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) aligned.
Shortened development times in prototype construction
Leitung Segment Drehen und Fräsen & Leitung Marketing
"With Alicona, we have reached the next level in the manufacture of tools with complex geometries. Thanks to their fast and highly accurate measurement technology, we are able to manufacture 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.”
At Boehlerit, an Austrian manufacturer of cutting materials made from carbide, quality assurance starts at the very beginning of the production process. Alicona measurement systems are used to optimize punches in the company's own pressing tool department. Additionally, the InfiniteFocus measurement system makes the entire manufacturing process of inserts more economical by reducing development times by 30 %. This makes it possible to launch new products faster.
"When it comes to manufacturing complex insert geometries, it's all about the correct tool," emphasizes Alfred Maier, Head of Quality Assurance and Quality and Environmental Management at Boehlerit. "Manufacturing inserts is a cost- and time-intensive process. This means that quality assurance can't apply to the finished tool only," he continues, describing the measurement strategy of the Austrian developer and manufacturer of carbide materials. Alfred Maier's concept of quality assurance starts at the very beginning of the manufacturing process, in mold making. At the Kapfenberg plant in Styria, Boehlerit relies on Alicona's optical measurement systems in their own pressing tool department. The Boehlerit experts in the areas of metallurgy, coating technology, and pressing technology use Alicona's high-resolution 3D measurement system InfiniteFocus in combination with a motorized rotation unit. This allows them to optimize the clearance between punch and die, and to map the complex geometries of inserts in a fully automated repeatable process.
Shortened development times despite increasing complexity
"To receive precisely manufactured tools, punches must be accurate themselves," Alfred Maier explains. For this reason, Boehlerit places a great deal of emphasis on manufacturing flawless punches for over 6000 different types of inserts at their own pressing tool department. Ideal punches are produced by ensuring the clearance between punch and die is as small as possible, as this reduces wear. To accomplish this, the measurement technicians at Boehlerit use the InfiniteFocus system to measure the aligned punch and die, determining the best clearance value for a flawless punch.
The optical high-resolution measurement system is then also employed in the production process. Here, it helps Boehlerit inspect blanks and any post-processing or corrective steps carried out on the pressed part for it to conform to the required dimensional accuracy and surface quality. Naturally, the best and most economical scenario for Boehlerit's quality assurance is if little to no post-processing or corrections are necessary, as refining steps such as grinding are expensive. In this respect, the InfiniteFocus system combined with a motorized rotational unit has already paid off for the company. Thanks to the system, Boehlerit has been able to reduce post-processing significantly and corrective steps have also been rendered much more efficient. This has shortened the overall time required for blanks to conform to the dimensional tolerances and be ready for serial production. Which, if any, refining steps are necessary is determined by measuring the blank. Alfred Maier explains: "We used to inspect blanks with tactile measurement technologies. 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. They have many surfaces that blend into each other. These geometries simply can't be mapped with tactile methods. Alicona's systems have made it possible for us to measure these shapes, such as bevels and steep flanks." He continues, describing the improvements to the production process: "Today, 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." Gerhard Melcher, Head of Marketing and machining expert at Boehlerit, expresses these advancements 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 for pressing tools and product blanks 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
As edge geometries grow in complexity, quality assurance and measurement systems are subject to ever increasing requirements. This translates to enormous pressure on those responsible for quality assurance. "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. With Alicona, Boehlerit has found the ideal partner to ensure these requirements are met. The quality assurance department profits greatly from the InfiniteFocus system's Real3D technology and the fully automatic motorized rotational unit that was pruchased together with the measurement unit. Markus Peihser, measurement technician at Boehlerit, describes the system's advantages: "The system 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. I can even map geometries that a tactile system wouldn't have been able to measure.” Another feature that quality assurance at Boehlerit profits from are the system's capabilities for importing external datasets. These make it possible to automatically compare dimensioning. Additionally, the differences between design drawings and pressed insert are also displayed graphically. "Undersizes and oversizes are visualized using a color coding. This allows us to easily recognize any excessive deviations. As a result, we become aware of faults much faster, avoid time-consuming corrections, and accelerate the process as a whole," Peihser points out. The high repeatability of InfiniteFocus's measurements has become another important factor for Boehlerit to boost 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. Naturally, this removes any margin of error in quality assurance. Whether today or tomorrow, the measurement results have to be the same." Alfred Maier adds: "With InfiniteFocus, we can guarantee all of the above without effort. Some of our customers also use InfiniteFocus. In other words, they use the same measurement system as us in their inspection of incoming goods and quality assurance. This creates perfect conditions for working together, as we all 'speak the same language' and work with the same values. It also greatly accelerates the approval process following initial sampling."
Boehlerit uses Alicona systems to carry out the following measurements as part of quality assurance:
- Measurement of the clearance between punch and die
- 3D measurement of the geometry of pressed blanks
- Numerical verification of corrective processes and post-processing such as grinding
- Automatic measurement of form deviations compared to a CAD dataset
- Complete 3D measurement of the geometry of inserts with Real3D technology
- Form and roughness measurement of tools