Creating Powerful Micro Tools with Reliable Grinding Machines

Rollomatic Excels When Tool Diameters Are at Their Smallest

November 12, 2012
Manufacturing Group
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High end in the tool industry frequently goes hand in hand with ultra-high precision and minimum diameters nowadays.

“It must also be possible to produce such tools quickly and cost-effectively. Otherwise, a medium-sized company such as ours cannot survive on the market,” says Georg Eckerle from InovaTools.

With high-precision grinding machines produced in Switzerland, InovaTools can meet all requirements in an optimum manner.

Very first GrindSmart a Success

Eckerle came into contact with Rollomatic for the first time in 2002, as he was searching for a grinding machine for tools with diameters of less than 1mm. He was therefore looking around to see what sort of grinding machines were available: “I’m a mechanical engineer myself so I have an extremely in-depth knowledge of the subject. During my research, it quickly became clear to me that there are vast machines with long travel distances. And then you have the special Rollomatic kinematics!” He realized that the Swiss grinding machines had a design-related advantage in their small diameters: “There is nothing better out there!”

Georg Eckerle, managing director of InovaTools, talks with Rollomatic CEO Michel Rollier (on the right).His contact with the company came about through Dieter Furtwengler, head of sales at Rollomatic Germany. “Mr. Furtwengler introduced us to the GrindSmart 620XS, but warned straight away that the machine’s precision can only be incorporated into the tool with correspondingly precise, cylindrically ground carbide rods,” says Eckerle. “After a few tests with standard carbide rods, we discovered that he was right!”

A ShapeSmart NP4 cylindrical grinding machine, also produced by Rollomatic, was an ideal addition. After that, things happened quickly, and now there are eight GrindSmart 620/628XS, one GrindSmart Nano6 and four cylindrical grinding machines in operation at InovaTools.

Rollomatic: From Tool to Grinding Machine

Rollomatic started in the early 1950s as a manufacturer of micro tools. “I worked in tool production myself in the 1980s,” says Rollomatic CEO Michel Rollier. “Even back then, we used to manufacture our own machines and systems. That is why I understand how a machine must be designed for it to be popular with manufacturers.”

And so the design of the machines is based on experience of what is crucial in micro tool production. On the one hand, there are the space requirements: Production floor space is expensive, which is why the company tries to keep the machines small and compact. “There are two reasons for this: Long travel distances take a great deal more time and result in considerable heat development. The compact design of Rollomatic machines reduces both of these factors. They have everything in them, from the cooling system to the oil supply,” says Eckerle.

Precision and Dimensional Accuracy: A Fixed Requirement

Precision and process reliability combined with high dimensional accuracy within defined position and form tolerances are tremendously important in micro tool production. The challenge is nothing less than to manufacture a tool at as low a cost as possible. “Both the raw material and the quality of the grinding machine enter into the equation here,” says Eckerle. For example, how safely can it work without any operator intervention? This is a very important factor as our machines are in operation seven days a week.”

Even during weekend operation, an operator is only on site twice a day to equip the Rollomatic machines and measure the tools. “This is only possible with machines that offer perfection and work without any faults,” says Eckerle.

A smooth workflow is possible as Rollomatic machines are based on a shared software and control system. The training courses required are held in Le Landeron and make the operators ready to meet any challenge. “The finer points are explained in follow-up training courses on site under production conditions,” says Furtwengler.

GrindSmart Nano6 – An Expert in Ultra-Small Diameters

With Project Future, InovaTools embarked on far-reaching restructuring of its production conditions in 2011 in order to meet the heavy demand for high-performance tools. “For this reason, we purchased the new machines with a view toward achieving more cost-effective production and combined them to create special production lines. Our Rollomatic Line, for example, is intended for tools with diameters of up to 5mm,” explains Eckerle.

This is where the GrindSmart Nano6 for diameters at the limit comes into play. Three of its six axes are hydrostatic. This allows it to achieve optimum damping, which is an absolute necessity when creating the very smallest of tools. Excellent surface qualities in a tolerance range of 0.003mm are the result. “The precision that can be achieved also influences our tool design,” says Eckerle. “We are only able to produce our PrimeLine or the Edition Diamant because we use Rollomatic machines in these diameter ranges.”

Optimization Suggestions from Real-World Experience

Despite all the expertise regarding the design and production of grinding machines that Rollomatic unites in its company, feedback from salespeople, technicians, and customers is also important. “We collect this information and then try to incorporate it into ongoing series production,” says Michel Rollier. “However, it’s the great ideas that give rise to new models. Naturally, the users would prefer it if the machine could do everything on its own. With each new software release, we try to program complex tools in a simple manner so that we can get that bit closer to achieving this vision.”

“The Wizard tool in our VirtualGrind Pro software provides assistance in designing tools rapidly,” says Furtwengler. “Manufacturers program new tools independently using additional modules; these are not included in the templates delivered.”

Technologies with a Future

The trend towards ever smaller diameters shows no signs of abating. “A few weeks ago, we successfully ground 0.02mm ball nose end mills as a test. However, conventional geometries below this size are not so easy to achieve.”

In order to create more opportunities for tool manufacturers, Rollomatic will soon be offering the LaserSmart system. This can be used to process ultra-hard materials as well, such as CBN, PKD, or CVD diamond with a laser.

“Thanks to our machinery, we are well positioned to meet the challenges of the future,” says Eckerle, summing up. “Thanks to the reliability and precision of the Rollomatic machines, we can expand our tool range, particularly in the field of micro cutting, in an optimum way.”

For further information, call Damien Wunderlin at 41.32.752.1700, or email him at