Blum offers state-of-the-art in laser tool measuring technology after 20 years of industry leadership
First to develop and market a laser tool measuring system (helium-neon laser) was the German manufacturer, Blum-Novotest, today recognized worldwide as the developer of leading-edge measurement and testing technology with more than 40 years’ experience as a supplier to the international machine tool, aerospace and automotive industries.
The birth concept of laser measuring actually took place in1982, five years before its introduction in practice, when the subject came up between Mr. Günther Blum, founder of the company, in discussion with one of the then leading machine tool manufacturers over an informal lunch in Munich.
A laser system installed in a machine tool is a high-precision light barrier that produces a trigger signal to read measuring values from axis positions to the control when its beam is (shaded) interrupted by a tool.
So appealing was the potential of using laser light for tool measurement, it was agreed that BLUM would develop and offer a system. Undeterred by the prospect of a highly expensive development program, Blum, encouraged by the interest from industry in the undeniable potential of laser tool measurement, persevered with the further research and development in the technology.
Various areas of application were pursued with interested potential customers, with the result that in 1987, demand enabled BLUM to deliver the world´s first laser measuring systems for tool breakage detection in machining centres. One drawback remained, however; the fact that these first laser measuring systems needed a 30-minute warm-up time before the helium-neon laser came into operation.
A major breakthrough came after laser diodes with visible light became available three years later, which enabled BLUM, in response to demand, to increase measuring accuracy from one hundredth of a millimetre to one micron. This saw the launch by BLUM in 1991 at the EMO Show in Paris of these new systems of compact design and highest reliability for tool setting, breakage detection and compensation for thermal drift.
Subsequent technological advances continued: the Mini System with shutter to protect the optics in 1992; the Micro Systems in Support and Single versions in 1993; and another big turning point, in 1996 the Innovation Award for the BLUM Laser System at the MACH Show, Birmingham, followed by its impact at the IMTS in Chicago and at the JIMTOF Show, Tokyo, in the same year.
Thereafter, the world machine tool industry adopted laser tool measuring technology wholeheartedly for ever-widening uses. For tool breakage detection below 2 mm diameter, below half a millimetre, down to 20 microns diameter, it has become the standard practice since mechanical detection has no chance of measuring down to such dimensions.
Then in 2003, BLUM introduced the NT-technology, which reduced the influence of coolant and chips which caused interference signals and brought the system to the highest level of reliability under the toughest conditions.
The technology is now used for all kinds of tool measuring, for example, shaft breakage and cutting edge control, tool setting, wear and form control, compensation of machine axes, etc.
More than 50,000 BLUM systems now in use worldwide
Since the first BLUM laser measuring system was installed 20 years ago, more than 50,000 systems are now in use worldwide, which is good reason to celebrate the success of both this innovative, high-precision technology and the company which has led the way.
According to Alexander Blum, now CEO of the company: “Future growth areas in which the demand has already started, are measuring systems for mill-turning and turn-milling machines as well as touch probes for grinding and turning machines, e.g., for measurements of grinding wheels or tool setting of turning tools”.
Hence, the newest BLUM system, the LaserControl NT-H 3D, shown at the EMO Show 2007, introduces both tactile and laser measuring in one system, especially designed for combined turn-mill machines. Also presented on the show was the new touch probe TC76 with revolutionary shark360 measuring mechanism. BLUM say the probe sets a new benchmark in reliability and accuracy in measuring systems for grinding and turning centres.
For more information on Blum laser tool measurement systems, contact IS Tecnik on 02 9597 7198.
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