Diamonds Are a Quality Manager’s Best Friend

Pankl Racing Systems

Diamonds Are a Quality Manager's Best Friend

Several months ago, Pankl Racing Systems in Austria equipped its coordinate measuring machines with a solid-diamond stylus. This has proved to be the right decision: Pankl reports reduced wear, greater precision and less machine downtime. The Austrian company has also started using a diamond-coated stylus from ZEISS and has nothing but good news to report.

Automotive supplier scans parts with diamond styli

The challenge: even greater precision

Engineers are always pushing the limits of what is technically feasible, placing even more exacting demands on precision from one year to the next. Several years ago, this prompted the automotive supplier Pankl, whose portfolio includes connecting rods for race cars, to switch from discrete-point measurements to precise scanning. But since they were in constant contact with the workpieces being measured, the silicon nitride stylus tips were wearing down at a rate of up to one micrometer per day – too much to ensure the precision of the measurement results without additional testing. Thus Pankl requalified its scanning styli twice daily, and each time this meant the coordinate measuring machine was out of action for 15 minutes. Moreover, replacing an old stylus with a new one once per day was not an uncommon occurrence.

Measuring a connecting rod with a diamond-coated stylus
Measuring a connecting rod with a diamond-coated stylus.

The solution: diamonds for scanning

Automotive supplier scans parts with diamond styli
René Hautz, who works in the technical quality assurance area at Pankl, performing final inspection on a connecting rod for a race car engine. The bearing on the crankshaft is measured with a ZEISS diamond stylus.

Even though continually qualifying and changing the styli had become the norm over the years, Mario Pichler, Head of Strategic Metrology at Pankl Racing, thought this process was suboptimal. Hearing about new styli with a diamond coating from the field staff at ZEISS Industrial Metrology piqued Pichler’s interest. At the end of 2015, he ordered a loaner stylus – initially the more expensive, solid-diamond version – for one of the two ZEISS PRISMO systems used for the final inspection of connecting rods. Since then, Pankl has started using one of the diamond-coated styli as well. An additional measuring machine for in-process checks will soon be fitted with a solid-diamond stylus. However, for those process steps where no scans are performed, everything will stay just as it is for the time being.

We haven’t noticed any wear thus far. The switch has definitely paid off.

Mario Pichler, Head of Strategic Metrologyule Advanced settings.

The benefit: increased measuring machine uptime

The company first started using a diamond stylus on 17 November 2015 for the final inspection of all connecting rods for race car engines. A scan lasts three minutes and provides far more measurement values than with a discrete-point measurement, thereby increasing the reliability of the results. And how are the new styli holding up? After more than a year, Pichler reports: “We haven’t noticed any wear thus far.” This also means there is no longer any time-consuming qualification and no need to replace out unusable styli. Pichler reports that “switching to the diamond-coated and solid-diamond styli has definitely paid off.” This has got him thinking about the future: he is currently considering using these styli in the gearbox manufacturing area.

Scanning with diamond styli increases reliability
Scanning with diamond styli increases reliability.

About Pankl Racing Systems

Automotive supplier scans parts with diamond styli

Headquartered in Kapfenberg in Austria, Pankl Racing Systems AG develops, produces and sells engine and drive systems as well as chassis parts for race cars, luxury cars and helicopters. Pankl manufactured its first division is the market leader for engine and drive systems. The engine systems are built in Bruck an der Mur, Austria, and Irvine, California, while the drive systems are assembled in Kapfenberg and Bicester in the UK. Pankl has a global workforce of around 1,300 employees.