Automated DED tie-up

Esprit, a specialist in CAM software for CNC programming, optimisation and simulation, is now partnering with Alma, a CADCAM provider for robotics, to create a complete programming solution for robot additive DED (direct energy deposition). Compared with a machine tool-based DED machine, a robotic DED machine costs significantly less. Additionally, many companies can retrofit existing industrial robots for additive DED applications. However, in order to program a robot for additive DED tasks, an engineer needs to determine not only the tool path of the DED head, but the robot arm movements.

To provide customers with an end-to-end solution for programming robot additive DED, Esprit has been working with Alma to bring the best of the two worlds together: advanced tool-path planning in both subtractive and additive areas; and technology in robotics trajectory computation and offline programming of arc welding robots.

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Second pair of VMCs at RDMS

Rapid Design Manufacturing Solutions (RDMS), a manufacturer of plastic injection production and rapid mould tools, has invested in a second pair of high-precision, three-axis vertical machining centres from Roeders. Sole UK agent Hurco Europe supplied the machines to the toolmaker’s Oldham factory in autumn 2020.

Established in 1998 and run by co-owners Neil Richardson and Paul Ryan, RDMS works closely with its customers to provide high-end, multi-cavity tools. The tools, weighing up to 2 tonnes, are supplied in short lead-times and at competitive prices. Some of the more challenging applications involve in-mould labelling and multi-shot tool production.

Medical work features significantly, including providing assistance to suppliers of hospital and laboratory equipment in the current pandemic. In addition, the firm manufactures injection moulds for producing interior trim that ends up in, for example, Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Porsche, JLR and Nissan cars. The white goods and electronics sectors are also regular recipients of the company’s tools.

A particular specialism at Oldham is the machining of two-shot tooling, used to produce complex parts from two different materials, without the need for assembly, by over-moulding plastic around a preformed plastic or metal insert, often in high volumes. Extreme accuracy and repeatability of machining is required when producing this type of tool, and is the reason that RDMS selected Roeders machining centres right from the start.

Says Ryan: “We need to hold tolerances of less than 10 µm on nearly every tool we produce and these German high-speed machines have always allowed us to do that. Soon after we started out over 20 years ago, we bought a 42,000 rpm Roeders 600p VMC networked to a Mitutoyo CMM and linked to an Erowa cell housing 360 mm square pallets [16 in total].

“A manual handling device speeded transfer of zero-point pallets within the cell, often 24/7, resulting in a high level of productivity as we were able to pre-set the pallets offline and load them accurately on to the machine table,” he continues. “It also increased machining precision, as we could adjust the offsets in the control according to the CMM measurements on the last part.”

To increase capacity both in terms of throughput and workpiece size, a couple of years later the toolmaker purchased a larger, stand-alone Roeders RP800 with 800 x 600 x 400 mm working volume, 30,000 rpm high-torque spindle and up to 60 m/min feed rates.

Even today, a polisher only needs to go over the machining marks on a mould produced on either machine; there is no need to revise the mould’s form. RDMS shows customers a part-to-CAD comparison to prove the fidelity of the machined shape to the design.

“A two-shot mould from China that a company was recently sourcing had ripples in the surface that their polisher had trouble removing,” explains Richardson. “We remade the tool by high-speed machining alone, without the need for any sparking, and eliminated all of the difficulties. It was an important issue for the user, as the cosmetic appearance of plastic components is increasingly important these days, added to which inaccuracies in a multi-shot mould can cause stresses and cracks in the parts it produces.”

The feature of equipment from Roeders that originally clinched its selection by the toolmaker, after four different machining centres had been trialled, was the ability of the machines to scan across the shut face, down into the mould features and then back up to the shut face in one continuous path, producing razor sharp edges at the transitions.

According to Richardson, if lower quality machines try to achieve a similar result, edge quality is lower and definition is lost in the moulded part. Modern inspection techniques can easily identify such imperfections. The solution is to machine the shut face first in its entirety and then the mould features, but that takes longer, requires more job management and lowers profitability.

To cope with an increasing order book and reinstate the high milling accuracy originally obtained with the 20-year-old Roeders machines, the two early models have now been supplemented by a pair of more modern, three-axis, high-speed machining centres from the same manufacturer. It leaves the 600p machine free to produce nearly all of the graphite electrodes in use at the factory, as well as mould tools. The RP800 also continues to run.
RDMS’ new RXP500 has a 500 x 455 x 240 mm machining envelope and 60,000 rpm spindle, while the new RXP801 offers 800 x 635 x 400 mm and 42,000 rpm. Both machines have spindle growth compensation and the former is fitted out with an interface for the future addition of an Erowa 120-pallet cell. For now, however, the new machining centres are side by side, with the manual handling device and CMM relocated to serve both machines.

All machining centres on-site are vertical-spindle models from Hurco, not only the Roeders but several own-brand, three-axis models fitted with the WinMax twin-screen control system. In addition to two Hurco BMC30s and the same number of BMC2416s, there is a pair of VMX42i machining centres, the second of which arrived in 2018.

Typical uses include manufacturing bolsters, ejector plates, back plates and other less high-precision work. However, it is notable that the latest Hurco VMX42i has linear scales rather than rotary encoder feedback of axis position to the control, making it sufficiently accurate for the finish-machining of dies.

Richardson concludes: “The future is more automation, to enable us to remain competitive on price and keep lead-times short, this being one of our USPs over competitors, especially those overseas. The other pillar of our work is continued use of top-quality Roeders machines, as they allow us to deliver perfect moulds, first time. That is essential, as it’s very expensive to take a tool out of commission for adjustment. The service we receive is excellent, not only from Hurco but direct from the German factory, which is linked to all four machines for remote monitoring and troubleshooting.”

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Market ‘scan’ leads to Mitutoyo

Newcastle-based ExplantLab is an independent research organisation that aims to improve the performance of medical implants such as hip and knee replacements. The company combines extensive surgical, bioengineering and medical knowledge to understand the performance of medical implants following their removal from a patient’s body (explants).

When ExplantLab receives an explant, the company’s team employs a range of advanced technologies to reverse engineer them and accurately determine their ‘as-new’ shape. For several years ExplantLab has used a Mitutoyo Legex 322 CMM for this purpose, the success of which – alongside and an ever-increasing volume of explants – recently prompted the purchase of a second Mitutoyo CMM.

ExplantLab director David Langton says: “In consultation with Mitutoyo’s experts we decided that a Strato Apex 574 CNC CMM with an XYZ capacity of 500 x 700 x 400 mm was the ideal solution to our accuracy and scanning speed requirements.”

As ExplantLab’s recently installed Strato Apex 574 CNC CMM has a large component support, the company’s employees are now able to load multiple explants on to the machine and perform rapid, fully automated reverse-engineering routines.

A typical use for the Strato Apex 574 CMM is the scanning of explant bearing surfaces to establish multiple data points for in-depth analysis. Automated programs allow the Mitutoyo CMM to distinguish between the unworn parts of bearing surfaces and determine their precise as-new geometries. From the unworn areas, it is possible to reverse-engineer the original component geometries. By comparing the actual surface (the post revision geometry) of a component with the original (as manufactured) surface, the magnitude of wear can be calculated and accurately mapped. The machine generates comprehensive reports relating to the precise status of each explant.

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Frost & Sullivan award for Wenzel

Based on its recent analysis of the global industrial computed tomography (CT) market, Frost & Sullivan has presented Wenzel with its 2020 Global New Product Innovation Award for the exaCT L, one of the most compact, high-value and cost-effective offerings in the 225 kV, 1600 W performance class. The solution’s three independent axes enable accelerated measuring and a simple and effective workflow across the entire CT process.

“Compared with many tactile or optical measuring machines that carry out measurements at the component, the exaCT L can measure inside and outside objects with high precision,” says Mariano Kimbara, senior industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan. “The exaCT L has superior X-ray performance combined with a fast detector, allowing it to measure objects and defects rapidly. Wenzel has made significant inroads into the market with intuitive user guidance that employs intelligent software to automate all measuring parameters, delivering robust customer value.”

Wenzel’s exaCT series, including the exaCT L, can support several metrology and non-destructive testing applications, including aluminium castings and combustion engines. The company equips the exaCT L 150 kV version with a high-resolution micro-focus X-ray source featuring a 6000-pixel detector. By establishing a new benchmark with one of the highest-powered X-ray sources available in the 225 kV segment, exaCT L offers up to 1600 W with high flexibility in applications for larger measuring volumes. Another benefit is Wenzel’s configurable and modular system for individual requirements.

The Wenzel exaCT L is configurable with existing CT system power sources and detectors, depending on application requirements. Providing 225 kV output, scanning high-density materials such as plastics, metal and multi-materials, only takes minutes.

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Industry associations unite with Valuechain

Supply-chain software business Valuechain is uniting with the West England Aerospace Forum (WEAF), North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) and Rail Forum Midlands (RFM) to kick-off of a new project: Accelerate Cross-sector Collaborative Ecosystems and Sustainable Supply-chains (ACCESS). Funded by Innovate UK, the project will create a digital business networking platform developed by Valuechain to facilitate inter-company communication and collaboration. The project builds on Valuechain’s iQluster platform, used recently by Made Smarter’s North West Pilot to map companies and their capabilities in the region.

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