Alicona’s IFM Aids AMRC’s Cutting Tool Research
Given the harsh demands placed on cutting tools, the accuracy of their complex geometries, such as radii and angles, is of paramount importance to their efficient operation. In addition, the precise adherence to cutting tools’ specified surface finish parameters is equally crucial to their overall effectiveness. Specifically, cutting tool’s dimensional and surface finish attributes have a significant influence on their longevity, durability, cutting speed, available feed rates and the eventual quality of the manufactured component.
To ensure that cutting tools are manufactured within tolerance and to help guarantee that they are able to deliver optimum performance, Alicona the global supplier of high-resolution optical 3D measurement systems, provide an extremely accurate means of measuring their complex geometries and cutting edges. Alicona’s high-resolution, optical non-contact 3D measurement device, InfiniteFocus (IFM) allows, sub-micron, full form measurement of a wide range of tools including, drills, end mills, diamond tipped tools, coated tools and carbide inserts. IFM very accurately measures surface features such as flank angles, thread pitch, clearance whilst the tool’s automatic 360° rotation allows complete form measurement.
Based on the Focus-Variation principle, IFM is an advanced, sub-micron capable optical device that utilises Alicona’s renowned Real3D system to measures tool geometries and cutting edges from every perspective. IFM provides all of the functionalities of both an optical profiler and a micro coordinate measurement device, within one user-friendly system. The IFM’s operating principle combines the small depth of focus of an optical system with vertical scanning, providing detailed topographical and colour information that is derived from variation of focus. This innovative methodology allows the accurate measurement of form and roughness, plus a full range of surface characterization data in a single measurement.
The innovative Alicona device provides the ability to precisely measure complex cutting tool geometries such as profile, rake, clearance angle, flute dimensions, concentricity and relief grinding, with measurements reaching a vertical resolution of up to 10 nm. In addition, IFM is able to measure tools’ cutting edge radii, enabling the precise examination of the results of edge finishing techniques such as honing. The advanced Alicona optical system is able to measure the most complex geometries and to gauge the dimensional accuracy of even the smallest toleranced features, then compare the achieved results with CAD data to identify potential deviations from nominal conditions.
Already used throughout the world by leading cutting tool manufacturers, a recent sale to The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing, illustrates the growing demand for Alicona’s IFM from the world’s leading tooling and materials research institutes.
The AMRC is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, a new consortium of seven manufacturing and process research centres backed by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), with the mission of stimulating UK manufacturing and reducing the risk of innovation for new and established businesses.
The AMRC is based in two state-of-the-art research factories, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, at the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham. The facility is a world-class centre for advanced machining and materials research for aerospace and other high-value manufacturing sectors. It is a partnership between industry and academia, which has become a model for research centres worldwide.
The AMRC identifies researches and resolves advanced manufacturing problems, with a focus on developing new technologies and processes for machining the high-performance metal alloys used in aerospace and other industries. Researchers work is undertaken with individual companies on specific projects, whilst collaboration on generic projects is also carried out for the benefit of all members.
To support the AMRC’s Machining Research Group in their cutting-edge work, the AMRC recently investigated the available sub-micron capable, 3D measuring devices. On completion of a series of in-depth product demonstrations, the AMRC purchased an Alicona IFM. Through the course of Alicona’s product demonstration, it was found that not only did the advanced Alicona system match the AMRC’s very demanding requirements, but in many ways it exceeded them.
The Alicona IFM is now being used for very precisely measuring tool geometry and wear, important factors in the AMRC's core work of developing innovative and optimised machining processes.
Chris Taylor, Technical Lead at the AMRC, says: "We are primarily using this system for studying the effects of cutting tool wear, checking tool geometry, and measuring the roughness of machined surfaces. We can now get 3D detail and functionality which we couldn't achieve with a standard microscope."
The IFM allows the AMRC researchers to precisely study effects such as surface roughness, edge wear and tool form in three dimensions at extremely high resolutions. The ability to collect and analyse data in 3D offers significant benefits over the two-dimensional images provided by normal microscopes.
"With a standard microscope, it can be hard to tell whether you are looking at a worn tool or a tool with some of the cut material stuck to it," says Taylor. "With the IFM, we can perform volumetric calculations by scanning the tool before and after use, to see whether material is being lost or gained."
"Quite a few of our partners have the same system or are interested in getting one," notes Taylor. "For our needs, it is the best tool for the job."
The use of Alicona’s products by the world’s national standards institutes bares testimony to their precision and quality. The UK national standards laboratory, The National Physical Laboratory use Alicona systems for a wide range of high-precision applications, whilst the German national metrology institute PTB (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt) also use the Alicona system.
Alicona UK are also able to undertake application trials for all potential customers’ applications.