Integrating Automatic Measurement of Cutting Edges into Tool Manufacturing

The geometry, life, and stability of tools mostly rely on the appropriate preparation of edges. Tool Flo, based in Houston, Texas, produces carbide cutting tools like inserts for milling, turning, and threading. The company has now implemented Alicona’s advanced optical 3D measurement systems in its quality assurance process for inserts.

Alicona‘s systems allow us to carry out high-resolution measurements of the geometry of cutting edges and the chipping and roughness of cutting surfaces in a fully automated process free of possible user errors.

Dennis Flolo, President and CEO, Tool Flo Manufacturing

The edge preparation process not only reduces chipping, but also boosts the stability of edges, considerably enhancing the edge strength of precision tools. This, in turn, improves the process reliability and tool life of machining tools and eventually results in better workpiece quality.

Alicona‘s optical 3D cutting-edge measurement system, EdgeMaster, is used in Tool Flo’s production-integrated quality assurance of inserts (Figure 1). The tool measurement systems are particularly employed in tool and mold making processes, as they provide traceable and repeatable high-resolution measurements of complicated steep flanks, small radii, and geometries. As a result, Alicona‘s systems are suitable for validating edge geometries.

3D data set of a used tool.

Figure 1. 3D data set of a used tool. With Alicona´s EdgeMaster, Tool Flo benefits from repeatable and traceable measurements, even when subjected to vibrations, extraneous light, and fluctuations in temperature.

Measuring the Micro-Geometry of Cutting Edges

Tool Flo, since its inception in 1978, has gone on to become a leading supplier of carbide tools for special appellations, such as milling, threading, turning, and grooving. The company applies next-generation CNC grinding technology to ensure perfect edge preparation, and creates inserts with edge radii measuring 2.5 µm to 0.1 mm. At this standard of manufacturing accuracy, a high-resolution measurement system had to be used to ensure the correct analysis of a tool‘s edge.

Before we became aware of Alicona‘s products, we used a profile projector to measure edge preparation. The system simply wasn‘t precise enough to accurately identify edge radii in the micrometer range. It was only after switching to the EdgeMaster that we became capable of high-resolution measurement and precise mapping of edge shapes.

Dennis Flolo, President and CEO, Tool Flo Manufacturing

With the aid of Alicona’s EdgeMaster, Tool Flo is now able to map edges by utilizing a couple of radius parameters, including the apparent ellipse fit (Figure 2). This is completely in contrast to traditional techniques, in which only a single radius parameter is used.

Measurement of edge roundness using two radius parameters.

Figure 2. Measurement of edge roundness using two radius parameters.

”When trying to measure the many undercuts and chamfered edges on inserts, our old measurement system quickly reached its limits. Now we‘re capable of measuring even complex geometries at resolutions previously unknown to us, and the results are traceable as well,“ says Dennis Flolo, comparing the outdated profile projector with that of the EdgeMaster system.

In addition to radii, the EdgeMaster is also used by Tool Flo to check edge parameters like a wedge, clearance, and rake angles, as well to measure true, projected bevel lengths of the cutting edge. The company even uses the EdgeMaster to map the geometry of the cutting edge and inspects the same for chipping. This approach reduces the risk of cracks and ultimately improves the tool life (Figure 3).

Chipping measurement of used edge to reduce the risk of cracks and to increase tool life. Ra, Rq, Rz… values along the edge make edge defects measurable and visible.

Figure 3. Chipping measurement of used edge to reduce the risk of cracks and to increase tool life. Ra, Rq, Rz… values along the edge make edge defects measurable and visible.

Thanks to Alicona, we have been able to eliminate all guesswork regarding edge geometry, It was only after switching to the EdgeMaster that we became capable of high-resolution measurement and precise mapping of edge shapes.

Dennis Flolo, President and CEO, Tool Flo Manufacturing

Automated Measurement as Part of the Production Process

Tool Flo find it impossible to accept measurement errors due to manufacturing tolerances in the micrometer range.

Conversely, traditional measurement systems often fail to deliver good high-resolution measurement results in manufacturing environments, because of this Tool Flo uses Alicona‘s fully automatic optical 3D measurement systems to ensure maximum measuring precision during the manufacturing process. The EdgeMaster measurement system allows the company to prevent sources of user error, offering conclusive and explicit measurement results.

Even when exposed to extraneous light, vibrations, and fluctuations in temperature, the EdgeMaster provides traceable and repeatable high-resolution measurements. Tolerances and reference category have to be set up only once, and the EdgeMaster automatically performs measurements without any user interference to change additional settings. In other words, the user can simply mount the insert inside the respective grip, begin the measurement, and receive the measurement log after a few seconds. The EdgeMaster system automatically selects the measurement range based on the predefined measurement area. Figure 4 shows a 3D measurement of an insert with a curved edge.

3D measurement of an insert with a curved edge.

Figure 4. 3D measurement of an insert with a curved edge.

”We use the EdgeMaster as part of our production process. It‘s easy to set up and can be operated by all of our employees without any special training,“ says Dennis Flolo underscoring the benefits of the optical 3D measurement system in the manufacturing process. “When trying to measure the many undercuts and chamfered edges on inserts, our old measurement system quickly reached its limits. Now we’re capable of measuring even complex geometries at resolutions previously unknown to us”, adds Tool Flo.

As part of the production process, Alicona systems are used to perform the following fully automatic measurements of inserts:

  • Measurement of chamfered edges and undercuts
  • Edge radii from 2.5 µm to 0.1 mm
  • Deviation from dimensional tolerances
  • Profile-based roughness measurement to check for chipping

Conclusion

“Since 1978 Tool-Flo has become a prime supplier of carbide inserts for threading, grooving, turning, milling and specials of various styles. We have been looking for years for quality control inspection systems offering what Alicona supplies. Others have given us promises, Alicona showed the proof. We are convinced about the accuracy and repeatability of the tool measurement capabilities. This brought us to a new level of quality beyond belief.” concludes Dennis Flolo.

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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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