Better Touch Better Business
European Ru0026D institutes conduct research on laser polishing for mold making
A serious threat to the European machine tool industry has emerged as a low-cost supplier of injection moulding and die casting. This industry is a sizeable market with an annual turnover of 13 billion euros. For the vast majority of small and medium-sized European companies producing these molds, it takes 12-15% of the manufacturing cost and 30-50% of the manufacturing time to polish the semi-finished parts, which is a huge cost. However, if the surface finishing of these machine tool products is reprocessed and moved to low-cost manufacturing sites outside Europe, it is not suitable, because this will inevitably lead to the decline of the machine tool manufacturing industry in the entire European region. In order to solve this problem, in June 2010, a European business conglomerate combined enterprise and research and development center, launched a 3.9 million euro project, named it poliMATIC. This is a three-year collaborative project for small manufacturing companies, funded by the European Commission and assisted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology and the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology in Aachen, Germany. The overall goal of poliMATIC is to develop two automated polishing technologies that will seriously reduce machining time by a factor of 10 to 30 compared to manual operations, enabling full CAD/CAM performance. As these technologies are systematized, skilled workers at small manufacturers who know how to polish them can concentrate more on the complex machining of parts. Mold surface roughness is a key factor in meeting different application requirements. Therefore, in the European machine tool industry, polishing technology is widely used to reduce surface roughness. However, the existing automated processing technologies are mainly polishing, electrochemical polishing or surface finishing. Applying these techniques to molds results in uneven finish quality, rounded edges and geometric deviations. In addition, deeper cavities are more difficult to surface treatment. This problem exists on components with free-form surfaces and on cutting edges for most machine tool applications. Therefore, in the machine tool industry, the vast majority of polishing is manual. To handle a very laborious but tedious job, the quality of manual polishing is mainly dependent on the skill level and experience of the worker. Due to the lack of skilled technicians, many problems have arisen, and the entire European market is looking for suitable technicians. The slow processing speed (usually 10-30 min/cm) and subsequent processes makes mass production of hand-polished molds time-consuming and expensive. In the poliMATIC project, engineers proposed two technical solutions: Laser Polishing (LP) and Controlled Force Robotic Polishing (FCRP). Both options can improve the competitive position of the European machine tool industry and reduce the processing time for surface polishing. The project partners - three academies and twelve companies from eight countries - will work together to perfect these two automated polishing technology solutions. During the poliMATIC project, engineers will work on the development of 3D component machining methods and knowledge-based CAx-architectures, as well as extended tests on automatic polishing machines. They will also review the feasibility of new measurable surface quality standards in order to evaluate automated polishing techniques in comparison to manual polishing. Finally, the automated polishing of complex-shaped molds will be tested among different industry partners to obtain the final result of the project.