Hardening is an essential but onerous step in the manufacture of precision components for switches. The traditional hardening process takes a long time and entails precision risks. Laser hardening eliminates both of these problems, and Niko is introducing it in its production process.
Traditional hardening a laborious process
Laser hardening done in same clamp as pre- and post-processing
Fewer quality issues and lead time cut by 90%
Niko, based in Sint-Niklaas, is the Belgian market leader in the manufacture of switches and sockets, with operations worldwide. In Europe, it has bases in Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Switzerland.
“With the laser beam, the hardening process only takes a few seconds. What’s more, the hardness is greater than with the traditional process.”
Traditional hardening: a laborious process
Hardened precision components are normally produced in three phases: pre-processing in unhardened condition, hardening and then post-processing in hardened condition. For the hardening, the pieces are taken to an external hardening facility, which means they have to be removed from their clamp.
However, because they still have to undergo post-processing after being hardened, they need to be realigned and reclamped. Consequently, the traditional hardening process is not only logistically challenging but can also sometimes cause precision problems.
Laser hardening on the machine
By mounting a laser head on the machine used for pre- and post-processing, the components can be hardened in their original clamp. With the laser beam, the hardening process only takes a few seconds. What’s more, the hardness is greater than with the traditional process.
Faster and more accurate
Because the precision components stay in their original clamp throughout the production process, accuracy problems are minimised. Also, fewer deformations occur during hardening as the laser beam produces much less heat than during the traditional hardening process. Last but not least, the elimination of transport, waiting times, clamping and alignment operations means that the lead time is reduced by a remarkable 90%.
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