The new tool is seen from inside a typical blank which is to undergo further processing

Sensors increase precision of Norweigan boring bars

A Norwegian company producing tools for manufacturing of aircraft components and offshore oil valves will start fitting its instruments with advanced sensors to improve precision.

The first of its kind in the world, the Smart Tools are a joint project of Sandvik Teeness and the Scandinavian research institute SITNEF.

The 1.2m-long, slim, boring bars equipped with a machining axis at the tip will be fitted with an additional sensor pack, capable of measuring temperature, vibration, position and flexing during drilling, providing a detailed insight and control over the manufacturing process.

“We want to ensure that continuous feedback is provided throughout the machining process. This enables us to avoid throwing away blanks with minor flaws in material or machining,” said Terje Mugaas, a researcher at SINTEF. “This is important because creating the blanks involves a lot of work and often expensive materials.”

The boring bars are used in precise manufacturing for creating aircraft components and equipment for the petroleum industry, thus every flawed component results in increasing costs of the product. 

The sensors mounted onto the bars are similar to those used in cars and smartphones. However, these sensors must be able to survive in extreme environments, involving cooling fluids, temperature fluctuations and severe vibrations.

The sensors will not only reduce the amount of waste, but also contribute to improving documentation of the processes and quality assurance.

“When imperfections are discovered in a component today, the process is stopped and the component is normally discarded. However, with the new information the operator can interrupt the process at an early stage and correct the data to obtain the right result,” Mugaas explained.

“If a faulty setting in the machine software causes a conflict with the tool, the sensors will be able to transmit a signal to interrupt the process immediately. In time, it will be possible to feed all this information directly into the control system of the machining unit, which will result in major cost savings,” he added.

The tools will be tested in cooperation with Boeing and the University of Sheffield.

“This will ensure that our tool is tested in the correct processes and in materials used in this industry,” said Tormod Jensen of Sandvik Teeness.

The project, expected to be concluded by 2016, is backed by the Research Council of Norway.

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