Everything the Silent Tools™ R&D team in Norway does is based on customer demands, add curiosity and a desire to this and you’ll have the recipe why the team is so good at innovation.
The view is marvellous: black wintry water cutting through snow-covered mountains surrounding a fjord. This is Trondheim, Norway, and it’s where you’ll find the brains behind the connected Silent Tools + turning adaptors.
Industry 4.0 and the constant demand for new innovations can be stressful for companies, but Sandvik Coromant in Norway has created an environment for bright ideas to flourish. Many are still struggling to produce vibration-free turning adaptor lengths above 10 times the hole diameter while the team in Trondheim is testing bars that can handle double that, now with connectivity and software that save valuable time and money for the users. What’s the secret?
“It’s a combination of many things,” says R&D manager Anders Digernes. “We have the full value chain from ideas to complete manufactured products under the same roof, which gives us access to a lot of different competences. Our flat organizational structure makes us very flexible and agile in our response to new opportunities, often identified through R&D’s direct contact with customers.”
Tormod Jensen, a PhD engineer on the R&D team and one of the brains behind several patents of the Silent Tools damping system and CoroPlus® sensor technology, points to another reason. “We are part of the large Smart Tools project founded by the Research Council of Norway, and this has been a key factor in our success,” he says.
The SilentTools + turning adaptors are part of the CoroPlus platform, comprising connected tools and software. Dan Östling, another PhD engineer on the Trondheim team, has been driving the development of the sensor and signal technology – technology that opens up a world of new opportunities for manufacturers from design and planning to machining and analysis. R&D engineer Mathias Tjomsland demonstrates the interface while one of the operators attaches a long, heavy boring bar to the machine. The icon for centre height displays 0.0°.
“Wow, you got it exactly right on the first try,” Tjomsland tells the operator.
Without connectivity, operators spend a lot of time measuring, listening, feeling and watching before, during and after machining. Components of the size that this bar can machine are extremely expensive, which means that process stability is key. During a visit to several aerospace manufacturers in Canada, the R&D team realized another challenge – lack of visibility.
“When turning inside long components, it’s extremely difficult to know what is going on,” Tjomsland says. “In modern machining centres, you may not even know if the insert is actually in cut, as they are very sound-isolated. Every minute the machine is cutting air is very expensive.”
When the 18xD sensor-based boring bar was first displayed at the IMTS exhibition in Chicago in 2016, the aerospace customers that the team had previously met in Canada came to visit the booth.
“Everything we do is based on customer demands, but the Canadians were all really impressed that we had listened to their problems and actually solved them,” says marketing manager Nils Aksel Ruud.
Tjomsland gently puts his hand on the bar, and the icon for deflection immediately reacts on the screen. The interface is designed to be intuitive and easy to understand. Tjomsland’s passion for design and user experience has been truly valuable in the development of the software.
Another person who is passionate about his job is R&D engineer Einar Leo Ottesen, who is exploring additive manufacturing opportunities. “We always have our eyes open for new material and new ways of manufacturing our tools to make them stronger, lighter, smarter and more cost-efficient,” he says.
Curiosity and a desire to always learn new things are two more pieces in the puzzle of what makes the Sandvik Coromant team in Norway so good at innovation.
The new connected Silent Tools + turning adaptor is launched in the second half of 2017.