Improving the productivity of machining processes is one of the basic requirements in every machine-tool engineering specification. The Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS in Dresden has integrated a laser module into the tool station of a milling spindle. The five-axis, computer-controlled milling center can now perform two jobs: Three-dimensional deposition welding using a 1.5-kilowatt diode laser and component finishing using 5-axis milling.
"We linked all the processing steps on the basis of uniform CAD and NC data, and implemented them in a single machine with one tool fixture," relates Dr.-Ing. Steffen Nowotny of the IWS in Dresden. The 5-axis CNC milling center is ideal for performing repairs on mold inserts used to manufacture plastic components, and for machining finely structured surfaces and functional coatings on metallic components. Instead of having to discard damaged precision tools, they can now be returned to the workshop, reprocessed by the laser welding and milling machine, and reused – thus saving costs and reducing expenditure on new tools.
The combination of laser cladding and milling is also a cost-effective method of manufacturing complex molds and metallic components directly from the 3-D CAD model. The machining system’s high degree of automation and its multitasking capability are extremely useful attributes in applications such as aircraft engine maintenance and automobile construction: "The software links together all the individual processes. This simplifies and speeds up the task of programming the machine," says Nowotny.
The use of a complete machining solution significantly improves process efficiency, because the numerical control system regards the laser tool head and the milling spindle as interchangeable tools. The ability to switch rapidly and easily between milling and laser welding provides added flexibility, resulting in a machine that offers all the necessary features for time-saving manufacturing processes.
The IWS’s manufacturing experts will be exhibiting their two-in-one machining solution on the joint Fraunhofer stand at the EUROMOLD trade show in Frankfurt from December 3 to 6, 2008 (Hall 8, Stand L113).
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