Optimizing Prototype Development with Surface Metrology

Boehlerit is a producer of carbide cutting materials in Austria. The company places emphasis on quality assurance right from the start of the production process. It uses Alicona measurement systems to optimize stamps in its pressing tool department.

With the InfiniteFocus measurement system, Boehlerit cost effectively runs the entire production process of inserts by shortening development times by 30%. As a result, new products can now be launched in a faster manner by the manufacturer.

Thanks to InfiniteFocus, we have been able to shorten development cycles by more than a third. When it comes to manufacturing complex insert geometries, it‘s all about the correct tool. Manufacturing inserts is a cost- and time-intensive process. This means that quality assurance can‘t apply to the finished tool only.

Alfred Maier, Head of Quality Assurance and Quality and Environmental Management, Boehlerit

In mold making, Alfred Maier focuses on quality assurance from the scratch of the production process. Alicona‘s optical measurement systems play a key role in the pressing tool department at Boehlerit’s Kapfenberg plant in Styria. At the facility, InfiniteFocus, Alicona‘s high-resolution 3D measurement system is being used in conjunction with a motorized rotation unit by the Boehlerit specialists in the fields of pressing technology, coating technology, and metallurgy. This capability enables them to improve the clearance between die and stamp (Figure 1), and to quantify the complex geometries of inserts in a completely automated and repeatable process.

Carbide specialist Boehlerit uses Alicona in pressing tool construction in order to verify the clearance between the stamp and die.

Carbide specialist Boehlerit uses Alicona in pressing tool construction in order to verify the clearance between the stamp and die.

Figure 1. Carbide specialist Boehlerit uses Alicona in pressing tool construction in order to verify the clearance between the stamp and die. For this purpose, die (here: purple) and punch (here: green) are aligned.

Shortened Development Times Despite Increasing Complexity

“To receive precisely manufactured tools, stamps must be accurate themselves,” Alfred Maier explains. To achieve this, Boehlerit focuses on fabricating ideal stamps for more than 6000 varieties of inserts at its own pressing tool department. The company has to ensure that the clearance between the die and the stamp is as small as possible in order to produce ideal stamps with reduced wear.

The InfiniteFocus system helps Boehlerit to achieve this task by measuring the aligned die and stamp in order determine the best clearance value.

More measurements are performed using the optical high-resolution measurement system. Boehlerit confirms post-processing and corrective steps performed on the pressed raw component to attain the required surface quality and dimensional accuracy. Eventually, the ideal and most cost-effective scenario for Boehlerit‘s quality assurance is corrections or post-processing are limited or zero, considering the cost-intensive refining steps like grinding.

In this regard, Boehlerit has already realized the benefits of using a combination of the InfiniteFocus system and a motorized rotation unit. This combination has allowed Boehlerit to considerably reduce post-processing works and render corrective steps more efficiently. This has reduced the overall product development time, enabling serial production.

We used to inspect our pressed raw parts with tactile measurement devices. These quickly reached their limits, especially when it came to measuring complex geometries. The inserts we manufacture today don‘t have any straight edges anymore. Today´s geometries with undercuts simply can‘t be mapped with tactile methods.With InfiniteFocus, we are able to manufacture complex geometries far more accurately and require less corrective grinding. For example, we have been able to significantly reduce burrs.

Alfred Maier, Head of Quality Assurance and Quality and Environmental Management, Boehlerit

Gerhard Melcher, head of segment turning and milling and head of Marketing at Boehlerit, expresses these improvements in terms of numbers: ”We used to have product development times of up to 1.5 years. Thanks to InfiniteFocus, we have been able to shorten development cycles by more than a third. Today, despite growing complexity of edge geometries, our machining tools are ready for launch in less than 10 months.”

All Relevant Edge Geometries in One Measurement Cycle

Quality assurance and measurement systems have increased requirements for more intricate edge geometries. Eventually, quality assurance personnel have to face enormous pressure. “We are expected to work fast and to not keep production waiting. At the same time, measurements need to be precise, valid, and repeatable,” Alfred Maier explains.

Alicona has helped Boehlerit to meet these requirements. The completely automatic motorised rotational unit is a huge advantage to the quality assurance department. Markus Peihser, measurement technician at Boehlerit, describes the benefits: “The rotation unit allows me to automatically measure all relevant geometries and edge parameters in just one measurement cycle. There is no need for me to reposition the part in the grip.”

Importing external datasets is another capability of the Alicona system that helps greatly with quality assurance process, enabling automated measurement of dimensioning. Deviations are also graphically represented.

Undersizes and oversizes are also visualised using a colour coding. As a result, we become aware of faults much faster, avoid time-consuming corrections, and accelerate the process as a whole.

Markus Peihser, Measurement Technician, Boehlerit

The InfiniteFocus provides measurements with high repeatability. This capability is really helpful to Boehlerit to achieve improved efficiency. Gerhard Melcher, Head of Marketing: “We are also a supplier and development partner to other tool makers. Our customers demand extensive documentation and repeatability of measurements. Regardless if you measure today or tomorrow, the measurement results have to be the same.”

At Boehlerit, Alicona systems are used to perform the following measurements:

  • Measuring clearance between die and stamp
  • Measuring form deviations automatically
  • 3D measurement of the geometry of pressed raw components (Figure 2)
  • Numerical verification of corrective processes and post-processing such as grinding
  • Full form measurement of the of the insert geometry with Real3D technology

The 3D data sets of die and stamp are automatically superimposed.

Figure 2. The 3D data sets of die and stamp are automatically superimposed. The resulting clearance is actually visualized by color coding and can also be accessed numerically at all points.

Conclusion

Gerhard Melcher concludes that, “With Alicona, we have reached the next level in the manufacture of tools with complex geometries. Thanks to the fast and highly accurate measurement technology, we are able to manufacture also special tools precisely and economically. We are proud to be using one of the world‘s leading measurement systems -if not the leading measurement system -with Alicona.”

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This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Alicona Imaging GmbH.

For more information on this source, please visit Alicona Imaging GmbH.

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