Tool manufacturing The future of tool technology: Italian cutting tool manufacturer explores exotic nickel alloys
Italian tool manufacturer Cerin is exploring the advantages of exotic nickel alloys for tool manufacturing. To ensure precision, repeatability, and stability, the company relies on a fleet of Anca machines and corresponding control solutions.
Tool manufacturer Cerin was founded in 1971. The company was one of the first Italian manufacturers to work with solid carbide and today serves many industries, from aerospace to construction, shipbuilding, energy and automotive. Half of the company's sales are in Italy and the other half abroad, mainly exporting to Germany but also Russia and Japan, China, England.
Ivan Cuscov, Plant Director started at Cerin eight years ago as a mechanical engineer and today is responsible for production. He says: “Our customers choose to work with us because we manufacture a good product. If you ask our customers to say something about Cerin, they will only say, ‘A Cerin tool is a good tool.’ And that's what I think is what makes us successful.”
From the beginning, the manufacturer never worked with high speed steel as they felt that solid carbide was the technology of the future. As Cuscov explains, this was very challenging at the time as there was limited knowledge on how to use solid carbide. “Many people in the industry didn’t know of diamond wheels and thought of diamond as a jewel and not a grinding material! We were a pioneer with many challenges working in unknown territories but on reflection I would say that taking on this challenge was key to our success.”
Currently the company is looking into the exotic nickel alloys or otherwise called high temperature alloys — which are still niche materials but are gaining in importance because of the increasing demand for energy efficient engine performance. These materials are particularly critical mainly for heat generation and elastic to plastic transition. Cutting those materials requires specific coating and sometimes a specific combination between solid carbide coatings and dedicated geometries.
Tool makers must consider the entire development life cycle
Cuscov argues that a good tool is the combination of elements, i.e. the right geometry and the combination between carbide and coating. Developing a new tool might require a few weeks to many months. The first technical work is designing and testing a basic tool of a certain length and diameter, which fulfills the initial targets. After that the manufacturer organises the whole commercial offer, extends the tests to the rest of the product family and ensures the stock availability.
“Over the weekend we mainly produce standard tools and in some areas with unmanned shifts which helps us contain costs, increasing our capacity. Our operators create optimal production conditions, looking at correct machine and grinding wheel set ups. Our attention to detail when setting up processes mean we can guarantee quality,” says Cuscov.
The company's quality control department is responsible for checking tools during and after production. They ensure complete traceability of the production batches and at any time can retrieve design information, even look at the raw materials.
Precision, repeatability, and stability — all essential for lights out manufacturing
In their machine centre, Cerin has a MX7, MX7 Linear, FX7 Linear, GX7, TX7 and a TG7. At the moment they are mainly using Anca machines for standard and cylindrical endmills and keep the FX7 and one MX7 linear for mixed production of endmills and drills.
According to Cuscov, precision, repeatability and stability are two advantages of using Anca machines and over the years he has found these machines to be thermally stable with a wide range of technology on offer. A stable grinding machine is very important for unmanned shifts to keep tolerances and tool dimensions under control. “iGrind is a very good software package mainly because of its flexibility and because it allows you to do many different things easily. It is great for cylindrical grinding to profile tools and especially with tool segments where you can split the tool operations as much as you want. We also use Anca’s Tool Draft in combination with Auto CAD,” the Plant Director says. The manufacturer has also been using iView with a camera for profile tools to control the tolerance of a complex tool all along the profile. The tool ensures that a profile with a tolerance of just a few microns is produced.
“Our operators are happy with the Wheel Probe which references the grinding wheel directly on the machine. The benefit using the probe is that you don't need to waste any time with an external preset and can make your measurements directly on the machine. And you don't need to mount and dismount the wheel before and after measuring because that of course might change the basic reference a little bit. So you're going to measure the wheel in the same place where the wheel will work,” Cuscov concludes.