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September 6, 2021: Teaming up for a Hockey Project: HAIMER and Open Mind prove machining excellence on sleek Panther Figure

The finish was done using the full radius version of solid carbide endmills from the HAIMER MILL Alu series, which were clamped in the extra slim yet low-vibration HAIMER Power Mini Shrink holders.

When HAIMER, headquartered in Igenhausen, Germany, was inspired to take on the challenge of 5-axis machining a panther out of aluminum to support their partnership and allegiance to German Hockey League’s Augsburger Panther Professional Hockey Team, the right tooling as well as powerful CAD/CAM software was needed to master the project.

As a market leader that designs, manufactures and sells high-precision products including tool presetting machines, solid carbide cutting tools, toolholders and more to metalworking manufacturers in a wide range of industries, HAIMER had the tooling aspect well covered. Dedicated to using the most advanced high-end technology, HAIMER contacted their longtime CAD/CAM software partner, OPEN MIND Technologies (Wessling, Germany) for its hyperMILL® software suite and programming expertise.

Providing a leading worldwide CAM solution, OPEN MIND was the perfect match for programming complete freely shaped contours required on the panther. 

OPEN MIND Manager of Global Engineering Services Christian Neuner explained, “A model such as this one was a great opportunity to put the versatility and flexibility of our software to the test. hyperMILL® has a wide range of functions that allow CAM users to truly optimize a machine’s capabilities to achieve the desired goal, including making intricate, challenging parts.” 

That’s why Jakob Nordmann, Application Engineer at OPEN MIND, setup camp at HAIMER for a few weeks, where he teamed up with HAIMER Applications Engineer Daniel Swoboda to develop the ideal programming and machining infrastructure. For the milling machine, they chose the linear, 5-axis DMG MORI HSC70 machining center located in the HAIMER Application Center, which is well suited for precise aluminum machining and excellent surface finish. 

Tool Solutions Meet Machining Challenges

Machining the panther’s head proved especially challenging, in particular the extremely detailed mouth and incisors. The long and thin shape of the filigree tail section was equally difficult to master, as it was extremely sensitive to vibration. What’s more, access to many of the parts was extremely difficult, so two setups were done using a LANG macro grip 5-axis clamp fixture.

The limited accessibility also impacted the type of tools selected. Although the shortest possible tools were already being utilized, the application specialists still required tool lengths up to 10.9" (278 mm). This led Swoboda to choose the modular HAIMER Duo-Lock™ tools for the roughing applications. This system consists of carbide tool heads that are connected to different extensions via an extremely stable interface. A four-flute cutter with a corner radius from the Duo-Lock™ HAIMER MILL Alu series was selected for the job. These fine balanced tools feature superior length repeatability, and offer a degree of sharpness with a precise balance of abrasiveness and resistance. “We clamped the coated, cylindrical extensions of the Duo-Lock tools using the HAIMER Power Shrink Chucks,” said Swoboda. “This resulted in significantly more rigid clamping with less vibration, compared with standard tool holders. In turn, a greater depth of cut and a higher metal removal rate was able to be achieved.”

For the finishing process, the applications team selected a full radius version of the solid carbide end mill from the HAIMER MILL Alu series because of its micro-geometrical properties, which are designed for smoothness and top surface quality. The very limited space conditions were factored in when clamping with the extra slim and low-vibration HAIMER Power Mini Shrink holders.

Nordmann added, “What I found most helpful was that all the HAIMER holders and cutting tools were also available in the form of DXF and STP files. The models are available on the HAIMER website homepage for easy download. It takes just three clicks in the hyperMILL® Toolbuilder to enter the models into the database, making them immediately available for programming and simulation.”

The Role of CAD for CAM and Simulation

Creating a visually appealing panther model demanded careful, well-executed programming. The first core challenge was due to the panther being presented as an STL data model. Nordmann explained, “Since conversion into a surface model would have taken too long, we decided to mill on the STL network, but with line-by-line milling of  0.039" (1mm) to ensure that the faceted structure was not visible.” 

“For especially detailed areas, such as the mouth and tail section or with the creases of the joints, we generated additional surfaces that can be combined with the STL network in hyperMILL®, said Nordmann. For this, hyperCAD®-S, the ‘CAD for CAM’ system specially designed by OPEN MIND to help meet all the needs of programmers, was used.

Since the limited space required different tilts of the tool, the focus was on maintaining the exact line spacing and a seamless transition without any visible gaps. “I used the ‘edit toolpath’ command for this,” said Jakob. “This allowed me to determine the entire toolpath and divide it into sections, which then made it possible to edit in various tilts using different tools, saving a significant amount of time.”

Equally imperative for milling the panther was the hyperMILL® VIRTUAL Machining Center, a process-safe NC simulation solution where virtual machine movements fully mimic real movements and ensure reliable collision detection. The VIRTUAL Machining Center pre-emptively recognized that the component could not be processed in a basic orientation due to X-axis limited and automatically generated a solution for a workable position.

It took the team approximately three intensive weeks to complete the first free-standing panther. Once the machining parameters were in place and optimized, the approximately 20" (500 mm) long panther was machined in just under 13 hours. In addition to being proudly showcased by the Augsburger Panther hockey team, the panther model will be on display at HAIMER and OPEN MIND trade show booths at future events.

There is also an exciting video for the article: youtu.be/aN-JP2qKRNE 

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