Advanced manufacturing in action:  Symetri enables Freudenberg Sealing Technologies to accelerate its tool-making processes.

Meet Freudenberg Sealing Technologies

Freudenberg Sealing Technologies (FST) is the world’s market and technology leader in sealing technology, primarily for customers working on automotive, industrial, and alternate drivetrain applications.  FST’s seals are integral to many well-known end products all over the world. The company applies more than 150 years of engineering and materials expertise to its strategy of researching, developing and introducing innovative product and process solutions. It is focused on serving its customers’ most progressive (or cutting-edge) industrial opportunities and needs.

Founded on its development of the Simmerring® Radial Shaft Seal in 1929, FST has continuously expanded its industrial seals and component portfolio to include a range of technology solutions that address critical issues like performance, power, friction, emissions and material compatibility. In addition to offering a broad range of high quality, engineered sealing solutions, the company also works collaboratively with customers on the design and validation of custom sealing systems.

Challenge: Translate CAD-created toolpaths to the physical machine – CAD to CAM

While FST’s customers’ requirements may often be uniform, many are not. A large part of FST’s success is down to the bespoke nature of the development services it offers in making sure every customer can fulfil its own design requirements with specific seals. This responsiveness all starts in FST’s toolroom, in North Shields, on the bank of the River Tyne in North East England. This is where they create the moulds to be used in making the seals

When designing a new tool mould at this stage, to be produced on a computerised numerically controlled (CNC) machine, the company’s designers work with Autodesk Inventor Professional software for the first stage of development. The next stage is to turn the concept into practical application on the CNC machine to enable the machine’s controller to operate in the way intended by the design. Like any translation, a generic tool will deliver an average result and may not be completely accurate (think of Google Translate) however when dealing with a very valuable machine tool the consequences of these inaccuracies can be very costly. This is where a bespoke post processor is invaluable.  

Sometimes there is no ‘off-the-shelf" solution. Such was the case when FST decided to combine into one new machine the capabilities previously residing in two machines; bringing the turning (lathe-based process) and milling into one CNC machine.

“The new machine needed a new process. We asked Symetri what they could do to help with the post processor for the machine, believing that a generic solution would fit the bill. It may well have done, but the Symetri team opened our eyes to the possibilities of the greater alignment to our needs we could achieve with a bespoke post processor design,” explains Graeme Wilson, FST’s toolroom team leader.

The requirement was specifically around the ability to pass raw material – usually 1-metre bars of K110 tool steel – through the chuck of the machine. Although two processes were to be brought together in the one machine, the material had to pass between the two functions of the machine. This was where the need for a new post processor arose; specifically in guiding the movement of materials from left to right, from one phase of the mould creation to the next phase.

Solutions: Post-processors for full machine automation

Graeme’s team actually needed two post processors. One was to guide full automation for bulk jobs, the other intended for single tasks, where specifications were unique to the job.

“Symetri took about ten weeks to resolve the issue, giving us both post processors fully functioning, which was impressive given that the work had to be undertaken from scratch,” says Graeme. “When you’re making products that aren’t generic you need software that is similarly beyond the normal run of things. It puts you in unchartered territory, but Symetri were pragmatic in undertaking numerous trials. They tweaked the post processors and ran them several times; each time making further improvements until they got them perfectly aligned to what we needed.”

In addition to creating the post processors, Symetri provided training for the FST team in how to use them. The training was all undertaken virtually, given Covid restrictions. “We had full access to Symetri experts which gave us the insight we needed. They broke the three days training into small sessions over a four-week period so each time we had the chance to really absorb the new skills we had acquired and go back to the next session with questions that arose along the way. They even introduced us to some milling techniques we hadn’t come across before, as well as giving us the confidence to go straight into production using the post processors. There was no time lost between receiving the final versions and putting them into practical use.”

Outcomes: Zero intervention in the Smart Toolroom | 66% time-saving

The mould-making process usually involves 50 cavities across five pieces ready to go to the press; totalling 250 cavities. These are known as multi-cavity moulds. Prior to the introduction of the new combined machine, this process had taken 30 days. FST’s target was to bring it down to 10 days.  Symetri’s post-processors brought it down to 9.4 days.

“Symetri enabled us to achieve a 66% saving in time, which has transformed toolroom productivity. They also made zero-intervention a reality; no more machine downtime that before seemed such an essential part of the process but now is avoided because the machine effectively takes care of itself.

This is the smart toolroom in action, assuming its rightful place in the world of advanced manufacturing and enabling us to deliver on our customers’ needs much faster”, says Graeme.

Challenges

  • Unique requirements of a post processor to accommodate a combined turning and milling machine.
  • Eliminate human error; ensure ‘zero intervention’
  • Accelerate project completion times

Solutions

  • Creation of two post processors to connect CAD to CAM:
    • Full automation for bulk throughput projects
    • Jobs requiring unique specifications
  • Virtual training of FST toolroom team

Benefits

  • Fully automated combined turning and milling process for tool-mould production
  • Faster completion times
  • Increased productivity
  • A 30-day process reduced to just 9.4 days; giving a 66% time-saving

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