Printed sensors for real time monitoring of metal cutting tools during production engineering and manufacturing

Printed sensors can be applied to cutting tools Printed sensors can be applied to cutting tools for real time montoring during manufacting and engineering of components and parts
The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is part of a UK based collaboration that aims to develop novel sensing technologies for the real time monitoring of machined metal parts.

The two year Innovate UK project titled ‘Intelligent Tooling’ is developing embedded sensors and electronic components within high value machining applications in sectors including aerospace, rail, automotive, marine and energy.

The collaboration combines world class expertise in machine tooling right across the UK supply chain, bringing together end users and partners to integrate specialist leading research, technology and industrial scale manufacturing.

Dr Peter Tune, business manager at CPI who is leading the project says: “CPI’s role in the project is to design and print the electronic sensors, providing expertise in the integration of conventional and printable electronics.

“It is used to apply sensing functionality close to the cutting edge of the tooling inserts. Conventional electronics will be integrated to drive the sensors and transfer data to the control systems.”

The sensing of critical process variables, such as temperature, force, acoustic emission and vibration, applied close to the cutting surface has the potential to create a step change in the capacity and productivity of machining systems. A reduction in cycle times, human intervention and process variation are all goals of the project.

Small variation in input parameters, such as material and tooling properties, are often only observed in the final inspection of products. Within the high value manufacturing sector, this often leads to conservative parameters or conservative tool lives being enforced. The ability to obtain data on the machining process at the time of cutting, at a lower cost and higher resolution than before allows these small changes to be diagnosed and managed within the process; leading to better tool utilisation and potential improved processing times.

“Printed sensing is an interesting area as the flexible nature of the technology allows for robust, lightweight sensors to be incorporated into curved structural designs and to be printed in bespoke configurations in high volumes and at low cost,” adds Dr Tune.

The Intelligent Tooling project will seek to develop a prototype tooling insert with embedded sensing capability, designed to withstand and exceed the harsh environmental conditions that are present in metal machining. Further development will upscale the prototype to derive the data needed for commercial market adoption.

Justin Cunningham

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