Martin Gerhardt: Precision and innovation – New technologies in the abrasives industry

“Made in Rheinland-Pfalz” – The economy of Rhineland-Palatinate is character­ized by a strong medium-sized sector, particularly in the handcraft and ma­­chine construction industries. Thus, Rhine­­land-Palatinate’s machine construction in­­dus­­try, which employs around 33,500 peo­­ple, is the third largest industry in the manufacturing sector.

This industry branch is predominantly characterized on the market by small and medium-sized enterprises. These are specialists in the production of custom­er-specific solutions and are often market leaders in their segments. The sec­­tor is diverse. Overall, it is made up of numerous technical sectors from ar­­mature right up to machine tools. In the innovative tool manufactur­ing industry, modern technologies for the production of diamond and boron nitride tools are setting trends.

The best example which reflects the creativity of this industry is Günter Effgen GmbH. The medium-sized enterprise is setting new standards in its sector through its innovative strength. Originating from a client contract, the company developed new diamond-impregnated grinding and polishing tools in 2007.
The company was awarded the Innovation Prize Rhineland-Pa­­latinate 2008 for the development of “polishing tools for the de­­fined processing of hard and very hard workpiece surfaces, in particular for CNC grinders”.

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It specifically involved the creation of a defined rounding of a cutting edge and simultaneously a high-gloss polished flute. All this was to possibly take place in one process using a 5-axis CNC ma­­chine. By collaborating closely with clients, the process was performed on the machine in a matter of a few weeks. The high-per­­formance carbide drill cre­­ated in the “unmanned operation” is mass-produced in safe processing and shows a 200 per cent long­­er lifetime than the previous production method.

In preparation of the cutting edge, the following three focal points are to be taken into account: the cutting edge chipping, defined edge rounding as well as the refinement of the surface roughness on the cutting faces and tool flanks.

The difficulty in obtaining these properties lies in that a specifically pre­­pared and homogenous cutting edge in the micrometre range is to be created in the pro­duc­­tion process. After grind­­ing, the micro geo­metry of the cutting edge is characterized by chipping and unsteadiness, which is a hindering factor. The unsteadiness is hugely strained during the process and leads to micro raptures, which reduce the durability of the cutting edge and influence the quality of the workpiece surface being processed.

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With the newly developed polishing tools of the company in Herrstein, a novel process-secure technology is revealed, which variably combines both the polish­­ing and rounding working processes. The herewith producible surface qualities lie in surface roughness values of Ra 0.02 micrometres. As a result, a significant­­ly better removal of chips and a much low­­er thermal load is guaranteed during the drilling process. Certain high-performance drills do not require additional sur­­face coatings and achieve an overall long­­er lifetime with the polished surface. In drill production, the “coating” working process is eliminated and production costs are therewith reduced by ten per cent.

A considerable advantage is that the machine operator is able to continue working at a cutting speed, feed rate and positioning parameter that he is used to and in the end, extract an optimally prepared cutting tool directly from the machine. The polishing discs are, amongst other things, divided into four basic hardness segments, which can be adapted for the respective requirements. The adjustable elastic properties of this resinoid bond essentially allows for the rounding performance to be controlled at the cutting edges. The variable struc­­ture of the bond and the application of special diamond grits permit the process­­ing of different substances such as car­­bide, HSS, zirconium oxide, glass, flame-sharpened alloys, hardened steel and germanium.

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For Günter Effgen GmbH, innovation means the continuous development of new applications and the introduction of new production technologies. The rap­­id progress of new technologies in re­­cent years has also characterized the activities of other companies in Rhineland-Pa­­latinate. Today, handcraft and machine construction is synonymous to high tech­­nology. Those who wish to survive in the market have to adjust to these facts. Flexibility, initiative, innovation and cre­­ativity are indispensable companions of modern organizations that wish to en­­ter international markets. This is a huge challenge that the Rhineland-Palatinate organizations meet in future.

Martin-Gerhardt001The author, born in 1970, complet­ed his training as a certified technician for plas­­tics and rubber processing. He worked as a proc­­ess manager in ma­­te­­rials and pro­cess­­ing technology at a me­­dium-sized au­­to­­mo­tive supplier for nine years. He has been working at Günter Effgen GmbH since 2005. He is the product manager for the grind­­ing and polishing tools section as well as being responsible for R&D in that area.