Advanced tool grinding technology, more capable and precise than ever, has meant new ground-breaking cutting tools, such as a variable geometry designs. Just as importantly, other machine tool providers need to offer automation and advanced in-process sensing to make proven tool grinding operations even more efficient. With the introduction of extremely hard tooling materials, tool grinding suppliers are even looking at offering alternative means of creating tools, such as lasers and EDM.
“Our customers demand exact precision,” stated Bjorn Schwarzenbach of Rollomatic (Mundelein, IL), a supplier of tool grinding and laser cutting equipment. These demands are the same for customers owning a couple of machines for special tooling, to those that own a hundred machines used in round-the-clock production, according to Schwarzenbach, and durability is also a given. “Some of our customers have had our 600 series grinders for over 20 years, producing tools with the same precision,” he said.
Precision remains key. For example, the company’s GrindSmart 529XS guarantees holding concentricity and runout accuracy to less than 2 µm (0.00008″). According to Schwarzenbach, maintaining the quality of the environment is critical to accuracy. “We know that holding the temperature inside the machine for any of our models is important for the grinding process of each tool,” he said.
No less important than precision is cost-effective, no-fuss operation. “Everyone wants a perfect tool with faster cycle time. No one wants to stand by the machine for 20 hours and create 60 end mills and make sure they are perfect,” stated Schwarzenbach. “They can’t afford to put in 80 tool blanks to only get 60 good tools.” This means that Rollomatic has added equipment like in-process measurement of tool-runout in the GrindSmart series that allows for in-process compensation. “The runout is measured as the tool is ground so that the tool can adjust itself, particularly the work end,” he explained.
Setting up a production run is another focus. Rollomatic makes a point in offering its VirtualGrind Pro software, a specialized CAM package for tool grinding offered standard with the company’s GrindSmart machines. Rollomatic set up a demonstration of lights-out manufacturing at IMTS 2016 using one of its GrindSmart 529XW machines. Over 20 hours of untended operation, the system produced sixty ¾” (19.05 mm) four-flute end mills with a primary width specification of 0.004″ (0.102 mm) and a radial relief angle of 0.5°. According to measurements taken, maximum outer diameter variation was 0.004″ and maximum runout in any of the tools was 0.000018″ (0.00046 mm). “We gave the tools out so that potential users could take them home and see how they work,” he said.
Beyond the tool grinding operation itself, Rollomatic also recognizes that most machinery today exists, or will exist, in an information ecosystem. Later in 2017, the company plans to introduce the RConnect software for collecting data to analyze and measure tool production for its tool grinding machines. According to the company, the software provides a floor production manager and overview of each machine grinding state, giving insight into the hours out of production and hours in production for each machine. That shows the manufacturer the shifts in a machine’s production based on tooling needs. It will also provide raw data for an overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) or Total Effective Equipment Performance (TEEP) calculation.