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Procedia CIRP 1 (2012) 132 137

5th CIRP Conference on High Performance Cutting 2012

Using NC-path deformation for compensating tool deflections

in micromilling of hardened steel
D. Biermann a, E. Krebsa*, A. Sacharowa, P. Kerstinga
Institute of Machining Technology, TU Dortmund University, Germany
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +49 231/755-5820; fax: +49 231 755-5141.E-mail address:


During the micromachining of hardened materials, the low stiffness of the milling tool results in an increased tool deflection which
has a great influence on the shape and dimensional accuracy of the machined components. In order to compensate these deflections,
an optimization method is presented in this paper. Based on measured form errors of the machined workpieces, the NC programs
are optimized iteratively to reduce the shape deviations. To verify this method, experimental investigations were carried out by
milling pockets in hardened steel. The results show a significant reduction of the tool deflection after the optimization.

2012 The Authors.
Published byPublished by Elsevier
Elsevier BV. B.V.and/or
Selection Selection and/or peer-review
peer-review under responsibility
under responsibility of Professor
of Prof. Dr. Konrad Wegener
Konrad Wegener

Keywords: Milling, Micromachining, Analysis, Compensation

1. Introduction leading to ploughing instead of cutting exists [7]. This

has a negative effect on the surface quality and tool life,
For the manufacturing of complex lightweight especially during the manufacturing of difficult to
components with integrated functional elements, the machine materials. In addition, the increased milling
sheet-bulk metal forming process, which combines the time based on a low chip removal rate leads to higher
advantages of sheet and bulk metal forming, gives the manufacturing costs.
opportunity to produce these parts economically. For this The manipulation of NC paths represents an
purpose, complex dies, which are usually made of alternative method. For simple manufacturing tasks, the
materials with a high hardness (e. g., high-speed steel shape correction can be realized directly at the machine
S6-5-2, 63 HRC), with small structures and functional control by an over-positioning of the tool. For
elements are required. Due to the hardness of the geometrically more complex parts, the use of a CAM
machined material, the precise manufacturing of these system is necessary. However, in most conventional
elements by micromilling is a challenge [1, 2]. In programs such correction functions are not offered.
previous studies, the machinability of steels with Therefore, a new CAD model and NC program have to
hardness above 60 HRC using commercially available be constructed. This can be very complicated and is
micro end-milling cutters was shown [3]. This is often not realizable without computer assistance [8].
remarkable since the milling tools consist of cemented In this article a practical solution to this problem is
carbide. However, the stiffness of the milling tools plays presented. In order to minimize the form errors, an
a decisive role since the tool deflections during the analysis and optimization approach is applied which
machining of hardened steel result in an over- or modifies NC programs by taking tool deflections into
undersize of the machined workpiece. This effect is not account and requires no reconstruction in CAD or CAM
negligible for a precise micromilling of these structures systems. The verification of the compensation approach
[4, 5]. is performed for pocket micromilling in hardened high-
A commonly used approach to reduce tool deflections speed steel S6-5-2.
is the adjustment of cutting parameters in order to
minimize the process forces [6]. However, in
micromachining a risk to achieve chip thicknesses

2212-8271 2012 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Professor Konrad Wegener
D. Biermann et al. / Procedia CIRP 1 (2012) 132 137 133

2. Shape-deviation compensation t, which is defined by the user. In the following, these

two steps of the form-error compensation approach are
For the compensation of form errors, which can occur explained in more detail.
during the milling process due to tool deflections, an
approach is applied that deforms the original NC 2.1. Shape-deviation analysis
programs of the workpiece with respect to the
corresponding shape deviations [9]. In Fig. 1, a In general, registration methods are used for the
schematic diagram of the extended process chain is comparison of two 3D surfaces. The aim of registration
shown. The advantage of this procedure is is the adjustment of these shapes by minimizing a
implementation of the shape modifications without the specified error measure, e.g., maximal or least-squares
process of surface reconstruction, which may be very distance between the shapes. During this process one
time-consuming and costly for complex, free-form shape (data) is transformed in order to fit the other shape
geometries [8]. (model) in the best possible way. A well-known
The direct approach for form-error compensation registration method is ICP (Iterative Closest Point)
consists of two steps. The first one is the analysis of the [10, 11]. It adjusts the data into the model by calculating
workpiece deformations. At this stage, the measured a rigid transformation, which minimizes the least-
data is compared to the reference geometry as squares distance between the corresponding points. An
represented by the CAD model. The result of the important part of the registration procedure is the
analysis is a discrete deformation field describing the determination of the corresponding pairs. For every data
shape deviations of the manufactured workpiece (see point, a corresponding model point with the shortest
Fig. 2, left). In the second step, a continuous distance is computed by nearest-neighbor search. In case
deformation function is calculated with respect to the the model is represented as a point cloud, appropriate
determined deformation field. The NC programs for the search structures like kd-trees [12] are used for matching
milling process are modified using this deformation data points to model points. Since the model is given by
function. Afterwards, the new NC programs can be a mesh or a set of parametric surfaces, point projection
directly used for milling on the machine. This methods [10, 13] are used for finding the corresponding
compensation process can be iterated until the shape- points.
deviation measure e, e.g. maximal deviation with respect The advantage of rigid registration methods like ICP
to the deformation field, is within the range of tolerance is the efficiency and high applicability. Moreover, the
corresponding points establish a field of deformation
vectors and, thus, describe the shape deviation between
Regular process chain the data and the model. In case of strong deformations of
a the workpiece, however, the matching calculated by
point projection or nearest-neighbor search may be
error-prone and should thus not be used for the analysis
CAM Compensation of and compensation of the form errors. In this case, non-
the tool deflection rigid registration methods should be applied [14]. These
b methods allow slight deformations of data during the
Form error
Machine registration in order to obtain an accurate adjustment.
e>t 2.2. NC-path deformation
Measurement Analysis tool
The idea for compensating form errors, which are
e<t caused by deflections of the milling tool, is based on the
displacement of the original positions of the tool with
Machined workpiece respect to the shape deviations determined in the
analysis phase. For example, in case of an oversize, the
a Reference geometry (CAD model) positions of the milling tool should be displaced closer
b New NC program to the workpiece surface in order to remove more
c Measured data material. Biermann et al. [9] already presented an
e Shape-deviation measurement
approach for the manipulation of NC programs using a
t User-defined threshold
B-spline based free-form deformation. This method
allows slight shape modifications of a workpiece using a
Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of the new process chain direct displacement of the NC paths. For example,
134 D. Biermann et al. / Procedia CIRP 1 (2012) 132 137

forming tools in sheet metal forming have been modified in order to compensate the form errors caused by tool
in order to compensate the shape deviations caused by deflection, the tool positions can be directly displaced by
springback. This procedure can be applied for the the function F with respect to a set of deformation
compensation of form errors in micromilling caused by vectors. Using this approach, the NC programs with
tool deflections in the same manner. several thousands of points can be optimized in a few
A great challenge of this approach is to find a smooth minutes.
deformation function, which approximates the discrete
deformation field and can be used for adjusting the tool 3. Experimental setup
positions. Due to the noise in the measured data, it is
important to define a deformation function including In order to verify the presented approach, small
smoothing properties. A well-known technique, which pockets of dimensions 5 mm x 5 mm with a corner
can be used for this purpose, is a B-spline based free- radius of 1.5 mm were machined. In order to analyze the
form deformation [9, 15]. It pointwisely deforms the effect on the resulting shape deviation, the width of cut
space and all the 3D objects inside the space by applying ae was varied as follows. Experiment A is conducted
a continuous function F: 3 to all points of the using a width of cut ae = 200 m, experiment B
objects. The new position of an arbitrary point p is ae = 400 m, and experiment C ae = 600 m. Each
defined as a trivariate weighted sum of control points experiment was performed for three times. The
Pi,j,k: remaining cutting parameters are set according to
fundamental investigations of Biermann et al. [3]. Fig 3
l ,m,n gives an overview of the parameters.
p ' = F (u , v, w) = B (u) B (v) B (w) P
i , j , k =1
i j k i , j ,k (1)

where the weights Bi(u), Bj(v), and Bk(w) are B-spline

basis functions defined on the parameter space and
(,,) are the local parameters of the point p [13].
The space deformation results from a displacement of
the control points, which are initially located on a
regular (lmn)-lattice (see Fig. 2). In order to
approximate a discrete vector field, the required
displacements of the control points can be calculated
using a least-squares method. Thereby, the quality of the
approximation depends on the number of control points.
In general, it is difficult to find a function F, which Fig. 3. Micro end mill cutter and picture of the process
fulfils defined precision requirements. In order to assure
a desired shape accuracy of the workpiece after These experiments were carried out on a CNC micro
deformation, an adaptive approach for the calculation of milling machine KERN HSPC 2522. To achieve high
a B-spline based free-form deformation was presented in cutting speeds, the spindle Precise SC 1060-OA, with an
[16]. operating range from 60,000 min-1 to 160,000 min-1, was
This technique can be used for pointwise deformation used. The machine manufacturer specifies a production
of 3D objects like meshes or even NC programs. Thus, accuracy of one micron.
The tools are cemented carbide end mill cutters with a
diameter of d = 1 mm. They have a long cutting edge
l2 = 8.5 mm. The radial run-out is specified as ro = 5 m.
Fig. 3 shows the tool geometry and a picture of the
The workpiece material is a high-speed steel, S6-5-2
(1.3343), with a hardness of approx. 63 HRC. The tool
paths were programmed in the CAM system
CimatronE 9.0. The measurements were carried out on a
confocal white-light microscope (NanoFocus surf).
This equipment allows accurate measurements to be
achieved and to be saved as a point cloud, which can be
Fig. 2. Example for the deformation of data by displacing one control directly used for the analysis and compensation
point of a B-spline volume in 2D case procedure. The surface was measured with the horizontal
D. Biermann et al. / Procedia CIRP 1 (2012) 132 137 135

resolution of three microns and the vertical resolution of

0.2 microns.

4. Results and Discussion

First, during the evaluation of the experiments A, B,

and C the length of the milled pockets is measured and
compared to the reference geometry, as shown in Fig. 4.
Therefore, three measurements were carried out in each
direction. The tool deflection is then deduced from the
shape deviation. The averaged values are shown in Fig.
5. The deflection for a tool with a diameter d = 1 mm is
unexpectedly high. In experiment C the maximum Fig. 4. Drawing of the shape deviation measurement
values are far beyond 100 microns. In the literature, the
typical deflection of 30 microns is indicated [4, 17]. In contrast to the measurement results, shown in
Furthermore, a progressivity of the tool deflection can Fig. 5, where only the length of the pockets was
be recognized in the graph for increasing width of cut ae. considered, the shape deviations used during the
Thereby, the gradient between 400 and 600 microns of compensation are based on the deformation field from
the width of cut is higher than between 200 and 400 the analysis step and include the whole measurement
microns. Thus, a linear behavior cannot be determined. data.
A possible reason for the increased gradient can be
found in the change of the engagement situation. When
the width of cut is higher than the tool radius, a varied
down- and up-milling is occurred in the process, which
changes the curve of the force. Overall, the influence of
the width of cut on the tool deflection is quite high.
Published investigation results show that the width of cut
has a rather low influence on the process forces [3]. This
will be analyzed in future works.
For the compensation of the tool deflection,
experiment B was selected with the knowledge that a
higher radial feed will still ensure the process reliability.
The deformation of the corresponding NC path is
computed based on the determined deviation between Fig. 5. Average tool deflections from the distance measurements
the measured data and the reference geometry. The
results after the first iteration step are shown in Fig. 6. It In general, the shape deviation can be reduced with
is a top view on the pocket shape in the used CAE each iteration step, but is limited by the precision of the
environment. To make it more obvious, the negative experimental procedure. In addition to inaccuracies in
shape of the measured pocket is depicted. The the milling process, which may arise through the
deformation field presents the distance between the outer machine (1 m) and the tool radial run-out (5 m),
points and the boundary (model). Despite noise in data measurement errors have to be taken into account. Due
and discretization errors, the deformed NC paths are to some surface defects during the milling process, the
smooth. measurement accuracy in the current experiments is
specified by six microns. An additional source of error is
the discretization of the measurement data. Due to the
large size of the dataset (4,915,089 data points), a data
reduction of 66 % was carried out to improve the
handling. So an additional inaccuracy of nine microns
has to be taken into account with respect to the
measurement resolution. Overall, in the presented
compensation process an accuracy of 21 microns can be
assumed. Thus, the range of tolerance t was set to 21
136 D. Biermann et al. / Procedia CIRP 1 (2012) 132 137

Fig. 6. NC-path deformation on the example of pocket milling

For the compensation of the tool deflection, the

analysis tool and the form-error compensation were
carried out iteratively (see Fig. 1.). As the results show
in Fig. 7, the maximum distance e has a value of 17 Fig. 7. Shape deviation after the NC-path deformation
microns after two iterations, which is within the defined
tolerance range t. Accordingly, two iterations were The next step in this research field could be a further
sufficient. Due to the larger area of contact, the tool extension of the process chain. A milling simulation,
deflection is higher at the radii, so the value of the which is suitable for the computation of tool deflections
average distance increases compared to Fig 4. In during the micromachining process, would save costs
conclusion, both, the average and maximum distance and time in order to carry out the iteration steps of the
from the reference geometry were reduced significantly compensation approach virtually.
using the presented optimizing approach.

5. Conclusion Acknowledgements

In micromachining, deviations from the ideal This work was supported by the German Research
geometry cannot be avoided completely. An enormous Foundation (DFG) within the scope of the Transregional
tool deflection of about 100 microns was measured, Collaborative Research Centre on sheet-bulk metal
particularly, when using tools with a cantilever length to forming (SFB/TR73) in the subproject B2 and the
machine deep cavities in hardened steel. SFB708 in the subproject C4.
In order to compensate deflections of the milling tool
and to achieve a high shape accuracy, a new method was
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