Vapormatt helps Swiss toolmaker Lamina overcome problems with its wet blasting process, which it uses to create a line of premium carbide tooling products.
Wet blasting has many applications, and is frequently used in toolrooms for surface treatment of metals. One toolmaker has used it to create tougher, longer lasting products.
Lamina Technologies, a Swiss manufacturer of carbide cutting tools, is a relative newcomer to the field – and was founded in 2002. It focuses on generic tools, which are flexible enough to be used across a range of applications and materials.
“We’re pioneers in this, and it’s still our core business,” says Tomer Gershtein, production and R&D manager at the company.
Gershtein says that Lamina’s ‘Multi-Mat’ concept uses sub-micron grades and advanced coatings to machine a range of steels, cast iron and even exotic materials like titanium-based alloys.
This type of tool will help companies be more efficient, he says: a company that changes jobs every week or so can use the same tool, rather than needing a tool change – saving valuable time, he says. This is invaluable for a relatively small company, for whom time is money.
Once a tool has been created, it is surface treated using dry blasting then coated using physical vapour deposition (PVD). This creates the hard surface that gives the tool its properties. However, the process is not flawless.
“When you coat a product using PVD, you build in very high stress between the surface and the substrate,” says Gershtein.
Lamina recently started using wet blasting to create a premium line of products. It uses wet blasting to treat the surface after coating, which helps the tool to last longer.
It does this by releasing stress in the coating. Despite its high level of hardness, the coating is quite fragile – and wet blasting helps to make it much tougher by reducing residual stresses. This makes the tool more resistant to damage, and so helps it to last longer.
Wet blasting is also used to polish the surface, which enhances and improves the friction coefficient.
Lamina had been using wet blasting in this way for around three years when it suddenly ran into problems of product consistency.
“Production would be fine one day, but then not the next, so we reviewed our internal processes in wet blasting,” says Gershtein.
Lamina contacted wet blasting specialist Vapormatt for help – even though it was using a machine from a different company.
This may sound like an odd arrangement, but Vapormatt commonly helps companies overcome issues with other manufacturers’ wet blasting machinery. In this case, it helped Lamina to identify that the core problem was in the area of the gun.
“There were six blast guns and they were not precise enough,” he said.
The guns were blasting different amounts of material, and at variable angles, he said. Now, with Vapormatt’s support, Lamina has changed the internal blasting gun holders – and angles – to ensure greater stability and consistency. It has also increased the number of guns from six to eight.
At the same time, Vapormatt recommended installing a slurry distribution unit, which ensures that each gun receives exactly the same amount of media and slurry.
“We’re now very consistent in regards to the area of the blasting zone,” he says.
Despite the earlier problems caused by the wet blasting process, Gershtein says the company is keen to extend its use – now that Vapormatt has helped it to overcome the consistency issues.
“It’s a question of when we use more wet blasting in future – and not ‘if’,” he says. “In an ideal world, we’d have a single line and all the products would go through wet blasting.”
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