EMO 2017 Inspiring ideas for lightweight construction

Author / Editor: Nikolaus Fecht / Rosemarie Stahl

Lightweight construction is often difficult. When even researcher teams have problems to predict the behaviour of a certain material, it is even harder for manufacturers. MAP Werkzeugmaschinen has now teamed up with Fraunhofer IPT for examining how a component made of carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic behaves during machining.

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Replacing steel: using CFRPs reduces the mass of the Z-axis by 60 per cent.
Replacing steel: using CFRPs reduces the mass of the Z-axis by 60 per cent.
(Source: MAP Werkzeugmaschinen)

Ultra-high-strength materials are highly popular not only in aircraft and automobile manufacturing, but also in the mechanical engineering sector, because they are often comparatively light and at the same time very sturdy. A research team at Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (IPT) now focuses on this material.

Machine tools not infrequently come up against their physical limits when processing these ultra-high-strength materials. This can be remedied by using structural parts for machinery that are made of lightweight fibre-reinforced materials. This entails mastering some serious obstacles, as evidenced by an as-yet-uncompleted research project at the Fraunhofer IPT in Aachen, which will also be on show at the EMO Hannover.

The researchers in Aachen usually adopt a holistic approach to optimising designs. In other words: they consider the machine’s design as a coherent whole, thus also including the development of important drive elements in the machine tool. They have currently joined forces with a machine tool manufacturer from Magdeburg to examine how an innovative machine component for vertical movements (Z-axis) made of carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) behaves in a machine tool and how the Z-slide can be optimised.


“We began development work on the CFRP slide in 2013,” relates Christoph Tischmann, Branch Manager of MAP Werkzeugmaschinen GmbH from Magdeburg. “We already possess plenty of experience with linear and rotary axes, for machining aluminium, for instance. But for high-strength materials like the titanium alloy Inconel they do not possess the requisite drive power.” So MAP decided to develop a machine tool with very powerful drives: for example, 55- and 72-kilowatt spindles (torque 210 and 273 Newtonmetres respectively in S1 or S6 mode) are now used, which are significantly heavier and larger. “So as not to have to compromise on the dynamics, we were looking for a way to compensate for the greater weight,” explains Christoph Tischmann. “That’s why we opted for the CFRP variant.” By way of comparison: the machine tool used to operate in the Z-axis with spindles rated at 28 to 36 kilowatts.

Additional Information
Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology

The Fraunhofer IPT develops system solutions for production. We focus on the topics of process technology, production machines, production quality and metrology as well as technology management. Our clients and cooperation partners represent all fields of industry: from aerospace technology to the automotive industry and its suppliers as well as tool and die making companies and the precision mechanics, optics and machine tool industries in particular.

Operating budget in 2016: around 27.9 million euros; employees: 450


So what’s involved here is roughly doubling the drive power. At the same time, using CFRP reduces the mass by around 60 per cent compared to an axle made of steel. “However, we’re not aiming for any particular weight, we’re targeting an optimum ratio between weight and mechanical strength,” explains Filippos Tzanetos from the scientific staff of the Fraunhofer IPT.

The question arises here of how the change-over from a steel guide slide to a CFRP design with a drive weighing around twice as much will affect the design as a whole. The Fraunhofer IPT has for this purpose analysed the thermal and dynamic reactions of the entire machine on the Z-guide slides. “The machine was subjected to an exhaustive scrutiny,” reports Christoph Tischmann. “We used these measurements to develop several solutional approaches, in order to improve the design.”

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