IJAT Vol.14 No.2 pp. 261-263
doi: 10.20965/ijat.2020.p0261


Special Issue on Advanced Material Driven Design of Machine Tools

Konrad Wegener and Atsushi Matsubara

Institute of Machine Tools and Manufacturing (IWF), ETH Zürich
Leonhardstrasse, Zürich, Switzerland

Kyoto University
Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan

March 5, 2020

The design of machine tools strongly depends on the materials chosen. Increasing requirements on machine tools require the joint optimization of material and design and thus also drive the development of new materials in this field. Digital technologies finally creating a digital shadow of the machine in development also enable the required co-development taking into consideration dynamic, thermal and long term influences and behavior, enabling state and health monitoring to increase the performance of the machine tool to the maximum possible. The choice of material for the different components of machine tools is today even more difficult than ever. The recent review paper by Möhring et al. [1] sheds light on the vast field of properties and decision opportunities of combining materials at hand with design features. In former times, cast iron was the predominant material for machine bodies and has left its footprints on the design of machine tool bodies lasting still up to now. Because massive machine bodies have been the wealth of good properties, high accuracy, stiffness, good material damping properties have been attributed to cast iron design, then with increasing strength requirements higher strength cast irons came into fashion having much less material damping and finally lead to welded frames. Today requirements of dynamics and thermal behavior change the scene again. The goal is to achieve high productivity with high accuracy, which typically is a contradiction. But increasing dynamics requires distinguishing between moving bodies and their non-moving counterparts, and opens the floor for multimaterial design. For moving parts, which have to move with high dynamics meaning, high speed, high acceleration, high jerk, light weight design prevailed with the utilization of standard materials. Because manufacturability plays a major role, the bionic structures have to be degraded to thin walled rib structures as demonstrated in Fig. 1, while in future additive manufacturing will remove that restriction and enable some real bionic structures.

Furthermore material choice has a huge impact on inertia savings which opens the door for CFRP, which becomes especially interesting, when the anisotropy of this material is exploited as shown in Fig. 2. From the manufacturability truss structures then result shown in Fig. 3.

For the nonmoving elements, the base body, cast iron, welded steel, polymer cast, and concrete are typical materials chosen. Also aluminium structures are discussed despite the fact that aluminium has only one third of the stiffness of steel, but it offers much better thermal conductivity equalizing temperature differences faster and thus reduces the warp of the structure, which typically causes larger errors than an isotropic thermal expansion. For the choice of materials no generalizable guideline exists. The question which material is the better choice is not answerable in generality, because design follows material, which means that a sound comparison requires completely new design approaches for the different materials, where the difference between metal and polymer concrete or CFRP is really large, offering different potentials. As an example, a design of a fast moving bridge of a gantry machine might be considered. The guiding of a support on this bridge with roller guidings imposes severe problems to the design due to the material mix and different thermal expansion coefficients. Thus the choice of CFRP for the bridge necessarily must be followed up by a decision of the guiding principle, where in this case aerostatic bearings were considered as the most promising possibility. Also the potentials for function integration into the material are of major interest for the material choice, as this is easily possible for low temperature castings like for mineral cast, CFRP, or concrete. This integration of functionalities actually is a fairly new approach and relates again the machine body design to inspiration from biology, as for instance trees or leaves are from the point of view of materials weaker than our technical materials, but have a fine integration of functionalities as transmittance of information and nourriture. Sensor integration opens the field for “feeling machines” also inspired from biology, which enables the machine to detect its embedding environment and react accordingly. Cheap and miniaturized sensors are on the other side the developments that enable this approach of machine design. In the age of compensation, Industrie 4.0 and biological transformation, this functional integration will have a huge impact on material choice.

Also in terms of thermal issues in machine tools, the material choice plays a major role, as thermal elongation is a physical property which is influenced by material choice. A much larger influence comes from design as indicated already above. With growing importance of compensation besides sensor integration, especially the thermal linearity and reproducibility are of crucial importance, which makes multi material design a non-trivial design task. The discussion on the superiority of thermally fast reacting machines or thermally slow reacting machines has not come to an end yet. Problematic are machines composed of components that react fast and those that react slow. A major step in that direction is the discovery of thermal resonances in [5], which shows that temperature change frequencies can depending on the machine design lead to higher or lower thermal displacements of the TCP and therefore need to be taken into account in the design phase and are significantly influenced by the choice of materials.

Restrictions and influences are also coming from the process a machine tool has to enable. The material choice must take into account the influence of different media as for instance the metal working fluids as well as the debris like hot chips etc.

The aforementioned discussion is mainly a discussion of main structural parts of machine tools. It must be pointed out that a machine tool is more than the sum of its structural elements, as also covers, which typically get forgotten in all academic discussion of behaviors of machine tools, but are significant for the influence of the environment on the machine tool. Also here the material choice plays a major role. Finally material choice to a large extent decides on the costs of a machine tool, but due to the huge amount of influence factors a sound fact based decision requires a nearly full design elaboration of various material choices and the summation of costs at the end of this process. This special issue with its various individual papers elucidates different aspects of the influence of materials on the design of machine tools without being capable of offering clear rules for material choice.

1) Isolating material to exclude environmental influences on machine tools is proposed.

2) A new guiding system with rollers and sliding guidings is proposed and the different materials for the sliding part are investigated.

3) Gears from bamboo fibres are proposed and the manufacturability as well as their performance are discussed. The gears offer great advantages from the environmental point of view.

4) CFRP for spindle shafts is evaluated and CFRP spindles are compared with steel spindles within the same geometric boundary conditions. The performance increase in compliance and thermal stability is significant.

5) A topological optimization of a grinding machine tool structure is presented and showed drastically increased performance. The difficulty to transfer it to a mass producible machine tool structure is pointed out.

6) A design of a CFRP ram for a high speed stamping press is presented and testing procedures to ensure the ability of the ram to withstand billions of impacts are designed and carried out.

7) CFRP can beneficially applied for the cutting tool structure and besides enhancing dynamics in terms of mass and damping the material also is a valuable basis for smart tools.

There are good arguments for each of the materials, which cover the whole scope of machine tool functionality: manufacturability, stiffness, strength, specific mass, thermal properties, function integrability, reproducibility, availability, environmental friendliness, and costs.

Cite this article as:
Konrad Wegener and Atsushi Matsubara, “Special Issue on Advanced Material Driven Design of Machine Tools,” Int. J. Automation Technol., Vol.14, No.2, pp. 261-263, 2020.
Data files:
  1. [1] H.-C. Möhring, C. Brecher, E. Abele, J. Fleischer, and F. Bleicher, “Materials in Machine tool structures,” CIRP Annals, Vol.64, No.2, pp. 725-748, 2015.
  2. [2] R. Neugebauer, M. Wabner, S. Ihlenfeldt, U. Frieß, F. Schneider, and F. Schubert, “Bionics based energy efficient machine tool design,” Procedia CIRP, Vol.3, pp. 561-566, 2012.
  3. [3] M. Zogg, “Leichtbau mit faserverstärkten Kunststoffen,” Lecture notes, inspire AG, 2017.
  4. [4] S. Ehlert, “Von der Leichtigkeit des Seins,” EEW Maschinenbau GmbH, 9. Industrieforum NC Gesellschaft Aarwangen, 2008.
  5. [5] J. Mayr, M. Ess, F. Pavlicek, S. Weikert, D. Spescha, and W. Knapp, “Simulation and measurement of environmental influences on machines in frequency domain,” CIRP Annals, Vol.64, No.1, pp. 479-482, 2015.

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Last updated on Mar. 05, 2021