Non-contact 3D laser scanning is allowing PMS Diecasting to bring products to market faster, reduce development costs and offer a new reverse engineering service.
Supplied by Nikon Metrology, the equipment can scan to an accuracy of 2.5 microns, mirroring the precision of touch probing.
High quality tooling is key to successful die casting. The laser scanner is able to monitor the toolmaking process as it progresses to make sure that the moulds, and hence the cast components, will be within tolerance.
The Nikon equipment is easily capable of inspecting tolerances of ±20 microns required on cast parts as well as features down to half that limit on the tooling that produces them. Freeform surfaces as well as geometry can be captured to the same high level of accuracy, 10 times better than previously possible at PMS. As a result, time-to-market for new products has been reduced and development costs are lower.
One of the drivers for PMS investing in the new metrology equipment was an increasing amount of work being carried out for the automotive sector, including Jaguar Land Rover, requiring a higher level of accuracy and repeatability than was needed in the past. The diecaster also intends to target the medical industry, which also demands top precision components.
3D laser scanning at Rotherham has given rise to a further new PMS venture, providing a reverse engineering service for local firms. Highly accurate CAD files have already been produced for plastic injection moulders that did not have any digital data to work from, only physical parts, allowing faithful reproduction of the components.
PMS has many high profile customers including returnable transit packaging specialist, Loadhog, window and door hardware supplier, Avocet, and wire joining and tensioning product manufacturer, Gripple, for which PMS makes 36 million castings annually.
Gordon Panter, managing director of the employee-owned company, said, "To avoid zinc flash forming at the parting line when a mould closes, the maximum allowable tolerance when machining the two die halves is ±10 microns.
"Our improved measuring capability led us to become increasingly critical of the tools we were buying in from external suppliers and this led to the decision to start making our own tools to gain control over their accuracy.
"It resulted in the formation in 2012 of our GoTools subsidiary, which not only produces die casting tools for PMS, but also enables us to reliably design and manufacture plastic injection moulds, forging dies and press tools for other companies."
Die casting manufacture and the new toolmaking and reverse engineering divisions will be consolidated in August 2013 into new premises opposite the company's existing facility in Rotherham, which will double the available floor area to 2,600 sq m. It will also accommodate the plant and staff of a separate toolmaking company recently purchased by PMS to strengthen its prismatic machining, grinding, spark erosion and general toolmaking capabilities.