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Haidlmair, an Austrian toolmaker that measures tools used in die-mould casting and injection moulding on five-axis milling machines, is employing Blum-Novotest’s Formcontrol V3 measurement software.

Engelbert Gotthartsleitner, tool production manufacture manager at Haidlmair, said: ’Our CNC machines provide high-precision milling; we more or less take it for granted that measurements are kept within set tolerances.

’In the past, co-workers from the assembly department would turn up quite frequently to the toolmakers with defective components.

’Wasn’t there a way to measure parts on the machine? There was a small measuring machine, but it was unsuitable for measuring randomly shaped surfaces and it was simply too small for tools with dimensions larger than 1m,’ added Gotthartsleitner.

To solve this problem, the Nussbach-based team implemented the Blum Formcontrol V3 software.

Now, the team can utilise arbitrary probes to measure whole workpieces directly on the five-axis machine.

Initially, one of Haidlmair’s newly purchased five-axis milling machines was equipped with a version of the software in 2005.

Five additional licenses for the measurement software were then added and, with the introduction of the new Hermle C50U machine tool, the number of licenses increased to six by 2009.

Older machines are not being retrofitted; however, all new machining centres will now be equipped with Formcontrol from the outset.

At present, 15 Haidlmair employees are using Blum’s Formcontrol software.

The right moment for the implementation of the software is decided by the system operator.

It is said to be reassuring for the company to know for certain that the randomly shaped surfaces will fit.

This enables Haidlmair to guarantee that tolerances will fit when the tool is re-measured by the user.

The company considers precision in the um range – a precondition for production.

Complicated parts are always measured.

In doing so, it is not necessary for toolmakers to carry out measuring runs between individual machining steps.

Final measurements take place at the very end.

CNC milling operators can, basically, assume that the parts they produce are free of defects.

Final measurements provide additional control and this improves quality and saves time, instead of wasting time on a separate measuring machine.

The part has to be reset and, for complicated parts in particular, it may take a long time before all points have been traced and the defects detected.

Transport and storage periods when moving from the machine to the coordinate measuring machine (CMM) and back to the machine may also delay the throughput of a workpiece.

This ultimately delays the production of the entire injection mould.

However, with the implementation of Formcontrol, if it becomes apparent during measurement on the machine that reworking is required, the workpiece will still be in its original setup and no time will have been wasted for resetting and alignment.

Transportation and storage times are no longer required.

In addition to time savings, the Formcontrol software also keeps a log, enabling the retrospective tracing of critical points and machining steps.

As an example, Gotthartsleitner highlights a tool used to form synthetic parts for the consumer-goods industry.

It used to take 10-15 hours to machine this part.

Measurements used to be taken at the end, with particular interest paid to a preset diameter.

’If problems should occur later on during fitting, we could be certain that they were not due to an incorrect diameter,’ said Gotthartsleitner.

The operator looks for the relevant measuring points offline on the PC while the CNC program is running.

To achieve this, computer-aided-design (CAD) data in the IGES format is exported to Formcontrol V3.

By means of the menu items selected via mouse click, the software visualises the travel of the measurement probe.

To prevent possible tool collision, Formcontrol V3 is equipped with a virtual monitoring device.

For this purpose, the dimensions of the measurement probe are stored in the software.

The measurement program is transferred to the HSC machine and the probe is then automatically loaded into the spindle, whereupon the measuring points are controlled.

For a tool used in the consumer tool industry, this measurement sequence takes less than five minutes.

Data transfer takes place via an automatic data interface (ADIF), preventing possible errors owing to manual data transfer.

The ADIF handles the entire data transfer between NC and PC.

The operator starts the measurement program and quickly receives the result.

Data is displayed either in the form of a table showing target-performance comparisons or graphically by a colour bar graph.

The operator has the option to have deviations projected directly onto the surface of the component or at the edge of the screen.

The measurement software features self-explanatory user menus.

The arrival of the five new licenses was followed by a one-time training event.

According to the toolmaker, it is possible to use the measurement software independently within a day.

Working as a CNC milling operator or toolmaker is said to be an advantage; it is important that the operator who has machined the workpiece also sets the measuring points.

The operator must know the tool path during milling, the critical sections on the workpiece and the points that require more stringent tolerances.

The measurement software will work with all workpiece probes, including those already installed on some of Haidlmair’s machines.

Prior to measuring, the probe is calibrated once on a datum sphere to determine the spatial switching performance.

Potential calibrations before the measuring process or between individual sets of instruments are no longer necessary, thus considerably reducing the time required for measuring.

The workpiece orientation is controlled with the help of the probe.

The software evaluates the measurement results using a ’read-in’ CAD model.

An imperfectly set workpiece, incorrect axis alignment or possible thermal effects such as a temperature rise in the spindle produce a discrepancy between the workpiece orientation on the CNC machine and the data of the CAD model.

Measurement results gained under such conditions are unreliable as machining errors will be superimposed by other errors.

Best-Fit, a mathematical method, detects and compensates for these errors.

This function effectively matches the measured values with the desired values from the CAD model.

Resulting values for workpiece misalignment and orientation are calculated accordingly so that the workpiece is reset virtually.

Haidlmair applies Best-Fit when a workpiece has to be reworked.

Actual target-performance deviations become apparent when this function is enabled.

The knowledge of Formcontrol V3 has grown within the company to an extent that even purchased parts from suppliers are taken from the assembly line to be measured on the company’s machines using the software when they do not fit correctly.

Blum-Novotest GmbH is recognized as a developer of leading-edge measurement and testing technology, with some 40 years of experience as partner for the worldwide machine tool, automotive and aircraft industries.

The business develops and produces tactile and optical measuring systems for workpiece measurement and tool setting applications in machine tools. Alongside this, Blum develops and manufactures production line integrated measuring and testing solutions.

In addition to the modern, fast growing manufacturing sites near Ravensburg (Germany, BW) and Willich (Germany, NRW) Blum has sales & service subsidiaries in Bordeaux, Como, Birmingham, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and Shanghai.

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