Continual improvements are important instruments for achieving higher competitiveness in the automotive industry. With the automotive industry being so dependent upon its manufacturing performance, adopting new tooling developments is vital.
There are many examples that prove the benefits of this approach. The automotive industry is focused on cost reduction and it has every reason for pursuing this vital direction.
Cost per Component
Today there is a growing focus on the cost per component along with a more collaborative approach with suppliers on a long term basis to find the ideal tooling solution for component solutions. Auto manufacturers are looking increasingly to work with competent suppliers of cutting tools and manufacturing equipment to achieve optimal processes on components.
In the world of machining components, how does this work? Here are some examples where Sandvik Coromant , the global market leader in cutting tools, contributed to increasing productivity.
When turning transmission components in soft stage (Green turning), the indexable inserts with the Wiper technology persuaded engineers at a German manufacturer that there was considerable room for optimisation in an application they thought of as optimal. Initial improvements due to this cutting tool development provided the grounds for the machine shop to proceed with implementing the Wiper inserts on a wider scale.
To start with, it was the machining of axle flanges that was improved. The flanges were machined on a double-spindle machine and production engineers wanted to arrive at the best combination of productivity and quality consistency. The Wiper insert provided just that.
By allowing the feed rate in machining to be raised from 0.18 to 0.4 mm/rev combined with a surface finish improvement of RZ 16 to 8 microns the production time was reduced by 30%.
By also applying the right finishing grade for steel, GC4005, the tool-life was also lengthened.
The machine shop manufactures well over eight-hundred thousand components annually and the improvements gained through the application of more modern turning tools have had a considerable impact on the total production costs of the components. This, in the area of green turning, which is generally thought of in the automotive industry as well exploited with regards to productivity.
Wiper improved turning potential
Another example of where the Wiper inserts dramatically improved turning was at a US manufacturer. Changes to operations involved in the machining of gear components included optimising operations with Wiper inserts as well as increasing cutting speeds with new inserts.
Low-carbon steel forging gear blanks are demanding to machine because of the softness and smearing tendencies of the material. Poor chip control and built-up edges are typical factors that limit performance and the machine shop was having production problems due to poor machining.
As part of collaboration with Sandvik Coromant as a qualified tool supplier, a productivity improvement team worked with the engineers at the customer to improve performance and reduce component scrap.
Tests in the low-carbon steel showed that the Wiper geometry WM in combination with GC2015, normally a stainless steel insert grade, proved to be the ideal insert for the application. By increasing the feed rate, without deteriorating the surface finish, the effect on production of the parts was a shorter machining time enabling the same machines to make more components per shift.
With the proposed improvements, programmers were able to increase cutting speed by 20%, to reduce machining time. Tool-life increased from 350 to 600 components per cutting edge and chip control was improved. Altogether, this contributed to 25% improvement in productivity.
Future trends and special needs
Continuous improvements are a vital part of competitiveness in the automotive industry. With growing flexibility there is also more room to take advantage of cutting tool developments and to let these have more impact on productivity, process security and quality consistency. Maintaining good practice with leading edge technology is becoming a critical ingredient for manufacturers within the auto industry to compete globally.
The machining of compact graphite iron and bi-metals are two examples of emerging material areas, which require cutting tool solutions which will provide the performance and quality results sought by the industry.
The complexity of efficiently machining castings like Bi-metal machining in engine blocks, where aluminium and cast-iron is machined simultaneously, with a reliable production process needs in-depth R&D and resources. Indexable insert geometry and grade is still very much a technology with potentials for providing important user benefits.