The main driver of business sustainability goals is to make an impact on the wider world. Another benefit that is often overlooked is the economic value of implementing sustainable actions. Can businesses save money, while helping to protect the planet? Here, Sachin Pimpalnerkar, global segment manager for renewable energy at global engineering group, Sandvik, explains how Sandvik Machining Solutions (SMS) has optimised two crucial toolmaking technologies to achieve just that.
Almost everything made of metal is machined with an insert. The insert has to withstand extreme heat and force, so is made of some of the hardest materials in the world. Typically, an insert is made using 80 per cent tungsten carbide, renowned for its superior durability, and a metal matrix that binds the carbide grains together, where cobalt is the most common.
Tough components created to withstand some of the most intense working environments require manufacturing processes that are equally strenuous.
One of the most intense steps in tool insert manufacturing is the sintering process. After the carefully selected metal powders are milled and then pressed into shape, the inserts are very fragile. It is at this stage that the inserts are fused, or sintered, into solid pieces.
Sintering is not a quick process — but time is money. Keeping powerful furnaces in operation for many hours at a time uses up immense amounts of energy, but cutting corners and producing fragile inserts would be even more wasteful. If a reduction in energy consumption is to be made possible, it would require a reduction in cycle times without compromising product quality.
Teams at Dormer Pramet, part of the Sandvik Group, have successfully reduced the cycle time of their sintering process by almost 100 minutes. To achieve this reduction, Dormer Pramet engineers worked in close collaboration with research and development specialists from Sandvik Materials Technology (SMT) in Pune, India to redesign the gas flow passing through the charge of the sintering furnaces.
When machining ferrous materials such as cast iron or stainless steel, a coated insert is the favoured tool of choice. CVD coating involves placing tools into a chamber, which is pumped with gases at 950-1100 deg C. These gases react inside the heated chamber, depositing a thin layer onto each tool that reinforces its strength.
High temperatures are key to effective CVD coating, but maintaining them is an energy intensive process. How do we keep heat inside a building? We insulate it. To prevent heat from escaping CVD coating chambers, Dormer Pramet added new insulation onto the furnace’s coating. Trapping heat inside the chamber has shortened the cycle times of CVD reactors, and is estimated to lower emissions by 25 tonnes every year.
Combined, these two actions are calculated to not only reduce annual emissions by around 40 tonnes, but also save around 230,000 euros every year. Sustainable action will always focus on environmental improvement, but by implementing simple changes, manufacturers may also enjoy the business benefits that process evaluation can bring.
Metal Cutting Service relies on the KASTOwin for cutting demanding materials such as aluminium and titanium. Article by KASTO Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG.
Thanks to the new saws, MCS significantly increased its productivity and the quality of the sawn parts.
‘From a two-man company to a much sought-after service provider for industry and trade.’ This summarizes the success story of the California company Metal Cutting Service (MCS). In 1956, Milon Viel and his father-in-law, Ross Clarke, founded the company, which initially focused on the development and manufacture of aluminium window frames. Both men brought their aviation industry experience to the new company—and that would pay off later. MCS decided to specialize in cutting various materials exactly to customer specifications, especially for companies that did not have their own sawing capabilities, and this decision laid the foundation for the successful development of the company.
Today, MCS is a partner and supplier for many well-known manufacturers in the aerospace, defence, aluminium and steel distribution and semiconductor industries. The customers supply the materials to be cut, and they get them back exactly to their ordered specifications. Complex geometries and large dimensions are an MCS specialty: the company saws plate, bar, forging, and extrusions up to 50 inches (1,270 mm) thick and 700 inches (17,780 mm) long. The spectrum of materials ranges from plastics and acrylic materials to steel and special metals that are highly temperature-resistant.
Growing Demands – Also on Sawing Technology
The company has been based in the City of Industry, a suburb of Los Angeles, since 1975. Owner and president David Viel joined his father in 1977 and worked through college, coming on full time in 1981. David became president in 1993 when his father took semi-retirement to have more time for his hobbies. David’s expertise and industry knowledge first led him to research and purchase the first Kasto saw for MCS. But he was not alone in his desire to look for a new machine tool supplier.
“In the past, we mainly worked with multipurpose saws, so every machine basically did every job,” recalls plant manager Curt Steen, who has been with MCS since 1996. “As the requirements of our customers and the variety of their orders increased, however, we had to become more technically specialized, so we purchased different types of saws for the wide range of tasks we had to tackle.”
Steen also made a significant contribution to this development, since he worked with KASTO saws earlier in his career and greatly appreciated their performance. At MCS, he now played a decisive role in driving technological progress, relying on the machines of KASTO. In 2004, the company invested in the first KASTO saw, a KASTObloc U 5 log bandsaw. Five additional saws have been added since then. The latest additions to the MCS KASTO family are three bandsaws from the versatile KASTOwin line with cutting ranges of 18 and 22 inches (460 and 560 mm).
The KASTOwin line is designed for the serial and production sawing of solid materials, pipes and sections. With their broad range of standard equipment, these machines are suitable for a variety of tasks, and thanks to their sturdy construction, the saws are strong enough for their tough working life at MCS.
“We work up to six days a week, all year round in two shifts—and we have to process large and heavy parts,” says Steen. “So, I definitely say we are not known for being easy on our machines!”
The saws must also be suitable for operation with carbide blades to ensure a high level of productivity—and the KASTOwin also meets this requirement.
Bichamp Cutting Technology has grown from being a local player in Changsha, Hunan province in China, to a global player with operations stretching across the globe. Here’s one of the latest developments from the company to address the trend towards superalloys.
Established in 2003, Bichamp Cutting Technology (Hunan) Co. Ltd is one of the leading manufacturers of high performance bandsaw blades, with products ranging from bi-metal to carbide tipped bandsaw blades, for various industries.
Headquartered in Changsha in Hunan Province, China, the company is present in more than 40 countries through its business partners and appointed distributors, has more than 400 employees across the globe, and is listed at the stock exchange. Fuelled by a modern manufacturing facility utilizing the latest technologies, combined with experience and specialized technical knowledge, Bichamp aims to increase the efficiency and raise the productivity of its customers’ operations through its high-quality blades.
Bichamp’s ISO 9001 certificate represents the foundation of its ongoing activities and objectives to constantly improve its levels of quality, with the goal of improving the experiences of all customers. The company routinely develops and applies training courses designed to improve its customers’ experiences and expectation of the company’s products and services. With Bichamp’s tailored improvement program, every employee has the opportunity to positively impact the company’s reliability and responsiveness in meeting customer needs.
The company’s continuous investments in its facilities, processes and people have enabled it to integrate the best manufacturing and product technology for its customers. This has helped Bichamp to evolve from being a local player in Changsha, Hunan province, to a global player with operations stretching across the globe.
Enabling Maximum Cutting Performance on Nickel Based Alloys
In recent years, Bichamp has anticipated the growth in the use of heat resistance super alloys materials such as Inconel, Waspaloy and Hastelloy. The demand for “superalloy” materials due to the rapid change of today’s manufacturing landscape has increased in various industrial segments such as aerospace, oil & gas, and medical industries.
According to a report by market analyst Zhiyan Consulting Group, demand for heat resistant alloys will continue to increase in volume in China over the next few years. In particular, cobalt demand will increase by 6 to 7 percent, and reach 20,000 tons and more by 2024.
In line with this, Bichamp recently developed the CB-X925 Multi-Chip Set Style Carbide tipped band saw blades. Targeted for applications that maximize cutting performance on large solid materials with long chips, the CB-X925 is suitable for superalloys, Ni-based alloys and titanium alloys.
The growing additive manufacturing industry has demanded new requirements in the sawing process. Article by Behringer.
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has become more and more important in nearly all industries. 3D printing is a ground-breaking and innovative technology that has the potential to bring intermediate changes in manufacturing, society and business. As a crucial medium connecting the virtual and actual world, 3D printing enables the transformation of digital files into tangible objects.
According to market analyst firm Inkwood Research, the global 3D printing market is expected to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17 percent from 2019 to 2027 and reach a value of US$ 44.39 billion at the end of the forecast period. While North America is the dominating region, Asia Pacific is the fastest growing market for 3D printing.
One important and growing segment of the 3D printing market is the metal additive manufacturing industry. Metal additive manufacturing is increasingly becoming popular among automobile manufacturers across the world. This is because additive manufacturing helps automakers to build stronger and lighter parts within a short period. The technology is now widely adopted by various Formula 1 teams, including Scuderia Ferrari, Williams Martini Racing, and Mercedes-AMG Petronas to produce lighter components such as rear wings, gearbox assemblies, and bodywork to improve the performance of their cars. Many supercar manufacturers are also adopting metal additive manufacturing to reduce overall cost, lead time, and weight. The rising adoption of metal additive manufacturing in the automobile industry is expected to fuel the growth of the market. According to a report by market analyst Technavio, the metal additive manufacturing industry is expected to grow by $4.42 billion during 2020–2024.
High Sawing Precision
The additive manufacturing processes make it possible to produce simple as well as complex parts in different materials. 3D printing offers many advantages, such as higher design flexibility, and the individualization of the products (a batch size of one). From a process perspective, the additively manufactured parts are printed on a base plate via a supporting structure. To use and process the 3D printed parts, they have to be detached from the base plate.
To address this trend, and in line with the 100th anniversary of Behringer, the company expanded its product portfolio with the release of its 3D-Series of sawing machines. Available in two models—the two models HBE320-523 3D and LPS-T 3D—the high-performance sawing machines were developed for cutting additively manufactured parts in different sizes and shapes.
When buying your CNC machine tool, what factors come into consideration? Cost? Quality? Design? Functionality? Find out the key considerations in choosing your CNC Machine in this article by Sue Neo, Hwacheon Asia Pacific.
What is the cheapest CNC machine tool which you can buy? Can you save money for your factory using affordable low-budget CNC lathes and milling machines? Or is it better in the long run to buy a premium quality CNC machine tool at a higher initial price?
There are two schools of thought here.
The first considers spending less on a machine tool to be cost-effective in reducing your overall investment and production costs. After all, these machines do cost quite a significant sum – any initial savings will help to improve overall cost effectiveness and efficiency.
The second, however, looks at the lifetime cost and better overall performance of the CNC machine tool. While cheaper machines may yield short-term savings, such machines may have higher long-term maintenance, parts replacement and other costs. They may also have limited functions, capabilities, and performance relative to premium models.
To answer this question well, let us first look at the countries of origin for CNC machine tools.
Manufacturing in Low Labour Cost Countries
Traditionally, countries with low labour costs tend to attract manufacturers of mainly mass-produced products, cheap components, or items.
While this is still true today, the rapid rise of technology has allowed high-end electronics and other consumer goods to be produced in these countries. Examples of such products include smartphones, tablets, smart televisions, fridges, automobiles, laptops, sport shoes, etc.
To keep themselves competitive, factory lines in low cost countries tend to use low cost equipment that are easier to operate. These cheaper machine tools have fewer functions and requires more customising effort on the part of the operator.
Often, machine operators in such countries tend to have lower education – their jobs are simply to load or unload parts and materials. It is also common for such firms to station one operator with one machine (after all, salaries are low and manpower is easily available).
Should crashes or incidents happen during the machining process, most likely the machine will stop. A factory supervisor will then come in to intervene. These may include tool breakages, power supply cut-off, insufficient air-supply, to the lack of raw material.
Manufacturing Norms in Industrialized Countries
Comparatively speaking, an industrialized “first-world” country tend to have higher labour, land, utility and other costs – even if they manufacture the same product, part or item as the low-cost country.
To maximise worker productivity, the CNC machine tools that you find at industrialized countries tend to be of higher grade.
Optimized for automation, they are designed for unmanned operation runs – allowing a single operator to handle multiple machines, change tools where needed, or re-set machines independently.
In such a production environment, more spindles are working at any one time. Beyond allowing for one-man operations, such machines may also have automation features such as self-loading/unloading systems, robots, tool changers, and smart software.
Due to the sophistication of these smarter multi-tasked machines, manufacturers can hire fewer operators – highly qualified specialist engineers who can handle the equipment efficiently and cost effectively, managing production runs on a 24 by 7 basis.
Key Considerations: Low-Cost vs High Quality CNC Machine Tools
Drilling down more deeply into the issue, the term “you get what you pay for” is highly relevant in the machine tool business.
For factory owners, saving thousands (or 10s of thousands of dollars) to purchase the cheapest CNC machine tool out there may actually be more expensive in the long-run. This is due to several reasons.
#1 Comparing Spindle Power, Lubrication, and Chilling Units
Low cost machines are often fitted with a less powerful spindle (e.g. 11-18 Kw motor) compared to high quality machines (e.g. a 37Kw motor). Using cheaper smaller bearings, these poorer performing spindles are usually grease-lubricated compared to the superior Air-Oil or Oil injected lubrication used in more powerful machines.
The good quality chilling units used in higher quality CNC machine tools will also provide a more stable and healthy temperature for the spindle bearing over many hours. This is much better than the simple heat exchanger unit used in cheaper machines.
Hence, spindles from higher quality machines will last longer than the cheaper machines, resulting in long-term savings for the manufacturer.
#2 Manufacturing Quality and Stability – Casting, Guideways and Ball Screw Diameters
In low cost machines, the casting is often kept small. Hence, the guideways used will not provide the same levels of stability as the more widely designed casting part used in better quality machines.
You need to also consider the materials and the methods used in manufacturing the casting of the machine. Poor quality machines are often not casted well – evidence of this includes the presence of sand, stones or air-bubbles within the casting itself.
The smaller ball screw diameters and lower quality grade used in cheap machines can also compromise both stability and life spans of the machine tool.
#3 Safety Considerations
Most importantly of all is safety.
Due to the higher safety standards in high labour cost industrialized countries, the CNC machine tools that you get from these places tend to have more safety features buffered into them.
While following higher safety standards may be more costly, you can’t really put a price tag to the well-being and lives of your people. Besides, protecting your machine operators and the people around them can also help your firm to save on insurance costs.
Checklist: Evaluating the Design and Build Quality of Machine Tools
To help you to better evaluate if the CNC machine tool that you’re purchasing is of the right quality, consider following the pointers in this simple checklist.
Rigidity of Machine
CNC machine crashes can result in significant downtime. Since cheaper machines are often less rigid, a crash can result in greater damage to your equipment. A rigid machine can also confer a better finish and tool life, and help to preserve the lifespan of the spindle.
Ball Screws, Linear Guides/ Box Ways
In low cost machines, such components may not hold up as well during crash, resulting in further repair costs. There are also cost differences between Ball and Roller Linear Guides. In addition, Box or Solid Guide Ways may also cost differently, depending on their sizes and treatment.
Accessing and Replacing Machine Parts
Have a look at the different models and see how easily can you access and replace individual machine parts. The difference between a low cost and high-quality machine is significant.
Tool Changer Design
Have a look at the designs used for the tool changer. Is it located inside the work area? How easy is it to replace the cam followers that usually break? Does it use a Cam drive or Servo drive?
As poor-quality spindle may fail more easily whenever run at high speed or a crash happens. High quality spindles tend to have not only have more and larger bearings, but they are often of better quality – these can handle more abuse over time.
Good quality spindles are also powered by more horse power, ensuring that the spindles will not stall even when large cuts are made or tough materials are used. Spindles with fewer horse power may stall or be unstable in terms of their RPM during heavy cuts. Belt-driven spindles (the cheaper kind) may also stall during such operations.
Due to the consistent speed of high-quality spindles, the finish of the part will be better with higher Rpm. This will also result in a longer tool life and savings in cycle time.
Do check for tighter tolerances in your machine – these normally translate into a longer life and smoother operation.
How Service Readiness Affects CNC Machine Tool Pricing
Last, but certainly not least, you need to consider the after-sales and ongoing services offered by your CNC machine tool manufacturer or supplier.
Here are some important factors to think about:
Wait time for service technician: How closely located is your supplier / dealer? If they take over 1.5 hours to response or travel to your location, the time taken to get your machine fixed can be excruciatingly long.
Quality of service technician: This is a major consideration. As technology becomes more complex, factory trained engineers and knowledge of service engineers are crucial. Information and support from manufacturers are also essential.
Warranty of parts: When it comes to warranties of parts being replaced, you will need to get them from your supplier / dealer. This may include the replacement of spindles or calibration jobs.
Parts availability: Does your dealer / supplier operate from a predictive or reactive position? Are spare parts available readily or easily?
Supplier / dealer response time for information and parts: For some suppliers / dealers it takes at least a day or two to get parts or information from the manufacturer through the dealer. This has to be factored into your production plans.
As you can see from our detailed analysis above, there are many factors which you need to consider when you purchase a CNC Machine Tool.
While a low price may be attractive from the onset, the long-term headaches and costs incurred in repairs and replacements may outweigh any initial cost savings.
Over the long run, companies which invest in good quality equipment, tooling, and accessories – plus invest from time to time in training their staff in the latest techniques – will stand to enjoy greater cost effectiveness and efficiency in their manufacturing operations.
Ready to maximise the yield from your shop floor? Visit our website or contact us for recommendations on the right machine tools to improve your productivity and cost-effectiveness over the long-term.
A multinational automotive component manufacturer was experiencing inconsistent tool life at one of its Chinese plants. Sutton Tool’s Jeff Boyd describes the custom solution developed to help significantly extend tool life and reliability.
The initial approach to our local technical sales manager came from one of our local Chinese partners. Their customer operated one of several plants producing OEM brake system components for a German multinational manufacturer.
The plant was using a German brand of tool – but it was proving unreliable on quality and service. Simply, the existing taps being used weren’t taking advantage of the high-end CNC machines on offer. Could Sutton Tools look at the problem and help by developing and testing an improved solution?
Tough Material, Tough Environment
The process challenging the capability of the existing cutting tools involved high-speed thread tapping at surface speeds of 30m per minute. The material in question wasn’t helping: GGG50 is a highly abrasive ductile cast iron used in the automotive industry. We could immediately see that higher-specification tools were needed to meet this particular application requirements and environment.
Our first step was to reduce the run-out by eliminating the traditional collet-based tool holding, replacing it with a more precise shrink-fit type tool holding. This meant moving from the typical h9 tolerance to a h6 shank to suit the shrink-fit system, which resulted in less run-out and higher concentricity. Under intensive testing, we could demonstrate reduced run-out and almost no deviation. The tap could consistently produce threads at the required and elevated speed of 30m/min –one of the keys to longer tool life.
Our engineers worked on a prototype tool – especially designed for our customer’s exacting demands. Apart from changing the tool holding, we also changed the tool’s coating from Titanium Carbo-Nitride (TiCN) to the current generation Futura-Nano coating, Titanium Aluminium Nitride (TiAlN). This provides a higher resistance to abrasion than TiCN. Similarly, we changed the substrate from a conventional high speed steel (HSSE) to a Powder Metallurgy grade (HSS-PM). The finer grain size of HSS-PM material allows for a higher hardness tool, while still maintaining the toughness associated with HSS.
Finally, we included internal coolant ducts to the tap to utilise the transfer lines high pressure through-spindle-coolant capabilities which would help blast out the chips produced from the tapping operation efficiently & consistently, as well reduce the heat generated and thus make it more resilient than the previous solid tool.
Cutting pocket corners with an only slightly inclined land is a routine task that requires the angular position to be changed in a machining centre. Here’s how Premium AEROTEC GmbH was able to address that. Article by Starrag.
Christian Welter, Head of Large-Part Production at Premium AEROTEC.
Premium AEROTEC GmbH is a manufacturer of structures and manufacturing systems for aircraft construction. Headquartered in Augsburg, Germany, the company was formed in 2009 when the EADS plant in Augsburg was merged with the Airbus Deutschland plants in Nordenham and Varel.
Established in 1936 as an engine factory, the production facility in Varel handles engine overhauling, and spare parts production for truck and aircraft engines. It employs around 1,600 staff and produces nearly five million components a year, making it one of the world’s leading high-tech sites for aircraft construction.
For Premium AEROTEC, cutting pocket corners with an only slightly inclined land is a routine task that requires the angular position to be changed. While standard fork-type milling heads typically make huge swivel movements to do this, Starrag’s ECOSPEED machines’ tripod heads have significantly faster and more dynamic machining capabilities.
Starrag machining centres with parallel kinematics have proven themselves a worthy addition to one of Europe’s most advanced machine pools. This was reason enough for Premium AEROTEC to opt once more for highly dynamic five-axis simultaneous cutting with a tripod head for their plant in Varel. Due to these advantages, there are now 13 ECOSPEED machining centres in use in Varel.
“In addition to their reliability, it was the high overall dynamism of the ECOSPEED machines that won us over,” explains Christian Welter, Head of Large-Part Production at Premium AEROTEC. “This is why we chose two ECOSPEED F 2040 machines as our latest investment, which have been linked to create a flexible manufacturing system.” This is the newest highlight of Hall 8, where Starrag machining centres with a drive power of 120 kW currently take centre stage. An angled milling head that can be changed automatically now enables aluminium workpieces measuring up to 4 m long to be machined on the flexible manufacturing system (FMS)—not just completely, but in a single clamping position too.
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While every situation is different, and different challenges play a role in every factory, here are some tips to prevent your CNC machine from standing idle. Article by BMO Automation.
With a servo controlled gripper, the operator no longer has to adjusts gripper fingers to the correct size.
A machine that is producing generates money. A machine that stands still costs money. In the machining sector, the full production capacity of CNC machines is often not used. Here are 10 tips to prevent your CNC machine from standing idle.
Tip 1: Standardise the raw material.
By standardizing the raw material, multiple product series can be made from the same format material. Simply put: mill more off. Changing products happens faster because the operator can use the same fixture. Resulting in less downtime.
Tip 2: Provide the CNC machine with a zero point clamping system.
With a zero point clamping system on the machining table, the operator can quickly change fixtures. Moreover, the advantage is that new fixtures can be prepared while the CNC machine is machining. With a zero point clamping system on the machining table you are also prepared for automated fixture changes.
Tip 3: Automate!
By providing a CNC machine with an automation solution, it will make more spindle hours. You can start automating at different levels. The easiest form is bar feed on a lathe. The next step is pallet and/or product loading.
Tip 4: Are you opting for single-batch or multi-batch automation?
What is single-batch automation? Automating of one product series. No continuous production but simply one unique product in one program loaded on the CNC machine through product loading. A higher level is multi-batch automation. Automating multiple product series in one continuous process. You combine the loading of products with the changing of a pallet with an automatic machine clamp or a clamped product on top. This makes 24/7 production of multiple product formats and product series possible. The biggest step towards less downtime is made with multi-batch automation. It is important that the machining table is equipped with the correct connections to control the machine clamps.
Tip 5: Choose one gripper that can handle it all.
The span on multiple product formats is great, but if the gripper cannot pick up all the sizes, the added value remains low. One solution is to use multiple grippers, but the changing will take time and the format range is often still limited and it comes at the expense of storage capacity. Another solution and a better one is the servo-controlled gripper that adjusts itself fully automatically to all possible product sizes. The setting time is 0 and the flexibility very high.
Tip 6: Continuous production of multiple product jobs.
All the previous tips are of little utility if only one CNC program can be produced with the automation software. Continuous production is necessary, otherwise the CNC machine will stop when the program comes to an end. Choose a software with which multiple different product series can be edited in a continuous process.
Tip 7: Focus on automating single pieces and small series.
On which products do you make the highest margins? Often these are single pieces and small series. By implementing all the previous tips, you have an automation that is fully set to this. With automation you can produce 24/7 and deliver faster due to a shorter product turnaround time. Selling ‘No’ because of a low capacity is something of the past. At least until your CNC machine makes 160 hours a week and you have to link a second CNC machine to the automation to meet the growing customer demand.
Tip 8: Make sure you have enough tools in your CNC machine.
A simple calculation. On average, a CNC machine has 60 tools of which 40 are standard. If you produce more than 5 different product series with 5 unique tools per series unmanned, you will already run into problems. A large tool stockroom is unnecessary luxury. Of course this can be taken into account by using the same tools as much as possible in the CNC programs during the preparation. But what happens when a miller breaks? Will you lose production and will the CNC machine stand still? Tip 9 offers a solution.
Tip 9: Manage the stand life of your tools.
The solution? Tool life management. The robot controls the total machining process but also calculates exactly which production per mill is feasible. Can the tools in the machine handle the numbers? What does the machine do if it breaks? The Tool Life Management module cleverly handles this and prevents the shutdown of your CNC machine.
Tip 10: Manage the automated process.
Continuous production and a maximum number of spindle hours are not simply achieved. Your operator has to become a process engineer. Does the coolant retain the correct values? Can the chip conveyor handle the quantity? Is the collection bin large enough? The total automated process must be optimized to avoid downtime.
These are just 10 tips to prevent your CNC machine from standing idle. Every situation is different, and different challenges play a role in every factory. Full use of production capacity involves attention, knowledge and experience. Be sufficiently informed and, above all, look carefully at your own process and the products that you produce.
Making a Swiss watch requires micrometre-level of precision. Here’s how Paul Horn GmbH is helping Laubscher Präzision AG in its micro-machining work.
Fig 1: Heavy metal tool holders provide excellent vibration damping. (Source: Horn/Sauermann)
“That’s large by our standards,” says Marco Schneider, department head at Laubscher Präzision AG, as he measures the screw under a microscope. What he is examining actually has a thread size of S 0.6 (a type found in Swiss watches), a thread length of just 0.55 mm and a head diameter of 1.2 mm. This is the kind of component that Laubscher Präzision AG, based in the Swiss town of Täuffelen, is used to handling in its micro-machining work, where it uses tools supplied by Paul Horn GmbH.
Horn developed the µ-Finish tool system to cope with even the smallest of parts: with its outstanding cutting quality, changeovers that achieve precision down to the micrometre level, and low-vibration tool carriers, it is an exceptional piece of equipment.
There are several assemblies that go into the making of a Swiss watch, depending on the exact movement involved—the cogs, winding mechanism, drive mechanism, balance wheel, and motion work are some examples of these. Creating complex movements involves assembling numerous components in the tiniest of spaces, with screws holding everything together. A normal machinist would find producing these screws a hard nut to crack.
And despite their small dimensions, they still need to be synchronously transferred from the main spindle to a collet chuck in the counter spindle when it is time to machine the other side. Rather than callipers or an outside micrometer, it is a microscope with 50x magnification that is used to check the dimensions of these parts.
Laubscher Präzision relies on the Horn µ-Finish system to produce screws with a thread size of S 0.6 and a thread length of 0.55 mm. It manufactures some 30,000 screws solely of this type every year. Factoring in the many other types that also come off its production line, that adds up to several million screws that Laubscher supplies to the watchmaking industry annually.
Sharp Tools, Minimum Vibrations
Fig 2: A microscope is used to check the dimensions of medical technology components. (Source: Horn/Sauermann)
The material used to produce the screws is free-cutting steel in the form of 3 mm diameter bar stock. The process sequence is as follows: facing of the screw head, longitudinal turning of the screw head diameter and of the diameter for the thread, thread cutting and parting off. The µ-Finish tools have a role to play at every stage.
“When you’re precision-machining miniature parts, it’s vital that the tools are extremely sharp and the tool holders produce hardly any vibrations,” explains Alain Kiener, Production Manager at Laubscher. The edge chipping and cutting performance that can be achieved are also essential to the micro-machining process, as any irregularity on the cutting edge will ultimately be reflected on the workpiece.
The Swiss company also specialises in producing micro components for medical technology—where the µ-Finish system once again comes into play, this time in the manufacture of venous plugs. Used for closing off vessels in electromedical applications, these components are pushed through a vein up to the heart via the groin in a minimally invasive surgical procedure. Their front section is then snapped off at the predetermined breaking point, closing off the vessel.
Boosting Tool Life to 1,000 Recesses
Fig 3: A partnership spanning 25 years: Alain Kiener (Laubscher) in discussion with Phillip Dahlhaus (Horn), Marco Schneider (Laubscher) and Christoph Schlaginhaufen (Dihawag). (Source: Horn/Sauermann)
Every year, Laubscher is able to produce between 100,000 and 200,000 of these components, which are made of X5CrNi18-10 (1.4301). The predetermined breaking point has a diameter of 0.1 mm.
“At first, we ground the tool to create the predetermined breaking point profile ourselves. As the cutting quality of the Horn equipment is so good, however, we’ve managed to increase tool life to 1,000 recesses per insert,” says Schneider. When creating recesses up to a diameter of 0.1 mm in solid material, a sharp cutting edge and a vibration-damped tool holder are indispensable.
“Our tool system for micro-machining is also available with heavy metal tool holders, keeping vibrations to a minimum during machining,” says Horn application engineer Phillip Dahlhaus. “In medical technology, a very high surface quality is required. That’s because even tiny irregularities on the component, like grooves and burrs, can be a breeding ground for bacteria.”
The µ-Finish tool system is primarily aimed at micro-machining operators. Based on the S274 system, it features inserts that have been ground with outstanding precision. Every tool undergoes a comprehensive round of inspectionsduring the production process to ensure that its cutting edges deliver these excellent standards of quality. Together with the central clamping screw and the precision-ground circumference of the indexable insert, the tool holder insert seat helps the system to achieve indexability to within microns. This in turn allows the insert to be indexed in the machine without the need to re-measure the centre height or any other dimensions.
In addition to its extensive range of standard profiles, Horn offers custom-made inserts with special designs. “Horn provides high-end tools for a wide range of applications, and solutions for everything from watchmaking screws and medical parts to hydraulic components. We use Horn tools on our Swiss-type lathe, our multi-spindle lathe, and almost everything in between,” says Kiener.
Horn itself is a German tool manufacturer and is represented in Switzerland by the company Dihawag. This partnership between Laubscher, Horn and Dihawag has been in existence for some 25 years, during which time Horn has successfully supplied tools for numerous machining solutions.
“It’s a fantastic partnership. Dihawag and Horn’s representatives are quick to respond to anything relating to ourmachining tasks, and we know that we can rely on them. We all work together extremely well and it’s amazing how quickly the tools are delivered,” says Kiener.
Here’s how 5-axis machines are providing manufacturers the necessary flexibility that is indispensable to customers today. Article by Heller.
The manufacturing industry has continually grappled with the notion of creating products faster, better and cheaper. But the advancement of manufacturing technologies come with its own set of challenges that manufacturers have to deal with in their quest towards more-efficient and cost-effective manufacturing of high-quality products.
For example, the aerospace manufacturing industry has to continually evolve to ensure cost and weight savings, while dealing with the use of fibre composites and difficult materials, including titanium alloys or Inconel. The developments in aerospace designs are resulting to aero-engine parts with the highest demands on dimensional, shape and position tolerances.
In the automotive manufacturing industry, chief among the challenges now are the increasingly shorter innovation cycles, growing model diversity, and intense cost pressure. Automotive and parts manufacturers dealing with systems such as small, two-cylinder engines to the V12; from the light-duty passenger cars to heavy duty trucks; all the way to components for powertrains, drivelines and chassis; and engine blocks, cylinder heads, transmission housings, crankshafts, camshafts, etc.—are struggling to ensure minimal part costs, reduce idle times, maximize productivity and flexibility of their manufacturing systems, and maintain high machine availability and reliability.
Meanwhile, flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to manufacturing parts for the energy industry, where small batch sizes, high part diversity, and manufacturing on demand are the norm. Manufacturers catering to this sector need to have a high degree of standardisation, increased efficiency, high precision, high availability, and shorter setting times when it comes to their machines.
Scalability, Efficiency and Easy Integration
Now more than ever, machine tools should empower users with scalability and efficiency, and enable easy integration into flexible manufacturing systems. Sturdy machine engineering, profound process experience, comprehensive milling expertise—these are the basic characteristics of Heller machine tools. Since the 1980s, the company has expanded its machine portfolio of proven 4-axis machining centres with 5-axis machines. Despite their varied and versatile applications, all machines share the typical Heller genes of quality, productivity and reliability in day-to-day production.
With the introduction of the F series in 2009, Heller opened a new chapter in terms of the process-secure 5-sided and simultaneous 5-axis machining. The fifth axis of the F series is provided by the tool and the machines can either be equipped with swivel-head or fork-head kinematics. The series has been designed especially with those users in mind who need to accomplish a wide range of tasks on a single machine.
Meanwhile, the premise with the C series of machining centres is combined processing, since these machines do not only provide powerful milling but also turning capabilities. This machine provides economically efficient cutting data with workpiece rotations of up to 1,000 RPM for performance-oriented pre-machining and finishing true to the final contour. The swivel head or fork head and the high-speed rotary table enable hassle-free horizontal and vertical turning operations of outer and inner contours.
The modular MC 20 machining centres are ideally suited for integration into flexible manufacturing systems and for highly productive series production of light-duty automotive components, and are also available with direct loading. In standard design, they feature four axes, but they can also be equipped with a fifth axis provided by the workpiece as an option. The compact machines in modular design are scalable and can be linked to an automated manufacturing system at any time.
The latest machine development, the HF series, is the logical expansion of Heller’s product portfolio in the 5-axis range of machines. These highly productive and flexibly applicable machines provide great ease of use and are available with pallet changer or in table design. Contrary to the C and F series, the fifth axis of the HF series is provided by the workpiece. Rigidity is guaranteed due to the robust cast machine bed combined with a weight-optimised steel machine column.
At the core of the dynamic drive concept are the ball-screw driven linear axes equipped with anti-friction guideways. The NC swivel rotary table equipped with two direct driven rotary axes maintains its rigidity even under high loads due to a counter bearing combined with a YRT bearing. In short, the HF is optimally equipped for the exacting requirements of modern production processes and therefore the ideal machining centre for the manufacture of complex components.
In addition to the specific light-duty applications of the 4-axis and 5-axis machining centres and the possibility of integrating them into flexible manufacturing systems, the three series—F, C and HF—can be combined with workpiece or pallet automation without any problem, offering a wide range of options in terms of workpiece and tool management. As a result, all Heller 5-axis machining centres can be perfectly integrated into any specific manufacturing environment, thus offering the necessary flexibility that is indispensable to customers today.