Workpiece measurement Stay competitive with the courage to change
Making changes means making decisions – making them differently than before. That happened when the decision-makers at Framag chose Bimatec Soraluce for the first time two years ago. After the machine came an innovative system for measuring large workpieces.
"When a matter-of-fact tender turns into an experience,” comments Roland Haas, for four years now CEO at Framag, as he looks back at the decision process for the last major machine purchase.
With the choice of Haas as new CEO, a conscious decision was made at that stage for a new generation and a new leadership style – one reason, and perhaps even the reason, for the closer links developed between this industrial installation manufacturer, based in Frankenburg (Austria), and Bimatec Soraluce, supplier of modern production solutions. “The same idea is behind both Framag and Bimatec Soraluce, namely that the focus is not on the CEO, but on the employees, which meant they found themselves drawing closer together in their discussions,” Andreas Lindner, CEO of Bimatec Soraluce, adds; “Bimatec Soraluce had already known Framag for a very long time, we also knew the predecessors, but ten years ago there was no way of getting a foothold there because Framag was clearly in competitive hands.” With Haas as the new CEO, discussions took place on a completely new level and Lindner’s firm made it into a selection process involving seven manufacturers. With the shortlist for two further machines, the decision ultimately went in favour of Bimatec Soraluce with the assistance systems DAS+ and Adaptive Control.
“It was not an easy decision, yet it was a good one,” Haas confirms. When the decision was made in favour of the FP 10000 travelling column milling, turning and boring centre from Bimatec Soraluce, it was already clear that the old foundation would be used. Minimal adaptations were therefore made, even the heating circuit could be saved. “The investment is not simply the machine. In our projects, the environment plays a large role,” explains Lindner.
The precondition that the old foundation should be used even became the starting point for cooperation between both firms. Since everything would have been down too low with the machine bed from Bimatec Soraluce – a disadvantage in this particular case – they decided on a mixture. That is, they combined the Hydropol machine bed, a speciality at Framag, with the familiar cast construction used by Bimatec Soraluce. Framag came up with the idea of the special Hydropol concrete, the firm’s own special mixture on a mineral basis without polyester resins and epoxides, when they were searching for a niche and representing a vast range of products to customers. Visits to customers repeatedly revealed that many had to combat vibration problems. “A key experience, from which we are still profiting today, was to listen to the customer and then produce a technological concept to solve the problem,” says Haas. They still see it that way today: they are not so much offering a machine bed as solving a problem. If a customer no longer achieves a certain quality with his standard construction, an advisory and development procedure leads to a Hydropol component from Framag. Today, its vibration-damping machine components have placed Framag on the two central supporting pillars of machine tools and test stands.
Machine permits operation by all skilled workers
“In order to justify a continuing place in an international field, the decision in favour of the FP 10000 brought not only a milling machine, but also modern machine permitting operation by all skilled workers,” explains Haas regarding the purchase, adding that the assistance systems in the machine help in producing better quality at the home base. In addition, the patented DAS+ assistance system monitors the linear roller guides and hydro-mechanical damping carriage, recognising vibrations automatically and eliminating them with counter-vibrations. So far, the system has proved itself in heavy machining, although the pre-purchase tests conducted by Framag focused on finishing. “There we observed that the surface was better in comparison with the competitors,” Lindner states, personally surprised by the positive result. The finish achieved with the Bimatec Soraluce turned out 15 % better than with the competitors.
But the delivery of the machine did not mean the end of the cooperation. They stayed in contact, and when Bimatec Soraluce presented the freestanding V-Set, Framag again decided to purchase. With V-Set, workpieces of over 1 m³ can be measured away from the machine. Down times for alignment of the workpiece are thus eliminated.
“Measuring and documenting the most varied and complex welded constructions must be simple and not take up much time, since we really only want to measure and document the completed part at the end,” Haas explains regarding the decision. With standard parts and also with complex components, welding seams can lead to deviations which would really necessitate reworking before the start of actual processing on the machine. In the worst case, this means that a part is clamped on the machine for hours before it finally emerges that the part cannot be processed. “For us, V-Set is a quite normal lean approach with which we can boost our turnover with more or less the same personnel and the same number of machines,” adds Haas. The competitive edge resulting from the use of V-Set is also confirmed by Lindner: “If five different firms are offering the same component, and you can save one hour of clamping work per component by using V-Set, you then automatically have a price advantage from which the end customer benefits.” The offer can therefore be tailored more realistically and tightly, and the chances of receiving an order are thus improved. “Our experience in the sector at the moment is that the probability of receiving orders is stagnating. One therefore has to improve or offer something else in order to stabilise turnover and profit,” Lindner continues. The purpose of V-Set is precisely to reduce costs in internal systems and save time.
Adhesive magnets hold even on very dirty surfaces
When the system was presented at Framag, three components were measured – beds for one turning machine and two milling machines – and the geometries and complexity could not have been more different. This was a very important point, since variance is very high at Framag. V-Set has been in operation at Framag since the beginning of the year. With the delivery came a tool trolley with magnets which enable measurements even on undersides without having to turn the workpiece. For measurement of boreholes, small magnetic measurement points are supplied. The system works using measurement points adhering to the component on critical surfaces. “One key factor in our decision was that not all surfaces need to be cleaned beforehand. Because of processing, some components are stored for a long time, and even then the magnetic points can be fitted straightforwardly on the dirty surfaces,” adds Haas.
Hemispheres are used to identify the measurement points in the system
As well as the magnets, so-called hemispheres are attached to the workpiece, each with a number on the inside so that it can be identified in the system. These hemispheres create a common frame of reference for the various individual images. The hemispheres are photographed from various angles, enabling the relative positions of the points to be determined at the end using trigonometry. If the workpiece is not magnetic, the hemispheres can also be placed on the floor in front of the workpiece. They must be separated by 700 to 800 mm and there must always be two of them on each image.
In addition, two carbon calibration rods are supplied with V-Set; both sides of them can be used and they too are identified by the software with the help of the hemispheres. If they are included in the image, one sees on the component precisely the distance that is recorded in the software.
The fact that the calibration rods can be used on both sides means that even very long components can be measured. The only necessary precaution is that the same side should not be photographed twice. Having used it once, it must be turned through 180° before being used again. Next, the coordinate system is marked on the component, the neutral point of the point cloud, so to speak, since this should be in the same place as in the 3D model. After everything has been applied to the workpiece, photographs are made of all measurement points. Visual or acoustic feedback after each exposure indicates whether the image is usable or not. Once all measurement points have been recorded, the system aligns the point cloud with the component, which may have to be rotated until it lies on its upper surface, which takes a few minutes.
The aim is to measure every component with V-Set
Following that, the individual points are identified and allocated definitively by the worker. If the system has allocated a measurement point wrongly, it can be moved to the right place by hand. “At the moment, we are still in transition, but we are measuring more and more of our components with V-Set,” says Haas.
One goal is to measure every component larger than 1 m³. Finally, one receives the V-Set report, from which each person can extract the information important to him. Agreement is reached with the milling operator, for example, about which point he needs for machining. He then sees in the report the oversizes and sets up the machine accordingly so that the right processing takes place automatically on all surfaces. Previously, it had been necessary to set up separately every time in order to process each surface or borehole; at Framag this is now all taken care of by V-Set.
“For us, the decision for V-Set has been worthwhile. As with all modern technologies, it needs the right environment, so we are training an ever-increasing number of workers to operate the system,” Haas continues. “Our digitisation is focusing less on the machine and more on the process – that is what we are busy with at the moment in installation construction. In this field, we have always attached great importance to having a strong partner at our side with the same set of values. That is one of the reasons for the good understanding between Bimatec Soraluce and Framag and for this good cooperation."