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Tech Front: Surfaces Get Laser-Produced Textures


In many industries, surface texture has become an important aspect of product design. It not only provides the means to refine the physical appearance of an item, but also allows a company to influence tactile impressions of their products. As a result, surface texturing has become an important aspect of product design for applications as diverse as automotive, medical, and moldmaking. 

Laser-texturing technology is a fully digitized manufacturing process that can produce detailed and nuanced texturing, microstructuring, engraving, marking, and labeling of 2-D and 3-D geometries, said Gisbert Ledvon, business development manager, GF AgieCharmilles (Lincolnshire, IL). "Our laser texturing technology can achieve a much higher level of detail than chemical etching for greater creativity in part design across a wide variety of materials, including plastics, graphite, aluminum, copper, steel, carbide, brass, and ceramics."Laser-texturing technology is a fully digitized manufacturing process that can produce detailed and nuanced texturing, giving product designers both refined appearance and tactile qualities.

The textured surface is produced by a laser that turns material directly from solid to gas. The Laser 1000 5Ax machine from GF Agie Charmilles uses a pulsed laser to produce 2-D and 3-D details from a high-quality digital image, allowing for completely reproducible results for specific textures, engravings, marks, or labels in both large and small batches. At IMTS, the machine was paired with an integrated pallet changer to demonstrate its repeatability in producing precise complex 3-D texturing on airbags and other automotive molds. Special surface textures can be created on surgical implants, often made of titanium, to stimulate bone or tissue growth onto or around the implant to secure it in place.

The Laser 1000 5Ax has two optical and five mechanical axes and construction using a cast iron body that produces a stable machining platform. Linear scales and rotary encoders ensure maximum accuracy, and a 20-W Ytterbium pulsed fiber laser is standard with a 50-W option available. The machine is equipped with a programmable tilting laser head, high-resolution camera with integrated illumination for precise positioning, integrated touch probe, dust exhaust, central lubrication system and lenses of varying focal strength. The laser texturing process is pollutant-free, producing no fluids, slurry, or chips. Dust particles produced by the process are extracted by vacuum. ME

For more information from GF AgieCharmilles, go to, or phone 847-913-5300.


Sensor Tracks Large
Parts for Assembly

The newest member of the iGPS family is the i5 Integrated Sensor (i5is), a fully integrated five degrees of freedom measurement device, for applications ranging from vehicle tracking to automated assembly of large parts. iGPS is a metrology system that uses a network of laser transmitters to create a measurement volume that can range in size from small vehicle assembly shops to large aircraft final assembly lines. Typical applications include aerospace part/jig alignment, aircraft final assembly, robotic vehicle tracking, and machine guidance. For example, large-scale assembly of a tail to an airframe or of the barrel tube, nose, and tail section of an airliner can be tracked in real time.

The transmitters are used to triangulate the positions of hand-held probes and sensors, like the i5is to enable part inspection and tracking anywhere within the volume. The i5is uses the newest generation of iGPS receiver technology which delivers a significant leap forward in both performance and measurement reliability. The i5is integrates three previously separate components into one device while improving data quality, extending measurement range, and improving accuracy. The i5is integrated sensor, part of the iGPS metrology system, can achieve a 3-D point uncertainty of <150 µm and a length measurement uncertainty of <115 µm throughout the entire measurement volume.

At the heart of the integrated sensor is a new linear amplifier and 16-bit analog to digital converter with advanced digital signal processing. The i5is is virtually unaffected by optical and environmental noise caused by lighting conditions and EMI sources for reliable and robust pulse detection. The result is a greater than 50% reduction in systematic biases, which drive down the uncertainty of iGPS measurements and improve effective transmitter to sensor range.

The volumetric accuracy of the i5is within an iGPS system is comparable with that of any large-volume metrology devices. The i5is achieves a 3-D point uncertainty of <150 µm and a length measurement uncertainty of <115 µm throughout the entire measurement volume. The i5is can track an object’s native coordinate system in six degrees of freedom or provide relative positional feedback of multiple objects. Benefits to manufacturers include ability to perform simultaneous measurement of multiple objects within a single coordinate system; perform dynamic measurements designed to integrate with automated positioner systems; provide continuous dynamic feedback without single instrument line of sight constraints, and provide live six DOF position feedback for tooling adjustments. ME

For more information on Nikon Metrology Inc., go to www.nikonmetrology, or phone 810-494-5616.


Robot and Machine Controlled on a
Single Screen

Traditional robots are one-armed precision devices installed, programmed, and maintained by engineers and technologists with industrial-strength capacity for precision operations. An important trend is the ability to control the robot from the machine’s CNC.

At IMTS, Siemens demonstrated how a Kuka robot was articulating parts simulating the operation on a CNC machine tool. Key to the development is the machine builder’s ability to integrate mxAutomation from Kuka directly though the Siemens Sinumerik CNC platform, allowing the operator of the machine to run both the machine tool and robot from a single control panel.

The motion sequence of the robot is engineered entirely within the Sinumerik 840D sl CNC, then transferred by the 840D sl’s PLC function to the mxAutomation interpreter on the KR C4. All program changes to the six-axis robot can easily be input on a second channel of the CNC and fully operated. This provides the ability to not only run a machine tool’s automation sequence more efficiently, but also make more changes on-the-fly to minimize machine downtime, with no special knowledge of robot programming language needed.

At IMTS, Siemens demonstrated how a Kuka robot was articulating parts simulating the operation on a CNC machine tool.During the operation of the machine tool, all changes made can be visualized directly on the CNC screen, further minimizing operator actions. The result is that an operator can jog the robot, command the gripper, and control integrated actions with a machine tool on single-screen operation. In operation, the KRC4 integrator and mxAutomation convert the robot language into the same commands used for multiaxis machine tool functions. A single Profinet cable runs between the robot and the CNC.

mxAutomation for Sinumerik CNC was a joint development between Kuka and Siemens. Kuka created plug-in function modules for the Siemens Step 7 PLC engineering software and provided its robot knowledge to Siemens for creation of the second channel logic on the CNC. All safety functions and test functions for load/unload, brake test, gripper, robot communication and safe operation of the robot are provided through the Siemens Profinet and Profisafe playforms. ME 

For more information from KUKA Robotics, go to, or phone 586-873-3230; from
Siemens Industry Inc., go to,
or phone 847-640-1595.


HMCs Show Versatile

Machining Capability

The new MC Series horizontal machining centers (HMC) from Heller Machine Tools (Troy, MI) feature a robust machine design that provides the structural stiffness and high torque required for making deep cuts in tough material, as well as the accuracy to finish-machine the part.

"The capacity of the MC Series machines to make roughing cuts all day long yet finish-machine the same workpiece in the same fixture has a major positive impact on the cost of machine ownership in the short and long term," said Vince Trampus, Heller vice president. The precision provided by all machine sizes in the MC range is ensured through reduced table deformation and high precision due to internally arranged drives. This provides high productivity and minimal axes positioning times resulting in reductions in machining times between 20 and 50% in practical application compared to competitive machines.

In the MC series, there are seven different size Heller machining centers, each of which is built to provide the maximum reliability and material cutting versatility capable of rough-and-finish machining to the tightest production tolerances over a long service life. The MC series is equally well-suited to light-metal machining and heavy-duty machining, which includes many automotive components from suspension to engine blocks and heads. The versatile MC series can also be equipped with a range of optional extensions, including an out-facing slide with coupling through the center of the spindle for performing NC turning operations.

"Today’s machining center users focus on aspects such as machine construction, pallet magazine, traverse paths, process dependability, high productivity and precision. In these terms, the MC series scores well with a very rigid build, high mechanical accuracy and Heller’s twin-drive in the Z axis which ensures symmetric force application and free chip fall," Trampus said.

For varying batch sizes and a variable range of parts and materials, the MC series machines are capable of high-speed cutting, heavy cutting, dry or MQL machining at full productivity in series or for parallel processing. Users can specify spindle size and taper, tool magazine, and chip disposal, resulting in an attractive price/performance ratio.

The MC series offers a choice of gear-driven spindles for power, speed, high-power, or power/speed to provide feed thrusts of 15000 N in the X and Y axes, 20,000 N in the Z axis; traverse speeds of 60 m/min, and torque of up to 2300 N•m. The high-capacity 630-mm pallet changer can handle workpieces to 900-mm diam, 1200-mm high, weighing up to 1400 kg.

The MC5000 model demonstrated on the Troy plant floor at a Heller open house includes a 630-mm pallet, HSK 100 spindles, and working cube of 800 mm (part diameter of 900 mm) for high-load capacity and metalcutting productivity across a range of materials and part designs.

Another significant benefit of the series, especially in terms of automation, is tool management. The MC series is available with a chain-type tool magazine with storage capacities for 54, 80, 160 or 240 tools and a rack-type magazine with more than 400 storage places enabling tool loading parallel to machining. Chip-to-chip time is 4 sec or less.

Since its premiere at EMO 2007, more than 650 machines of the series have been sold and installed at leading manufacturers worldwide. ME

For more information from Heller Machine Tools, go to, or phone 248-288-5000.


This article was first published in the December 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF


Published Date : 12/1/2012

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