Zoller Genius 3S enhances tool measuring routines at Flatley Engineering
Cutting tool manufacturer Flatley Engineering, which is part of the global OSG group of companies, is leveraging the technical capabilities of a Zoller Genius 3S universal tool measuring machine to help the business provide fully certified and traceable tools to its customers.
Flatley Engineering has roots dating back to 1975 when it was formed by George Flatley. Based in the Greenhills area of Dublin, Ireland, the company designs, simulates and manufactures bespoke tooling to meet specific customer requirements. Using an impressive array of seven-axis CNC tool and cutter grinders, Flatley Engineering can produce everything from 1-off cutters to volume batches in short lead-times.
Meticulous and comprehensive inspection is a key part of business as it allows the company to maintain the most complex of tool geometries and thus ensure design integrity across the entire manufacturing process. Today, 30 percent of Flatley Engineering’s turnover is attributable to the manufacture of cutting tools, with the remainder generated by the sales of cutting tools from leading international partners, as well as vending solutions.
“On the manufacturing side, for measuring tools we traditionally would have used a shadowgraph system, for its time, the shadowgraph was adequate, but of course, industry requirements have changed dramatically over the years and tool measurements now have to be a lot more precise.”
explains Vincent O’Regan, the company’s CEO who took ownership of Flatley Engineering in 2000.
The company duly investigated the marketplace to see if it could replace its shadowgraph with a system that would offer greater capability in terms of tool measurement. After considering a number of different solutions, Mr O’Regan and his team opted for a Zoller Genius 3S, a decision that was based on multiple factors.
“We looked at ease of use and programming, which were both very important, and the capability of the machine to assure quality products from the machine shop to our customers, In effect, we knew the Zoller machine would guarantee that the customer gets fully certified tooling.”
The Zoller Genius 3S is a universal measuring machine for metal cutting tools, including the myriad of special milling cutters and drills produced at Flatley Engineering. From the rapid testing of individual criteria to complete, fully automatic, operator-independent checks, tools are checked quickly, simply and precisely. The measurement results are documented in detail and can be transferred to the company’s grinding machines at the push of a button. As a result, the Genius 3S saves Flatley Engineering valuable time during work preparation and programming. It is also adept at preventing troublesome rework and customer complaints.
A lot of the industries in which Flatley Engineering operates are highly regulated. As a result of these regulations, the repeatability of the cutting tools supplied to its client base, is essential.
“The Zoller Genius 3S gave us an immediate and distinct advantage over our competitors by being able to certify the tools for some of our more regulated end users, from a manufacturing perspective, the Zoller machine has also provided consistency from our own machines. For instance, since installation it has sometimes identified issues that we’ve had with one of our tool and cutter grinders. When we are producing a batch of tools and the second, third or tenth is not the same as the first, then the Zoller machine has highlighted the issue for us. This is a huge benefit.”
Along with a CNC control unit and camera, the Genius 3S features Zoller’s renowned Pilot image processing software. The machine also offers auto-focus capabilities, as well as a rotary encoder and Zoller’s Ace high precision spindle complete with power-operated clamping and braking. Designed as a robust unit that is able to withstand use in shop floor environments, the Genius 3S also provides inherently high levels of ergonomics and versatility, typically through modular set-up capabilities. What’s more, users can enjoy a measuring range of 600 by 175 by 100mm in the Z-, X- and Y-axis respectively, while the maximum diameter capacity is 340mm.
Features favoured by Flatley Engineering include the ability of the Zoller machine to create and save electronic QC records, generate reports and, importantly, ease of use, which is facilitated in the main by Zoller’s Pilot 3.0 software. Although Zoller provides full training, learning how to use the machine is straightforward, ensuring that not just metrology lab personnel but grinding machine operatives are able to use the machine for first-off, in-process and final inspection routines on a daily basis.
With Pilot 3.0, Flatley Engineering is quickly and simply equipped for any requirement – measuring, pre-setting, inspection and management of cutting tools of all kinds – regardless of batch size. Furthermore, data communication via machine links and interfaces is easily facilitated to external systems. In fact, Zoller enables the linking of more than 100 different machine readable output formats. Manual inputs are no longer required as data is made available directly to the machine control. For instance, the measured tool data can be printed on a label that is used to mark the measured tool – this data can then be retrieved again at a later date using a scanner. Alternatively, with the Zoller tool identification system, tool data can be written on to a chip located in the tool-holder and read by the machine control. Here, the DNC network ensures extremely reliable and convenient data communication. This is important as micron-level tolerances are the norm at Flatley Engineering, where typical tool measurements include helix angles, radial reliefs, lands, gash angles, head lengths, centre offsets, chamfer heights and end face facets to list but a few.
“The Zoller machine is a key part of our manufacturing operation now,” says Mr O’Regan. “As a result, we have it certified every year, and some of our customers need copies of those certifications. Zoller come on site once a year, certify the machine and that covers us for the following 12 months, which is an excellent part of their service. In fact, from a service perspective, Zoller have never let us down. The support offered by their staff is always very good – no delays, no issues.”
Recently, Flatley Engineering has been acquired by a large cutting tool OEM, namely OSG Europe SA. This is proving to be very exciting for everyone at the company as it is set to bring new technologies and new standards that the business will have to achieve in relation to its customers.
“Where Zoller is concerned, we see them as a very important link in continuing to deliver precision-manufactured tools to our end users,” concludes Mr O’Regan. “In short, the Zoller Genius is undoubtedly playing a big part in our transition to new ownership as we move forward to new horizons.”