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Finishing and Superfinishing, Lapping, Lapping and Vibratory Grinding: An impressive range of manufacturing processes can be used to create a final surface finish. The proverbial finishing touch influences the functional behavior of parts and components, providing unique characteristics and competitive advantages. GrindingHub, a trade fair for grinding technology, will be held in Stuttgart from May 17 to 20, 2022 and will provide a platform for finishing and superfinishing.
Companies looking for specialists to help them switch to superfinishing
It took “less than ten seconds” for Uli Lars Bögelein to decide to exhibit at the GrindingHub. The entire industry will certainly benefit from the fair, said the managing director of Stähli Läpp-Technik GmbH, based near Stuttgart. Founded over 40 years ago as a sales company for lapping, lapping and flat polishing machines produced by the Swiss group Stähli, Stähli Läpp-Technik GmbH is now part of the group. His core skills include engineering, sales and contract processing. The latter represents an ideal medium for superfinishing – and much more, as Bögelein points out.
The CEO of Stähli describes the three main user groups that contact him. These mainly come from the automotive and electrical industries, medical technology, mechanical engineering and the optical industry. The first user group is not (yet) concerned about the investment costs of 2 and 3 wheel flat lapping machines and 1 wheel lapping and polishing machines because their production quantities are too low. Then there is the second group who need large or even extremely large quantities, but who “precisely want to avoid taking over these processes, and all that they involve, within their own company”. Lapping machines in particular present their own challenges and do not fit into all production operations, admits Bögelein. It’s a demanding process that still requires a lot of manual work – and specially trained and highly motivated employees.
Finally, there is a third group of users. These carry out series of tests at Stähli. While waiting for the series to function properly, they first want to familiarize themselves with the process and the machine, and benefit from the service and know-how offered by Stähli Läpp-Technik. The company also offers the full range of consumables and accessories for this, from CBN wheels and diamond suspensions to test equipment. Uli Bögelein notes that trade fairs are very important and are often used to make first contact. Visitors come with plans and parts, but also specific machine inquiries, and have the technology explained to them. Specific technological know-how is required in cases involving manufacturing tolerances in the sub-micron range and filigree functional surfaces.
The drivers of industry development
According to Thomas Harter, product manager at Supfina Grieshaber, based in Wolfach in the Black Forest, the increased motivation of companies to care about surface quality and the finishing and superfinishing processes stems from clearly identifiable ‘development drivers’ . Supfina has many years of experience in superfinishing and grinding, developing machinery and conducting related research – and will also be exhibiting at the GrindingHub.
Harter cites examples from the field of automotive technology. For example, the legal regulations expected for Euro 7 and the associated reduction of particles are driving the development of the brake disc market. Future brake discs, he says, will likely feature hard coatings that are difficult to machine. As a development partner, Supfina takes care of developing the process of grinding coated brake discs. The know-how is used in the development of the entire process chain, thus enabling profitable production of the brake disc.
E-mobility also poses new requirements in terms of superfinishing. Future-oriented solutions are needed to reduce noise in the powertrain, steering or when adjusting seats and windows inside the vehicle. For example, Supfina has developed a series of machines for the economical production of quiet roller bearings.
Definition of specific surface parameters
Dr André Wagner, Head of Grinding Technology at Hermes Schleifmittel, Hamburg, clearly shows how the requirements for surface quality are changing and how important precise coordination with customers becomes. While some processes, such as cutting high-performance steel, are primarily optimized for productivity and profitability, processes such as gear grinding must produce a high-quality part, Wagner explains. The goal of minimizing surface roughness, which was common in the past, is increasingly being replaced by that of obtaining specific surface characteristics. However, the selection and definition of the desired surface properties will depend to a large extent on the particular application of the gear and the specific purpose. “Effective communication between customers and the sharpening tool manufacturer is therefore essential,” emphasizes Wagner. The general machine conditions, the quality requirements for the product component as well as the productivity of the process must be clearly defined and coordinated in advance. According to Wagner, ideal process results can only be achieved by setting precise goals and designing the grinding process on an application-specific basis. In the case of gears, for example, this would ensure maximum transmission efficiency and reduce noise emissions, which are crucial for electric vehicles. All parameters defining the process, such as machine environment and coolant lubricant supply, should be taken into account when selecting and designing suitable grinding tools. “Efficient tools are not always necessary. In many cases, less demanding specifications can also suffice if the whole process is properly designed, ”explains André Wagner.
Scientists focus on process chains
Finishing and superfinishing processes can play a role in creating unique pieces. The Institute for Machine Tools and Plant Management (IWF) at the Technical University of Berlin believes that “… there is a noticeable trend towards the production of individualized products in small batches. This gives rise to a growing need for manufacturing processes that can be adapted to changing product requirements. »Research is being carried out by the Institute on robot-guided machining processes for finishing and superfinishing. “Robot-guided machining processes can be used on many different components, especially in combination with flexible or freely movable tools, such as in abrasive brushing, belt grinding or vibratory grinding,” explains the director of the institute, Professor Eckart Uhlmann. “Lapping processes that are traditionally performed on rigid machine tools can also be supported using robot-guided lapping tools to rework bores in different positions.” Uhlmann, who is also a member of the WGP (German Academic Association for production technology), believes that the main advantage of using a robot as a universal processing machine is that it allows the different processing steps to be flexibly linked. The processing chains can then be adapted to the respective requirements of the processors. components with little effort.
The interest in research shows that more use is expected of innovative finishing and superfinishing processes in the future. However, they still pose a lot of problems for many businesses. It is true that the industry offers both technologically advanced machines and tools as well as extensive specialist knowledge to create surfaces of functional surfaces subject to tribological stress. However, special machines are too expensive for small and medium-sized enterprises and for relatively small or medium batch sizes, automation is complex and knowledge of cause and effect relationships is limited to specialists. Trade fairs such as GrindingHub provide an opportunity to present machines, tools, processes and work results.