Case Study Form follows function

Author / Editor: Athanassios Kaliudis / Simone Käfer

3D printing starts in your head: Designers need to rethink their approach to unlock the huge opportunities offered by this relatively new manufacturing technology. The experts in coolant systems at Grindaix and Bionic Production did exactly that.

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All one piece: Redesigned by Bionic Production, this nozzle offers gentle curves and optimized flow straight from the 3D printer.
All one piece: Redesigned by Bionic Production, this nozzle offers gentle curves and optimized flow straight from the 3D printer.
(Source: Claus Langer)

The biggest challenge of internal diameter (ID) cylindrical grinding is the limited space between the part and the tool. It’s not easy to accommodate a conventionally produced coolant nozzle that meets all the requirements – and in the case of very small holes it’s often impossible. That’s why, in practice, manufacturers tend to carefully inject the lubricoolant required for grinding from the outside.

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That makes the ID cylindrical grinding process very slow, and it poses a risk that not enough lubricoolant will reach the machining site. This results in higher cycle times and correspondingly reduced productivity as well as high scrap rates due to parts suffering thermal damage. Dirk Friedrich, owner and CEO of the company Grindaix, was far from satisfied with this solution and began looking for an alternative.

Headquartered in Kerpen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, Grindaix specialises in optimising and remodeling coolant supply systems for machine tools and develops optimum solutions for minimising grinding burn and coolant wastage. The experts at Grindaix are always open to new manufacturing technologies that might help them achieve these goals.

“We’ve been focusing on 3D printing for a long time. When we took a look at the market, we saw very few tailor-made, highly efficient, customised nozzles for specific applications in ID cylindrical grinding. So we reckoned that this new manufacturing technology would be a good choice for making those kinds of nozzles,” says Friedrich. Anything is possible in the world of 3D printing. In theory that’s true – but before a part can be made, extensive engineering expertise is required to ensure that what the 3D printer builds up layer by layer will actually fulfill its purpose.

Injecting this kind of specialist knowledge to create a 3D-printing compatible design is far from easy, as the Grindaix engineers discovered. “We’re used to designing things in the traditional way, in other words with a constant focus on the manufacturing process. I’m not saying 3D design is alchemy but it does require a shift in thinking,” Friedrich emphasises.