Measuring is a delicate topic. For complex tools, simple measurement techniques are not sufficient anymore. For toolmakers who don't have the equipment or know-how for professional measuring, there are service providers like Proplas, who measure plastic products and offer correction support.
Stephan Klumpp is CEO and founder of Proplas, a highly flexible measurement service provider. According to the company, it offers accurate results within 48 hours. One main goal of Proplas is to help its customers in developing optimised products. The company owns measurement equipment that is much more efficient than conventional measuring methods, such as x-ray technology. With these methods, Klumpp and his team can provide toolmakers with a useful measurement report and correction data for the tool. Stephan Klumpp explained the advantages of this service for ETMM readers.
How did you get into measuring technology and how was Proplas founded?
Honestly, my getting into measuring technology was a coincidence. I am actually a mechanical engineer with a background in plastic granulation technology. Someone at Carl Zeiss who is very important to me persuaded me that measuring technology had a lot of potential for improvement and that I would be able to employ my additional MBA knowledge there very successfully. The result is a 10-year restructuring of the product portfolio for Zeiss autobody measurement technology and the introduction of holistic optical measuring technology. Planning in the industrial computer tomography sector with the exciting growth and introduction to the market of the Metrotom family of products in 2006 and the utilisation of plastic components - in retrospect, I can see all of this as being my "masterpiece". I wanted to see this cherished baby of mine in use every day and subsequently help to measure plastic products, assess them and provide correction support. This helped us to launch in October 2008 with a computer tomographer and three plastics and tooling experts.
Which services does you company offer for tool and mould-makers?
We provide rapid and holistic information and scan data from the plastic components that are patterned first, and compare them with the product's CAD data within 48 hours of the component arriving. We allow mould-makers to holistically appraise their component; the resulting data serves as a transparent basis for effective and efficient decisions as part of the correction process.
How, in your opinion, does the measuring technology sector look nowadays in typical mould and toolmaking companies?
Our mould-makers never cease to amaze me. You need the best for the moulds' complexity: mechanics, machining experts, CAD/CAM knowledge, everything for steel and experts on everything for when there is a skills shortage.
It goes without saying that it is often difficult for measuring technology in mould-making companies as the core skill is the field of steel moulding. In many cases, measurements are only taken tactilely for the internal measurement of the electrodes, and in urgent situations, initial sample measurements are taken alongside this.
Which problems do you feel arise most frequently when using "traditional measuring methods"?
Tools produced nowadays in Germany for injection moulding with increasingly complex multifunctional components are always extremely intricate and time-sensitive. Traditional tactile and optical measurements are excellent for measuring simple components and for overseeing batch production as part of plastic injection moulding: Level - circle - line - point.
Complex parts often have 200 features on drawing, shape and position tolerances, which are generally no longer possible for tactilely measurement.
Over the course of initial sampling, mould-makers usually take a deep breath – until the first parts drop and the steel is fine. But at this point, the "excellent plastic part" project has only started! Supervision is, in the true meaning of the word, "an art form" that starts with the feedback of the measurements. In mould-making, the initial assessment often takes several weeks with measurement results taken from a variety of different sources. This leads to the waste of valuable resources, manpower and money as early as the first loop.
Which measuring methods do you use?
We measure quickly and holistically. For measuring the initial sample of the plastic components, we use Carl Zeiss and General Electric computer tomography. We also use ATOS optical scanning measuring technology from GOM.
Which data do you supply your customers with?
The most important thing is all of the surface points for the plastic components. That is key, initially. We visualise this in the correct orientation with a comparison of the target and actual states in our myVGL 3.0 data viewer.
The scan data is then also sent to our mould-making customers as *.stl data.
What is the advantage of tasking an external company with measurement?
Firstly, effectively using the hard-to-come-by, highly valuable mould-making expert and the time constraints up to assessing the initial sample, some 48 hours after the first component's been dropped; secondly, doing so with data from the whole component instead of the Excel table that has been tactically created, assessing the production drawings.
Where do you normally find reservations on the part of customers? How do you handle problems of trust?
Trusting in people and technology is actually the essence and fuel of our work. Each and every day, as part of every action, telephone call and measurement service, we develop this trust in effective and efficient implementation time and time again. This starts on the level of individual employees: our mechanical engineers, our team effort in Dornstetten and Neuenburg, our joint excellence together with our customers. The best thing is, this gives us a chance to grow each day.
You are going to be an exhibitor at Fakuma in October. How important are trade fairs, such as the Moulding Expo, for your company?
Fakuma and the Moulding Expo are excellent locations, both for me and us at Proplas, to get to know our mould-makers and plastics firms on an individual basis. Understanding people and technology and experiencing innovation.
These personal encounters allow us to learn, to improve and also to impress our customers again and again.