It is used, for example, for machining engine components in the aerospace industry or for producing surgical instruments in the medical industry. Its applications also include machining stainless steels or hard turning tool steel such as X40CrMoV5-1 with 54 HRC. To summarise, it can be said that the new HIPIMS PVD grade WSM01 is the ideal solution for fine finishing of hard materials.

 

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Global Metal Cleaning Equipment Market To Reach US$ 1.75B By 2027

Global Metal Cleaning Equipment Market To Reach US$ 1.75B By 2027

The global metal cleaning equipment market is forecast to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.75 percent from 2018 to 2027, to reach a value of US$ 1.75 billion at the end of the forecast period, according to a report released by Transparency Market Research. In terms of volume, the market stood at around 1.24 million units in 2017. Metal cleaning equipment are used to decontaminate metal parts or metal pieces which helps manufacturing industries—such as aerospace and defence, general manufacturing, and automotive—to ensure safety, reliability, and top performance in their products.

From a regional perspective, Asia Pacific is expected to witness the highest growth rate during the forecast period both in terms of value and volume, mainly driven by the increasing manufacturing activity breakthrough for metal cleaning equipment in Japan, China, and India.

In terms of chemical type, the aqueous metal cleaning segment is anticipated to gain the largest share with total value of US$ 506.8 million by 2027, reflecting a CAGR of four percent annually. However, stricter implementation of environmental and workforce safety regulations are the major challenges restraining the growth of the market. Nevertheless, the growing manufacturing sector in the Asia Pacific region is expected to boost the market.

By washing type, the vapour phase metal cleaning equipment segment accounted for a relatively smaller market share in terms of both value as well as volume, as the adoption is not as much as the pickling/immersion type. The vapour phase metal cleaning segment is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 3.9 percent to reach US$ 503.1 million by 2027.

In terms of technology, the open tank multistage segment is anticipated to reach US$ 582.2 million by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 3.9 percent. Open tank multistage segment is estimated to be the fastest growing segment during the forecast period due to the benefits of having all the stages involved in the cleaning process—such as washing and drying—in one equipment, leading to cost savings as well as process streamlining.

 

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Intelligent Tools To Shape A Smart Manufacturing Ecosystem

Intelligent Tools to Shape a Smart Manufacturing Ecosystem

Every company requires unique automation solutions for their specific production environment, but businesses can’t redesign facilities for every different process and application. In this article, Niels Ole Sinkbæk Sørensen, General Manager, OnRobot, APAC, explores why it is crucial that companies choose the optimal set of robot accessories to maximise the automation value.

It is crucial that companies choose the optimal set of robot accessories to maximise the automation value. The appropriate accessories can help turn the entire production lifecycle into a seamless process, from purchase and installation to operations and redevelopment.

End-of-arm tooling devices, or EOAT, are usually fitted at the end of a robotic arm to perform a range of tasks. Robot grippers, for instance, can deftly handle various materials, while robust sensors generate alarms to correct a robot’s positioning. Tool changers allow for quick and easy switching from one tool to another. When fitted with these advanced tools, robots become intelligent objects capable of sensing, acting and behaving within smart manufacturing environments.

New-age intelligent robot accessories offer the innovation, expertise and precision that smart manufacturing requires. These technologies, however, are also changing the economics of manufacturing, e-commerce and agriculture as these industries increasingly leverage EOAT’s built-in technology and intelligence to considerably reduce production costs and efforts.

The RG2-FT intelligent gripper.

Increasing Cobots Adoption In Southeast Asia

The global automotive industry is projected to invest US$470 million in collaborative robots (cobots) by 2021, while electronics will invest approximately US$475 million in cobots. Southeast Asia, a powerhouse for the automotive and electronics industries, is increasingly adopting cobots and other lightweight industrial robots to stay ahead of the curve. With increasing robot adoption across the region, demand for modern EOATs will automatically rise, making collaborative automation easy for industries from electronics and automotive to agriculture, carrying out pick and place, machine tending, packaging, testing and other tasks.

Singapore has a strong track record of encouraging companies to adopt smart tools to drive favourable production outcomes and facilitate workforce upskilling.

However, there are still concerns regarding the lower skills level of workers in other Southeast Asian countries. In Thailand, 83.5 percent of the labour pool is unskilled. Meanwhile in Malaysia, low-skilled jobs were 90 percent of the labour market in 2018. EOAT’s smart features, ‘plug and play’ integration and user-friendly design enable even those with no robot programming background to automate applications. This will help existing workers adapt to the new technology easily and address the skills gap in the region.

EOAT for Faster and Smarter Automation Adoption

EOAT enables businesses to take on new applications because robots are more efficient when accessorised with EOAT for custom-tailored solutions. EOAT has a great influence on the robot’s performance and flexibility. In fact, automation process efficiency largely depends on the grippers and other intelligent tools that interface with the robot.

Modern grippers and power sensors show that the potential of intelligent robot accessories is enormous.  With collaborative applications, businesses want more than just efficient automation from machines – they also want to access the robots remotely and diagnose problems online. Intelligent EOAT with smart hardware and software helps collect and analyse data to deliver feedback and increase capabilities.

With EOAT, machines will become more compact, smart and self-contained to efficiently run collaborative applications, which makes automation easier and more affordable for businesses.

Choosing the Right Robot Accessories

The tools and accessories fitted on and around robots make or break a robot’s effectiveness.

EOATs communicate two-way information exchanges between tools and robots that enable efficient operations and increase production. For example, some high-precision grippers use built-in technology that allows them to mimic human fingertips. These grippers are used in agriculture to pick and place herbs and other delicate items without damage.

OnRobot’s RG2-FT intelligent gripper, with its ground-breaking sense of sight and touch, is the world’s first intelligent gripper that can see and feel objects using built-in force, or torque sensing.

EOAT push the limits of human interaction – modern grippers are so sophisticated that they can even handle the fragile silicon wafers used in manufacturing computer processors. Force torque sensors help locate and detect an object’s presence for greater accuracy. These grippers are used in those manufacturing processes that require the application of a precise force to achieve high-quality results.

Such applications as surface finishing, packaging and palletising, machine tending, and assembly not only require precision, but also the ability to customise tasks based on batch size and subsequent necessities. This unique capability has also allowed enterprises of all sizes to introduce the right EOATS into their production line.

Modern Industrial Landscapes Require Application-Focused Solutions

Businesses that continue using traditional methods, such as fabricating unique tools for specific manufacturing tasks, are at a significant disadvantage because of the high cost and inflexible nature of this approach. In comparison, grippers, sensors and other flexible application-focused solutions can be customised to handle different shapes, sizes and materials. According to a recent release, material-handling contributed to nearly 42 percent of the robotics EOAT market share in 2018 – the largest of any segment.

These flexible, highly versatile tools can be seamlessly integrated into multiple production environments. Their adjustable features, advanced technology and smooth assimilation will shorten production cycles and reduce downtime. This opens options to other hardware solutions, reducing the cost of robotic solutions and lowering barriers to automation. Ultimately, EOATS will save money.

A Complete Solution

As technology continues driving transformation across industries, companies must consider automation to reduce costs and improve operational flexibility.  To achieve this, robotic accessories need to be smarter as they are crucial in carrying out collaborative applications. Bringing intelligent technologies and tools to the forefront allows companies to meet the growing need for industrial mechanisation – and with a shorter learning curve, this empowers all enterprises to dream big with automation.

 

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Benefits Of Improved Multisensor Measurement

Benefits Of Improved Multisensor Measurement

Multisensor systems have evolved considerably over the years as the component technologies for motion control, optics, lighting and cameras have improved. Tim Sladden, Quality Vision International, tells us more.

Multisensor coordinate measuring machines that combine vision, touch and laser sensors have been used in manufacturing quality control for nearly 20 years. Many still recall the early days of multisensor systems when the primary sensor worked well, but the additional sensors – sometimes added almost as an afterthought, offered limited capability and poor accuracy.

Today’s multisensor systems have advanced to the point that all sensors now offer full capability and accuracy. Limitations inherent in earlier designs have been removed through more careful integration of the sensors with the measuring axes.

Improvements in the metrology software are the greatest enabler of comprehensive multisensor capability. Measuring software has evolved in ways that allow each sensor to be truly integrated and measure with consistent uncertainty at all times.

Along the way the economic benefits of multisensor measurement systems have become clear: reduced capital and calibration expenses, shorter learning cycles, added flexibility and convenience, and most important – lower overall uncertainty in the measurements.

Figure 1

Manufacturing Processes Improved

To highlight the full range of capabilities of today’s multisensor measuring systems, let’s look at three types of parts and how their manufacturing processes have been improved by using multisensor measurement.

In Figure 1, we see a femoral implant being measured with a calliper. This is not that simple orthopaedic implants are among the most complex-shaped devices being machined today – there is simply no way to measure the critical dimensions and form of these parts with a single sensor system.

For starters, the highly polished surfaces of knee implants are extremely sensitive. Even casual contact by a tool or gauge could damage the surface finish, causing friction that could lead to improper fit and ultimately pain in the patient receiving the implant. To measure these parts, a variety of non-contact or minimally invasive tools – vision optics, lasers or very light contact probing force – are needed.

More importantly, femoral implants consist of a series of curves controlled by profile tolerances, each of which is simultaneously constrained by the material condition of one or more datum features. These geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) conventions enable the designer to specify the form of the part exactly, but make verifying the part a challenge. To properly measure this part, the measurement points must be collected, and then fitted to the CAD model in their entirety in order to ensure all material conditions are properly evaluated. Data from tactile, scanning, laser and optical sensors needs to be integrated with the CAD model, and powerful software is needed to perform the GD&T evaluation.

Modern System

Enter the modern multisensor system. A system with telecentric optics, through-the-lens laser, and a micro-scanning probe can measure the outside dimensions, profiles and curves without damaging the part, and compare the data directly to the CAD model.

The manufacturer of this part faced high re-work and scrap rates, in spite of careful machining, polishing and measurement. Compounding the issue were disputes about dimensional conformance between different measurement techniques.

Multisensor measurement solved the first problem, by accurately measuring the critical features without damaging the part. True multisensor software enabled the data to be fitted to the CAD model and applied the GD&T standards properly.

This combination enabled the manufacturer to eliminate disputes about measurement accuracy between different gages, and ultimately reduce the number of finishing steps needed to produce the part to customer specs. All of which reduced scrap and re-work costs substantially.

Our next example is a large casting with a variety of machined surfaces, mounting holes and bearing ways on each of its four sides. This part has more than 50 discrete dimensions that must be controlled to ensure fit and function within the assembly it is part of. Many of these dimensions relate to datums on opposite or adjacent sides of the part. Ideally, the part would be measured in one set-up, without having to re-stage the part to enable measurement of all its surfaces.

While access and tolerance issues make a tactile scanning star probe (Figure 2) the ideal sensor for the bearing tracks, other features such as the small blind holes on the adjacent face are best measured using video, while surface flatness measurements on the mating surfaces are best made using a laser. The custom made flip fixture in this photo automatically indexes the part to present each side to the sensor array for measurement. This casting is a component in a complex assembly that relies on machined-in precision for the reliability of the overall mechanism. Thus, measurement is critical to the overall quality of the end-product.

For the maker of this part, multisensor measurement offered a number of benefits. Most significant was the time savings of being able to confirm all dimensions on one system, rather than having to program, stage and measure on several different systems, then combine and compare the data to determine if the part met spec. Another significant benefit is that the multisensor system offered the same uncertainty regardless of the sensor used.

In our third example, we see another complex machined casting – in this case, hydraulic transmission housing. This part presents a challenge to measure in a single set-up. Not only are there dimensions along the outer stems and top flange, there are dimensions on the seal surface and spline more than six inches deep inside the part. To access all these features in one orientation, long working distance optics and a LWD laser are needed to reach features at the bottom, as well as scanning probe capability to measure inside dimensions on the stems and interior profile.

Once again, the combination of scanning probe, laser and video measurement makes quick work of measuring this complex part. The laser quickly gathers a large pattern of data from the mating surface on the top flange. Flatness on this seal surface is critical. The scanning probe measures the interior profile in several locations, as well as the inside diameters of the in-flow and out-flow stems to calculate interior volume and flow rate characteristics. The long working distance laser also reaches to the boss on the inside of the spline for a flatness measurement, and long working distance optics quickly measure the gear teeth and ball bearing positions in the ball spline.

Each of these three examples illustrates the value inherent in a high quality multisensor measurement:

In all cases, it was possible to measure the entire part on one measuring system – saving the cost of buying and maintaining multiple measuring systems, and eliminating the differences in uncertainty between differing measurement technologies.

The range of sensors available enabled the key dimensions to be measured using the best sensor type for the feature without compromising efficiency or accuracy. Deployable and long working distance sensors help eliminate interference between sensors and minimise offsets that use up valuable measuring range.

 

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Femtosecond Lasers For Unmatched Micromachining

Femtosecond Lasers for Unmatched Micromachining

Klaus Kleine and Michael LaHa of Coherent Inc review a new type of cutting laser, the ultra-short pulse (USP) industrial laser, which can cut feature sizes of tens of microns, with virtually no heat affected zone.

There is an increasing need to produce high precision, miniaturised components across several industries such as medical devices, automotive manufacturing and microelectronics. In many cases, traditional cutting methods cannot deliver the required combination of feature resolution and cut quality for these applications. Even lasers, which have historically offered the highest level of cutting precision, sometimes produce an unacceptably large heat affected zone (HAZ), that is, a region where melting or microcracking in surrounding material degrades part quality and/or performance. This article explores a new type of cutting laser, the ultra-short pulse (USP) industrial laser, which can cut feature sizes of tens of microns, with virtually no HAZ, and presents some specific examples of the use of this technology in medical device manufacturing.

Figure 1: Laser micromachining; in drilling, cutting and texturing applications, the use of lasers with shorter pulse widths avoids some of the limitations associated with longer pulse widths, including thermal effects and recast debris and surface micro-cracking.

USP Laser Advantages

Most precision micromachining lasers have pulse durations of 40 to 60 nanoseconds (10-9 seconds).  But, when cut quality is of primary importance, such as for producing very smooth HAZ-free edges, or when processing thin or delicate substrates, these lasers are not always optimum.

In these cases, even shorter pulse durations, in the picosecond (10-12 seconds) realm, can offer superior results.  This is because with this very short pulse duration, this is an athermal process which doesn’t cause unwanted heat to spread into surrounding material and cause a HAZ. And, the fact that the ejected material consists of very small particles (eg: as atoms) means that picosecond laser pulses do not produce recast, therefore leaving clean, smooth surfaces.

USP lasers are typically characterized by much lower pulse energies than nanosecond lasers, but with very high pulse repetition rates – usually in the 1 to 50 MHz range. So, each pulse removes a minute amount of material with minimal thermal damage, enabling unmatched depth control. Yet, the high pulse repetition rate delivers sufficient overall material removal speeds for many tasks.

Figure 2: A nitnol stent, cut with the Coherent Monaco femtosecond laser, shown at two different magnifications.  Notice the precision, edge quality and clean smooth surfaces in each case.

Femtosecond Lasers

Recently, interest has grown in using lasers with even shorter pulsewidths, specifically in the femtosecond (10-15 seconds) domain. In medical device manufacturing in particular, three factors have driven this trend. The first is the growing need for increased miniaturization, superior edge quality and surface smoothness. The extremely short pulse duration of femtosecond lasers further increases the advantages of athermal processing described previously. This is particularly valuable when processing thin films and delicate materials where no HAZ can be tolerated.

A second reason is the increasing use of mixed and layered materials, eg: bioabsorbable plastics on metal, or polyimide on glass. Femtosecond lasers produce very high peak pulse powers, which, in turn, drive non-linear (multiphoton) absorption in the material. Unlike traditional (linear) absorption, this is less dependent upon wavelength; the femtosecond laser can process virtually any material, even if it is transparent, such as glass. This allows coated and laminated substrates to be processed in a single step, enabling streamlined and lower cost fabrication in many cases.

Finally, femtosecond lasers are becoming increasingly attractive to industrial users because of recent improvements in their performance, lifetime, reliability and cost of ownership characteristics. Originally, femtosecond lasers were used exclusively for scientific applications. But, in the last few years, femtosecond laser manufacturers like Coherent have implemented a new laser material, ytterbium-doped fibre, which is scalable to much higher power. And because the laser material is in the form of a fibre, this new generation of industrial femtosecond lasers has simpler internal design and construction, leading to lower costs and significantly increased reliability.

For example, the Monaco series from Coherent provides up to 60W of processing power in a compact (667 mm x 360 mm x 181 mm) sealed package, which, given its lower capital cost and increased reliability, makes femtosecond laser processing economically competitive for a host of enabling applications in a variety of industries.  Moreover, these capabilities these lasers bring are available at several levels of integration. Options include standalone lasers, laser sub-systems (light “engines”) with scanning/focusing optics, complete machines with integrated part handling, and even complete solutions with custom software pre-optimized for a specified set of results for particular applications.

Figure 3: Three examples of stainless steel surface texturing produced with the Coherent Monaco femtosecond laser.

Cutting Precision Medical Devices

Many medical devices are formed from tubular blanks; common tasks are to make cylindrical cuts as well as produce intricate patterns for cardiovascular and peripheral stents. Testing has shown that femtosecond laser cutting delivers superior feature consistency and residual strength. For this application, the laser is typically integrated in a workstation in which the blank is mounted to a moving stage with 4-axes of motion, (three translation and one rotation). The use of a femtosecond laser allows for kerf cutting of tube stock or flat stock material with micrometre-scale precision and tolerances. Processing is sometimes accompanied by high-pressure co-axial assist gas to help remove vaporised ablation debris when cutting thicker-walled materials.

For surface texturing of contoured materials, such as catheter balloons, or surface ablation of flat stock materials such as stainless steel, another approach is used. Here, a 2D scanner workstation is usually the optimum solution, employing a high-speed 2-axis galvanometer scanner to cover a 20cm radius. The use of a femtosecond laser enables highly precise results with sub-micrometre depth control.

Yet another approach has been optimized to perform tasks such as precision hole drilling in irrigated ablation tip catheters with controlled wall taper, precision placement of slots and grooves, or to create complex shapes in tubes or flat stock material. In this case, the workstation contains a 5-axis trepanning scan head with co-axial assist gas along with a 5-axis motion control system. Again the femtosecond laser provides sub-micrometre dimensional precision and clean surfaces with typically no need for post-processing.

Conclusion

Many industries face a challenge to produce ever smaller and more precise components, while simultaneously reducing cost. Ultra-short pulse laser micromachining supports this trend in several ways, since it naturally delivers small features without damaging, heating, cracking or otherwise affecting the bulk material, while its minimisation of debris and recast material almost completely eliminates the cost of post-processing cleaning.

 

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Philippines Starts Construction Of First 3D Printing R&D Centre

Philippines Starts Construction of First 3D Printing R&D Centre

The Philippines will soon have its 3D printing R&D institution as construction is underway for the Advanced Manufacturing Centre (AMCen). Spearheaded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the centre is aimed at promoting research and development in additive manufacturing (AM), commonly known as 3D printing technology.

AMCen will feature two state-of-the-art research facilities that will focus on additive manufacturing R&D. AM allows rapid fabrication of various three-dimensional objects, ranging from small parts to automobile and aircraft, and even structures as big as bridges.

The DOST tapped Dr Rigoberto Advincula, a Balik Scientist and Case Western Reserve University professor,  as consultant for AMCen.

“The AMCen presents a unique position for the Philippines as it will be one of the first government-led centers in the ASEAN region that aspires to be a game-changer leading to Industry 4.0 goals,” said Dr Advincula.

With the support of DOST-PCIEERD (Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development), Dr Advincula will lead the development of the centre together with researchers from the DOST- Industrial Technology Development Institute and the DOST-Metals Industry Research and Development Centre.

AMCen is likewise seen to strengthen the country’s capabilities in 3D printing and advanced design and manufacturing in the following areas: aerospace and defence; biomedical and healthcare; printed electronics; agricultural machinery; and automotive.

 

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Zebra Technologies Celebrates 50 Years Of Innovating At The Edge

Zebra Technologies Celebrates 50 Years of Innovating at the Edge

Zebra Technologies Corporation celebrates its 50th anniversary as it continues to empower the front line of business. Since the inception of its first printing prototypes in the late 1960s, Zebra has evolved into a trusted advisor to its partners and customers based on its legacy of innovation to help digitally transform the enterprise.

“We are proud to celebrate our half century milestone with our customers across the retail/ecommerce, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, healthcare, government and other industries,” said Anders Gustafsson, Chief Executive Officer, Zebra Technologies. “While Zebra has changed its stripes over the years, we are well-positioned to accelerate our strategy. With our network of specialized partners, we will continue to deliver industry-tailored solutions at the enterprise edge where there is an amazing amount of new growth and opportunities.”

When Zebra and its partners deliver a performance edge to front-line employees, nurses spend more time at the bedside with a patient resulting in higher quality care, and retail associates check inventory and complete transactions without leaving the shopper’s side. When Zebra integrates mobile printing and data capture solutions with cross-technology indoor location solutions, manufacturing plants and distribution centres become smarter environments in which production, fulfilment and shipping efficiencies are dramatically increased.

“Asia Pacific is a very important region for Zebra. We anticipate strong growth owing to the rise of e-commerce, an increasingly connected workforce, and the confluence of Industry 4.0. The recent Intelligent Enterprise Index study Zebra conducted last year revealed an encouraging trend – companies in Asia Pacific are moving the needle in the deployment and investment of the Internet of Things,” said Ryan Goh, Vice-President and General Manager, Asia Pacific, Zebra Technologies. “In Asia, we are making waves in the areas of retail, transport, healthcare, logistics and manufacturing. Our momentum continues in 2019 as we pride ourselves with the broadest product portfolio of any other solutions provider in the industry.”

 

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