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Focus on 4 current themes in precision

In 2016, Precision Manufacturing worked on its market position. The research results from recent years were communicated to industry as a whole by publishing six white papers related to precision manufacturing. Along with feedback from industrial players, this series of publications provided the basis for the four themes on which we will be focusing in the years ahead: cost-effective machining of advanced materials, Machining 4.0 (generation of data in production and use in real time), surface functionalization, and the integration of 3D metal printing into a precision environment.

What started as a niche activity - namely, the manufacturing of components with micrometer precision - has evolved into a program with a wide range of applications, as demonstrated by a dramatic increase in the number of research and development projects from an average of one large industry-driven development project each year to three projects being launched in 2016 with two in the start-up phase (launch due in early 2017).

Projects in 2016

Six white papers explore the potential of precision manufacturing

Drawing on roadmaps, surveys, and years of its own industrial research and experience of industry, Sirris conducted an analysis of the state of affairs in this domain, distinguishing between six areas of precision manufacturing where companies could boost their competitiveness. Precision manufacturing experts had a closer look at these six areas in six white papers, which were published on a monthly basis during 2016 and can/could be downloaded free of charge.

Innovative cooling technology doubles tools' service life

The high temperatures that occur in metal machining result in faster tool wear or damage to the workpiece. Cryogenic machining, which involves using fluids at extremely low temperatures, provides one solution to this. This technology offers benefits in terms of productivity and quality, especially for materials generating large amounts of heat. The use of these cooling agents is industrially proven and is being extended to growing numbers of machines and applications. Against this backdrop, Sirris decided to invest in this technology and so now, in collaboration with Air Liquide, we are offering companies the chance to test out cryogenic machining for themselves at our site in Diepenbeek (Belgium).

D'Haene NV leading the way with new cladding process for coatings and repairs

As well as additive pieces, laser cladding can be used to apply wear- and corrosion-resistant coatings or carry out repairs. D'Haene NV, a company based in Roeselare (Belgium) with a background in hard chrome plating and grinding components for the offshore industry, recently decided to invest in this technology to replace hard chrome plating, an activity which as a result of environmental considerations is experiencing quite a squeeze. To this end, the company is focusing very much on developing its own R&D activities.
This is where Sirris came in, with its main role being to support D'Haene with guidance in this process. While D'Haene has a solid background in manufacturing, meaning it has a great deal of experience to fall back on, rolling out R&D activities at this company turned out to be no walk in the park. Sirris helped it in this process, drawing on its specialist knowledge in, for example, metallurgy and research methods to get the development of the cladding process moving in the right direction. The end result is that D'Haene has developed its own top-level technology and can draw on the expertise of a fully-fledged R&D department.

Dynatool research establishes links between acoustic and force measurements and machining data

As part of a European research project called 'Dynatool' also involving cooperation with universities in Germany and Austria, Sirris and KU Leuven have together been focusing on integrating sensors into the machining process - so into the spindle, tools, and the clamping devices - and using the resulting measurements to provide information about the quality of the process and the condition of the tools. This information can be used to prevent vibrations, promptly detect tool wear (and fractures), and determine a suitable operating range. The resulting knowledge was used to conduct improved simulations for new products, creating an interaction between offline and online process optimization.

This research has shown that multi-sensor solutions (i.e. the combination of several types of measurement) are needed to obtain a better understanding of the condition of the tool. Using smart algorithms, links were established between the measurements and a tool's level of wear. Sirris and KU Leuven are continuing their research activities covering these issues.

High levels of accuracy for complex laser-cladded parts at LCV

An additive technique that has attracted a lot of attention recently is laser cladding. This is a relatively easy way of making large, complex parts out of all kinds of wear- and corrosion-resistant materials. Flemish Institute for Technology Research (VITO) spin-off Laser Cladding Venture NV (LCV) is working on marketing this technology. However, the levels of accuracy and surface quality provided by the laser-cladding process are still inadequate for certain applications. Realizing this, this company asked Sirris to assist it with the high-precision, five-axis finishing of its pieces.

Sirris sought out the best possible milling parameters for the powder-metallurgical materials used during laser cladding, as well as the proper tools and CAM strategy to efficiently finish the parts, many of which are geometrically complex and have thin walls. This knowledge means that milling can help to significantly enhance the value and functionality of laser-cladded parts. LCV expects this to consolidate its position in Belgium and Europe as a pioneer in the field of additive laser-cladding technology.

Moments of inspiration

Precision demonstrated in practice

Wanting to show the practical details of what precision manufacturing involves and what the experts in this area at Sirris are working on, these experts put together a demo showcase consisting of a fully developed workpiece demonstrating the topics of the white papers. Sirris rounded off the precision manufacturing drive in style by giving companies that were interested the chance to explore its facilities in this area at a machine room open day in Diepenbeek on September 30, 2016. Two days later, the site also participated in Open Company Day.

Some interesting articles are available on our blog site.

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