Trends in the business unite "Tool and die making"

The business unit for “Tool and Die Making“ of the Fraunhofer IPT provides manufacturers, suppliers and customers in the tool and die making industries with integrated solutions, helping them to manage the many different challenges of their industrial environment. Moritz Wollbrink, head of the business unit, explains how tool and die makers can benefit from a networked and adaptive production system.

What opportunities result from strengthened networks in the tool and die making industry?

Tool and die making companies can increase their technological and structural competitiveness: mobile communication, compact sensor arrays and sophisticated production control systems allow them to make their corporate processes transparent and flexible – with real time representation. This is a big opportunity for tool manufacturers. Tool-integrated sensor systems may, for example, serve to predict maintenance intervals, to prevent operating errors and to plan overhaul operations. Data mining is a highly interesting development for tool and die making companies, since it allows them to create a level playing field for comparisons between one-off products: companies can recognize patterns in highly diversified component ranges, optimize the organizational and technological aspects of their processes and improve their product quality. Networks between customers and suppliers also facilitate the planning of delivery dates in scattered manufacturing networks and the exploitation of spare capacities by using transparent resource management methods. This shortens cycle times and allows the enterprises to put their tools to more productive and more efficient forms of use in a mass production environment.

Which new technologies can help tool manufacturers to increase speed and flexibility?

Tool and die making companies often struggle with the necessity of integrating their tools into product development processes. Many times, tools must be adapted to reflect late changes in the design of a new product. This is why it is so important to provide high levels of data consistency along the entire process chain, from design and construction via CAM programming and manufacturing to quality assurance. A well-maintained data pool will allow enterprises to benefit from the latest developments in virtual or augmented reality: AR glasses, for example, can support the production measuring instruments by projecting the target contours on to the semi-finished component while it is still inside the milling machine – or during the assembly of complex tools by indicating which component goes where and how. Additive technologies also provide a huge potential for more flexibility in production and maintenance, potentials that we check and explore individually for each application in close cooperation with our clients.

How can the Fraunhofer IPT support and assist its partner companies?

We have provided our business partners within the industry with skills and advice for many years, which means that we have acquired a profound understanding of the relevant technologies to share with our clients. Our benchmarking database comprises more than 1000 updated data sets from international tool and die making companies. We use our comprehensive machinery to explore individual technologies such as hard metal cutting, establishing optimized machining parameters and cutting data as well as matching tool geometries and chip formation patterns. We provide our clients with customized advice about individual technologies such as milling, die-sinking, wire spark erosion, turning and polishing and help them to extend their process limits. Any such expertise in individual technologies must of course be embedded in a profound understanding of the integrated process chain with all of its interactions, since ultimately it is the final result that counts: the tool. Through our close cooperation with the WZL of the RWTH Aachen University and the WBA Aachener Werkzeugbau-Akademie, we are in a position to provide our clients with both standardized and customized offers that help them to prepare their companies for the challenges of intense global competition.