The demand for high-quality gear teeth in areas such as electric mobility comes with great challenges. For example, in many applications generating grinding with corundum is a good solution, but this abrasive also has disadvantages in some applications. Grinding special geometrical modifications could, for example, have a negative effect. The modifications would then have to be integrated in the tool completely or partially via the dressing process in the machine.
On one hand, however, profiling a grinding worm needs time and, on the other, it alters the geometry of the tool. Depending on the choice of grinding process, it has to be repeated in very short intervals in order to guarantee production at the same level of quality. This is where Liebherr comes in, offering a CBN tool with an implemented modification and demonstrating on an example workpiece that better economic production is possible with these tools.
CBN stands for cubic boron nitride. Next to diamond, it is the second hardest cutting material in the world. It consists of a 3D matrix made of boron and nitrogen atoms that can develop a broader spectrum of crystal forms than diamond. It has high thermal conductivity and a low coefficient of friction. The workpiece heats up much less than grinding with corundum, for example. It is possible to machine very hard materials reliably with CBN. Also, CBN grinding worms can be smaller, which means that the range of applications is greater than with corundum.
Short Cycle Times, Long Tool Life
CBN tools are currently experiencing a comeback. They may be expensive to procure but make gains with unit costs on modifications. Liebherr-Verzahntechnik GmbH, Kempten, Germany, has been using galvanically coated CBN since 1988. It is a highly durable grinding material. A significant increase in the grinding performance of modern corundum has been achieved in recent years but, compared with CBN, it comes with the disadvantage of the amount of effort required for dressing, which is encountered most prominently on topological grinding processes.
Eliminating Dressing Times with CBN
With these processes, the number of workpieces per dressing cycle is significantly reduced due to the limited shift possibility, which in turn raises tool costs and also cycle times. It may be possible on corundum tools (e.g. for distortion-free generating grinding) to increase the workpiece number for each dressing interval through new mathematical solutions but this also applies in the same way to the use of CBN tools.
With CBN, dressing times can be dispensed with completely, which means that cycle times and manufacturing costs can be reduced. CBN is highly machinable and generates an extremely low measuring complexity. A CBN grinding worm is clamped in and the grinding process begins straightaway—with no need to make corrections beforehand.
The unit costs of a test workpiece (m = 1.53 mm, z = 81 mm) included a special width modification with corundum at €4.25 with a cycle time of 114.6 seconds, while the same grinding process with CBN was €3.38 cheaper and considerably faster, with a cycle time of 78 seconds.
Where the number of producible workpieces per dressing cycle with corundum is in the two-figure range, it can occasionally reach well into the four-figure range with a CBN coating.
Each situation needs to be assessed individually to determine which grinding worm is the most viable. Liebherr advises its customers on whether CBN is the better alternative for their numbers and application scenarios.
A Robust Process
In a dressing-free CBN process, all parameters are predefined and “frozen.” This is a crucial difference between corundum and CBN processes: All corundum processes are subject to changes through dressing, which can impair grinding worm quality. This might be wear of the dressing tool.
Another concern is the diminishing worm diameter. As it diminishes, the length of the active worm spirals are shorter, which reduces the number of active abrasive grains. A consequence of this is an increase in the roughness factor on the tooth flank, which should remain constant throughout the worm tool life. There is a limit to which this can be counteracted through finer dressing processes.
Additional processes, such as dressing, present sources of fault that cannot occur when CBN is used. CBN processes are robust with assured quality. This makes them interesting for the economic production of high-quality gear teeth.
For example, in gears for electric mobility. Attempts are being made to reduce noise, particularly on the very sophisticated electric gears in the automotive sector, by changing the macro and micro geometry.
A Robust Process
Liebherr manufactures CBN tools at its Ettlingen, Germany factory. “Our aims in production are high performance and top quality in a very sturdy process,” said Haider Arroum, regional sales manager for gear cutting tools.
Producing CBN grinding worms and discs is carried out in a closed-loop process in which measurement corrections flow into production parameters. “We have to carry over the configuration accuracy to manufacture as close to 1:1 as possible,” said Arroum in substantiating the complicated procedure.
LGG 180 with Integrated Centrifuge
In most cases, new-generation electric cars are built in new factories where the focus is on reliable and clean processes. At EMO 2019 Liebherr exhibited a generating gear grinding machine that meets the requirements of a clean factory in full: The LGG 180 with integrated centrifuge. The centrifuge station used to remove burrs and coolants is located at the pocket of the ring loader pointing towards the operator side. It is mounted decoupled from the machine so that oscillations or vibrations from the centrifuge process do not have any effect on gear quality. Spinning during the machining process is therefore possible. There is no loss of oil, the media remain in the machine and the cleaned components can be transported further in any automation system.
Advantages of the integrated centrifuge are:
- A clean factory because it produces dry workpieces, no oil loss, and reliable production.
- The decoupled centrifuge unit does not transfer vibrations to the grinding machine.
- The unit can be connected to any conventional automation solution.
Advantages of CBN tools are:
- Tool mounting, pre-profiling and dressing are not required.
- No adjustment of profile angle needed.
- Easy operation.
- Greatly reduced measuring and testing.