Seco Tools LLC (Troy, MI) hosted a Mold and Die Manufacturers Seminar for metalworking professionals at its headquarters on July 26 in collaboration with hyperMILL (Open Mind Technologies, Needham, MA) and Heidenhain Corp. (Schaumburg, IL). The event showcased tips, tricks, and solutions for difficult-to-machine steels and hardened materials.
The event included presentations by Rob Keenan, president of Seco North America, Alan Levine, managing director for Open Mind Technologies, and Gisbert Ledvon, TNC business development manager for Heidenhain Corp.
According to Keenan, research and development are very important at Seco—the company continues to develop product and solutions to make customers more effective, helping them compete globally.
“By attending this event, between the tooling and machines, hopefully attendees will be able to improve their operations,” said Keenan. “As distributors know, there is always this leap frog happening—when the machine tool technology advances beyond that of cutting tools, controls or software. To get from behind this curve, we are collaborating more to make sure when they come up with a faster machine, new toolpath or strategy that we can provide the tools to take advantage of it.”
According to Levine, Open Mind Technologies has always focused on innovation, understanding that a good toolpath needs to go hand in hand with machine control and if they are not communicating well, a good toolpath is just on the computer screen but not on the part.
“Years ago, we made toolpaths, and today we are working with partners,” said Levine. “We do a lot of interfaces to tool management systems, and as a pioneer in five-axis technologies, we have innovative ideas and many years of CAM experience to offer.”
When looking to make a buying decision, metalworking professionals must look at the tooling, CAD/CAM, machine tools and controls, and they must decide if they want to farm out certain items and possibly expand the business.
“You might want to expand your business because manufacturing is coming back to the U.S.,” said Ledvon. “I believe what is coming back is not the average, easy parts that you can make. Now you must think differently—outside the box—because if you keep doing the same thing over and over again you won’t get different results. We hope that attendees think about how they can be more effective than some of their competitors and get more business and more complex parts.”
Challenges of Die Mold Applications
The keynote presentation about controls and die mold applications was given by guest speaker Dr. Jens Kummetz, head of marketing and product management controls for Heidenhain Corp.
“With die mold applications there is compromise between manufacturing time and surface quality,” said Kummetz. “This is a big challenge we must optimize as a control manufacturer. There are many influences that have an impact on the part accuracy and surface quality.”
Kummetz used an analogy between CNC control task and racing a Formula 1 race car to explain optimize speed and accuracy of motion.
“The race car driver has a road with a certain width and curves, and he wants to go along the race path as fast as possible but needs to stay within the width of the road,” said Kummetz. “This is the same for the NC control. We must follow the path given by NC data points. There is a certain tolerance range (this is the width of the road) and we need to use this width to keep the feed rate as close as possible to the program feed rate. If the race car driver approaches a corner (which would be a narrow radius) the driver needs to reduce the speed in a way the car isn’t vibrating since this will not give the best ability to handle a corner. The driver needs to smoothly press the brake pedal, so the car doesn’t vibrate.
“This is the same with a machine tool,” continued Kummetz. “If you reduce the feed rate too hard then the machine will react with vibrations and you will see the impact of this on the surface as shadows, and in die mold you want shiny and smooth surfaces without having to do any polishing after milling.”
According to Kummetz, the big secret is to plan the velocity like the Formula 1 race car driver would consider the behavior of the car and how wide the road is. “Everything is to control the machine, so it doesn’t react with vibration and moves as fast as possible along the path so surface quality is appropriate.”
During the keynote presentation, the connected machine was also discussed.
“There are many advantages to be connected to shop floor network—you can collect data on machine tool to recalculate your job and get better efficiency with a tool,” said Kummetz. The StateMonitor collects precise data, and it is very helpful.”
Easier work, simple data usage, timesaving workflows and transparent processes are the focus of this software. The TNC user knows the current status of his machine always and everywhere. He can configure these data for his own requirements, use it as needed, and evaluate it quickly to work more efficiently and productively.
StateMonitor captures, visualizes and evaluates the status of connected machines and displays it on any networked terminal. It could be a TNC control in production, for example, at which the statuses of several machines are displayed centrally, or a mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone, so that the TNC user can also leave his machine; for example, to get new tools from the warehouse or the tool preparation area.
In addition to the presentations, there were product demonstrations in the company’s upgraded technical center. Attendees learned about the machining of complex 2D and 3D surfaces such as mold cavities, gates, heat-sinks, and die pockets. Topics discussed included blending techniques, five-axis precision machining, roughing/finishing strategies for hard milling, and machining strategies for small lot sizes.
The machining demos took place on Seco’s new second-generation Grob G350, a simultaneous full five-axis Universal Machining Center that features glass scales, standard chiller unit, and intelligent chip management. The new Heidenhain TNC640 Mill-Turn control was also on display as the centerpiece for Kummetz’s discussion of CNC systems and the innovations that are pushing the technology forward.