Metrology Mould Makers, Choose the Right Quality Control Technology for Your Needs

From Ahlam Rais*

Measurement accuracy can’t be stressed enough in the mould making business. With the constant pressure to develop and deliver perfect products within a tight timeline, mould makers are always on the lookout for new and enhanced quality control technologies to increase productivity, reduce costs and save valuable time. ETMM brings to you an insight into the most recent metrology solutions from the ever-expanding industry.

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Structured light scanners offer 3D scanning which significantly enhances the mould making process and also results in achieving a significant ROI.
Structured light scanners offer 3D scanning which significantly enhances the mould making process and also results in achieving a significant ROI.
(Source: ©Khaligo–stock.adobe.com)

Creating moulds for products requires precise accuracy each and every time as manufacturers would want to avoid a ‘product recall’ situation at all costs. This is where quality control comes in. Identifying the right quality control technology is vital for mould manufacturers that deal with tight-tolerances and complex mould dimensions. Manuel Müller, Product Marketing Manager – Sensors & Components, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence division explains, “Achieving mould quality can be challenging because they usually comprise many free-form and complex shapes, making it extremely challenging to manufacture them quickly and at the same time to the quality required. For these reasons, it is crucial to ensure the highest possible quality in every production stage and many manufacturers are looking for ways to control quality within production, ideally in one step.” He goes on to add that with the right quality control, manufacturers can ensure that the part is aligned correctly, and falls within the planned production process limits, and that crucial features, or even the complete part, is within tolerance. Only by ensuring this can manufacturers reduce scrap and raise their productivity.

Agreeing with this, Paul Maxted, Director of Industrial Metrology Applications, Renishaw says, “The precision required in the manufacture of mould tools is critical and directly affects the accuracy of subsequently moulded parts. Due to the high value and typically longer machining time for mould tools it is essential that they are produced ‘right the first time’. The precision and dynamic accuracy of the machine tool being used, the cutting tools and their set up directly impact the quality and precision of a mould tool and need to be considered accordingly.”

Developing highly accurate moulds has many plus points for mould makers including saving time which leads to saving money, reduced overall material costs as well as tooling costs (with the use of advanced metrology equipment) and better results. Also, with the concept of digitalisation and Industry 4.0 picking up in the manufacturing industry, there is a need for more enhanced features and innovative solutions than the traditional mould measuring processes such as calipers and micrometers as factors like width, height and depth of the moulds can be measured, however, surface curvatures and concave surfaces are challenging to measure. In addition to this, these old methods can be complicated and time-consuming, it can also make it challenging for mould makers to ensure the quality and accuracy of large mould measurements. In this background, there is a growing need to meet the demanding requirements of today’s mould makers and in this background, technology manufacturers don’t disappoint.

5 quality control technologies for mould makers

Structured light scanners: This optical non-contact technology boasts of offering quick full-field scans of a mould or other areas such as tool, die, etc. which helps to create its digital twin. This digitalized version is then compared to CAD with the assistance of a 3D inspection colour map which showcases diverse colours to reflect the areas which are in and out of tolerance so that appropriate corrective measures can then be taken to produce quality moulds. This technology helps mould makers to reduce costs and time which is usually spent on rework. With this quality control technology, repeatable and accurate 3D measurements can now be carried out with flexibility and process reliability as it ensures high precision while also providing detailed insights on the high-resolution scans. Equipped with blue light technology, these structured light scanners offer 3D scanning which significantly enhances the mould making process and also results in achieving a significant return on investment (ROI).

Some of the solutions in this space include the Atos series from Gom, a company of the Zeiss Group. Precision scans with detailed resolution at high speeds, the series offers repeatable accurate measurements with flexibility and process reliability. The optical non-contact measuring system captures full-field scans of a volumetric area collecting millions of points per scan and can be widely used across various industries. With less than 1 second per measurement, the series does not require specialized programming skills or highly accurate fixtures.

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3D laser scanners: 3D laser scanners are portable and utilise laser triangulation to provide a powerful balance of speed, accuracy with relatively low investment costs. These easy-to-use scanners project laser lines onto the item and then capture its reflection with the use of sensors. Accurate point measurements can then be carried out by calculating the reflection angle of the laser light.

3D laser scanners are portable and utilise laser triangulation to provide a powerful balance of speed, accuracy with relatively low investment costs.
3D laser scanners are portable and utilise laser triangulation to provide a powerful balance of speed, accuracy with relatively low investment costs.
(Source: ©patruflo–stock.adobe.com)

An example of this technology is the Absolute Scanner AS1 from Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence which can be used for mould inspection at every scale, from automotive tooling on the prototyping shop floor to on-machine mould inspection in additive production processes. With its blue-laser technology and advanced programming, it carries out non-contact 3D measurement and can also be used for portable measuring arm and laser tracker measurement. Embedded with the SHINE (Systematic High-Intelligence Noise Elimination) technology, the 3D laser scanner ensures high accuracy.

Hybrid light 3D scanning technology: This quality control technology is equipped with both light and laser. The blue light of the hybrid light 3D scanning technology ensures that all the details and dimensions of the moulds are scanned whereas the laser ensures accuracy of the captured data. Portable and user-friendly, the hand-held device of this technology helps mould makers to perform 3D measurements on large moulds in order to achieve the required accuracies. The process helps manufacturers to obtain the final comparison analysis report in a short period of time as compared to the more traditional measuring tools.

The most recent innovations are Shining 3D’s EinScan HX. Integrating both blue LED light and blue laser, the handheld 3D scanner offers enhanced results for a wider range of applications. Its LED light scanning allows rapid 3D scanning while the laser scanning ensures better performance for reflective and dark colour surfaces. It boasts of a processing speed of up to 1,200,000 points/s under its Rapid Scan Mode and is easy to operate. With a minimum point distance of 0.05 mm and an accuracy of up to 0.04 mm under laser scanner, the portable 3D scanner is also equipped with a built-in colour camera which supports full colour texture capturing and tracking by texture.

Hexagon’s LS-R-4.8 in combination with the company’s NC Measure software is the first wireless laser scanning solution that is directly embedded in machine tools. This technology enables customers to achieve the highest possible quality when producing complex moulds.
Hexagon’s LS-R-4.8 in combination with the company’s NC Measure software is the first wireless laser scanning solution that is directly embedded in machine tools. This technology enables customers to achieve the highest possible quality when producing complex moulds.
(Source: Hexagon)

3D measuring arms: Portable and easy to use, this quality control technology has the ability to capture precise 3D measurements on the shop floor. Trimos’ A-line portable articulated measuring arms offer accurate 3D measurements which can be used for verification of small and large parts. The 7 axes arms can be equipped with different types of laser scanners for complete contour scanning of complex parts or moulds. Certified according to ISO10360-12 or ISO10360-02 standard, these arms can also be operated with the help of a wireless Bluetooth device.

Another example is Faro’s Quantum Max ScanArms which combines the measurement capabilities of a portable coordinate measuring machine (CMM) with the non-contact functionality of a laser line probe. With an aim to optimize accuracy and speed, the 3D ScanArms is responsible for capturing precise measurements on the shop floor.

The latest NC4+ Blue laser tool-setting system from Renishaw offers high performance for superior tool-to-tool accuracy. For mould producers, this ensures outstanding blending performance when using different tools to create surface areas, which is critical to minimising polishing or downstream operations.
The latest NC4+ Blue laser tool-setting system from Renishaw offers high performance for superior tool-to-tool accuracy. For mould producers, this ensures outstanding blending performance when using different tools to create surface areas, which is critical to minimising polishing or downstream operations.
(Source: Renishaw)

Scanning probes: Another interesting quality control technology are scanning probes which can acquire numerous surface points each second, thus helping to measure forms, sizes and positions. Scanning via probes also proves to be a quick method to capture data from complex components and is also ideal for measurement applications.

For instance, Renishaw’s Sprint on-machine scanning probe can measure 3D free-form surfaces at unparalleled high feed rates without compromising accuracy. Rapid assessment and confidence in mould tool accuracy is possible without removing the part from the CNC machine. For high data-density measurement applications, on-machine scanning allows detailed assessment of machined surfaces with minimal cycle time impact. Scanned surface deviations can be viewed as a heat map or exported to third-party analysis software.

With these innovative quality control technologies available in the market, it becomes all the more important for mould makers to make an informed choice while choosing the right technology for their production requirements. After all, improved accuracy assists in saving time and driving down costs in the mould making process. Hence, it’s important to choose the right technology before investing.

ARS

* The author is a freelance editor at ETMM. Contact: ahlam.rais@vogel.com

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