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SHOP SOLUTIONS Continued from P39


fabricating method used to raise tall buildings, construct ships, and permanently join a wide variety of mechanical compo- nents. Welding, however, is good for far more that bridge building and attaching hitches to snowmobile trailers. Welding is also used to make metal surfaces tougher,


harder, and, in some cases, both. Hardfacing is the applica- tion of specialty weld metals to wear and bearing surfaces that are important to and used in a wide array of industries. Tractor makers hardface drive sprockets and shovel rollers. Turbine manufacturers use it to strengthen blades and valve seats. Steel mills rely on hardfaced components to crush rock and pulverize metals. Much of the material used for hardfacing operations is a


cobalt-chromium metal known as Stellite, which is manufac- tured by Kennametal Stellite. Together with other hardfacing al- loys and nickel-based metals, Stellite is used in the oil and gas, food processing, dental, aerospace, and any other industry that requires super tough, heat and corrosion-resistant materials. In addition to physical measurements of materials, Sapp inspects the welds made with these materials, most of which Sapp does himself. Compared to the rod used with most industrial welding processes, Kennametal Stellite’s hardfac- ing rod is “cored” with cobalt or nickel-based powder which melts during welding and helps provide the strength and hardness expected of hardfaced metals. Prior to purchasing the Keyence VHX-5000 digital mi- croscope, Sapp relied on a traditional optical microscope to


perform measurements. One recurring thorn in his side was calibration of the sieves used to separate metal powders into different grain sizes. That task once required hours doing it the old manual way, but it can now be done far more quickly. There are several reasons for this. For one, the VHX-5000 eliminates the need to make focus adjustments, greatly speed- ing up measuring time. With the push of a button, an optimized view of the target is produced in as little as one second. The VHX-5000 has a depth of fi eld 20 times greater than traditional microscopes. High-resolution optics and software capture and optimize images automatically. There are a number of func- tions such as wide area stitching, 3D depth of fi eld display and measurement, and edge detection, making the VHX-5000 easy to use but powerful for a variety of applications. “It used to take around 40 minutes to calibrate a sieve,” said Sapp. “With 24 different sieves, that meant several days of work, but with the VHX-5000 I can fi nish a sieve in 10 minutes. It’s a huge timesaver.”


Sapp, who also inspects the powder itself, said the new


system provides far greater capabilities than what was avail- able to him previously. “If there’s anything questionable we can get a really good look at it now and do measurements we weren’t really able to do before. The VHX-5000 has defi - nitely paid for itself as far as I’m concerned.” The VHX-5000 has also opened doors to unexpected


The ability of the Keyence VHX-5000 to zoom in on welding rod extrusion nozzles has helped Kennametal Stellite’s engineers make several design changes, improving product quality and extending tool life.


76 AdvancedManufacturing.org | June 2017


product improvements. “We have furnaces here for making weld rod and they have these little ceramic extrusion dies inside. With the Keyence digital microscope I was able to take a picture of one and make a 3D image,” said Sapp. “It helped us visualize what’s actually happening as the product is being made. That in turn gave us some ideas on how to modify the nozzle shape and improve its longevity, allow- ing us to make more and better product for each set of dies. That’s another thing we couldn’t do before, and it’s made a night and day difference. The lab technician is the primary user of the VHX-5000, although Sapp has trained others on its use. He said it’s very easy to learn, but when he does have a question, help is just a phone call or e-mail away. His only complaint is that he wishes he had more time to spend with some of the device’s advanced features, such as metallurgical analyses, and he would like to purchase a higher magnifi cation lens at some point for an even closer view of the metal powders he works with. Sapp


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