Discontinuous milling within a continuous flow production of sheet metal profiles

Within the framework of the special research area 666 at the Technical University of Darmstadt, the product development process of branched structures in an integral sheet metal construction is being holistically investigated. In addition to the project areas of development, evaluation and synthesis, the production of branched components takes place in the area of manufacturing through integrated forming, cutting and joining operations.

Through the innovative manufacturing process of gap profiling and downstream manufacturing processes, such as laser welding, the differential design, which is common in sheet metal constructions and consists of several components, can be replaced by an integral design consisting of a single workpiece. Function- and stress-optimised geometries can be manufactured in a targeted manner.

Sheet metal profile produced by means of forming and milling operations in flow production.
Sheet metal profile produced by means of forming and milling operations in flow production.

An essential part of this flow production is discontinuous in-line milling of the sheet metal profiles. Compared to other manufacturing processes, such as punching, this offers the advantage of the variable insertion of functional elements. A change of the forming element geometry can be implemented cost-effectively, at short term and without additional material costs. Downstream milling processes and additional material handling can be saved. Thus, the manufacturing time and the associated manufacturing costs of the profiles can be reduced.

The special challenge is to fix the moving workpiece during machining. This must not hinder the continuous workpiece flow, but must provide sufficient support forces to absorb the machining forces and prevent positional deviations of the workpiece. Furthermore, the machining must take place synchronously with the sheet metal profile feed.

The illustration shows a sheet metal profile made of fine-grained steel ZStE500 (HC420LA) machined within the flow production. The feed rate was 5 m/s.

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