Find out how MBFZ toolcraft ensures holistic quality control and precision in additive manufacturing. Article by ZEISS
Additive manufacturing is an uncharted territory for many companies, but not for MBFZ toolcraft GmbH. The company in Georgensgmünd, Southern Germany, manufactures high-end precision parts for the aerospace, automotive, medical technology and semiconductor industries, among others, and since 2011 also parts using 3D printing. The young established production technology is a challenge for quality assurance. Toolcraft is mastering this challenge with ZEISS 3D ManuFACT, the only solution on the market for continuous quality assurance in additive manufacturing.
Heat, noise, the smell of oil: They belong to industrial manufacturing like Yin to Yang. Yet this is quite different in the glass hall at toolcraft in Georgensgmünd. Anyone who has access to the area with their employee ID card hears nothing. They smell nothing either. There are few reminders of factory life as we have known it for a hundred years, because parts are not manufactured the way they have been for a hundred years. Instead of peeling the mold out of cast or forged metal blocks by drilling, milling and turning, additive manufacturing comes at the process from the other way.
Through small windows on the twelve 3D printing machines at toolcraft, you can watch glistening laser beams dancing over a wafer-thin layer of metal powder. Where the spot of light hits, the powder melts in a flash and immediately solidifies again, followed by the next layer. Thousands of hair-thin layers are used in 3D laser melting to create „impossible“ components that could never be produced with traditional subtractive manufacturing. Whereas ten years ago only prototypes and design studies were produced by using additive manufacturing, manufacturers of aircraft turbines, racing cars or medical equipment are increasingly incorporating them directly into their series products.
Challenges for Quality Assurance
As always, when a new technology emerges in a market, there are always questions. One of them is quality assurance. Jens Heyder points to a monitor that shows two images taken with the ZEISS Axio Imager light microscope at 50x magnification. On the left you can see a section of a good component. There are no large defects visible, only small pores. The material has an even, homogeneous structure. On the right, there is a cross cut shown, in which blowholes and welding defects are present. The construction process here was not optimal, which is why errors occurred during solidification of the melt.
“Crack formation could occur under high loads,” warned Heyder, who has been working as a material engineer in toolcraft’s materials laboratory for three years. Together with his colleagues, he checks the grain size distribution of the metal powder used. They help to optimize the manufacturing process in such a way that no defects occur in the part during melting and solidification.
However, the materials laboratory is only one component in the seamless quality assurance at toolcraft. Each process step is followed by a test: when a part comes out of the printer, after heat treatment and finally after milling into the final form, before the part is sent to the customer. Not every part is inspected. Random samples are taken according to customer requirements where typical parts only undergo a final inspection. For more demanding customer requirements, such as the aviation industry, 100 percent inspection and precision is required.
But one thing is for sure: when a part is inspected, it is done on a machine with the ZEISS logo. These can be found in several places in measuring rooms and in production at the company: two microscopes (ZEISS Axio Imager and ZEISS Axio Zoom.V16), several coordinate measuring machines (two ZEISS ACCURA, one ZEISS CONTURA and one ZEISS DuraMax) as well as an optical 3D scanner. Although the latter bears the GOM logo, the company also belongs to the ZEISS family since spring 2019.
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