Customer case study on how tribology can improve molding tool life

November, 2020

Uniemetaal B.V. is the Dutch branch of the PRÄZI Group steel conglomerate. Their core competencies are design, development, manufacture and assembly of complete moulding tools for the sand-lime brick and concrete industry. Unimetaal had purchased Ducom Abrasion Tester (ABT-3), the only automated abrasion tester in the market, that was embedded with precision load and friction measurement system.

Duco Nijp CROPPEDIn this interview with Duco Nijp, Senior Technical Manager in Uniemetaal explains the importance of tribology and abrasion tester in achieving superior customer satisfaction in molding industry. 

How can tribology help Uniemetaal's business and products?
We design, manufacture and service the molding tools for sand lime brick making machines. We want to offer our customer a better product all the time. Tribology helps us to deliver wear resistant tools, that brings satisfaction to our customers. In return, we achieve an improvement in our brand positioning in sand-lime brick and concrete industry.

"Poor abrasion resistance of molding tools has a huge financial impact on our customers"

Ducom Abrasion Tester ABT-3

Figure 1. Ducom Abrasion Tester (ABT-3) for Dry and Slurry Abrasion Testing. This is a bench top abrasion tester that comply with ASTM G65, G105 and B611

Can you elaborate on customer happiness?
Yes. Uniemetaal has spent several years investigating our customers’ expectations in brick and concrete industry. These customers decide whether to buy our products or the competitors’ based on the wear resistance. We have understood the importance of wear in their business process. For example, high wear of molding tools will create more space for sand lime mixture than usual; to compensate for an increase in area, the hydraulic press must increase the force to achieve the same pressure, but the bricks are not designed to withstand such high force, and they could break. This has a huge financial impact on our customers. Even minor wear of tools hampers the aesthetics and tolerances of sand lime bricks, and the entire batch of bricks will be rejected. Our wear resistant tools just do the opposite, they contribute to saving production cost for our customers and they are happy.

Schematics of the sand-lime brick formation process

Figure 2. Schematics of the sand-lime brick formation process. (A) the sand and lime mixture is placed in the mold. (B) The mixture is pressed and shaped in the mold. (C) the pressure is removed and the brick is pulled out of the mold. 

How did you improve wear resistance of molding tools?
We have developed our specialized heat treatment method to improve the wear resistance of low carbon steel. The carburizing process is used for case hardening. We continue to improve the heat treatment process by following up on the performance of our molding tools at our customers site. This entire process of heat treatment and performance testing has helped us to improve wear resistance of molding tools.

"The friction sensor in ABT-3 helps us to understand the power consumption during abrasive wear"

Moulding tool manufactured by Uniemetaal

Figure 3. Moulding tool manufactured by Uniemetaal.

Why did you choose for a laboratory scale abrasion tester?
Firstly, we saw that the improved wear performance for the same molding tool varied between the customers. Our molding tools lasted for nine months for one customer, whereas the same tool had to be replaced in less than nine months at another place. It’s like tires in a car, they wear depending on the driver's style. Ducom Abrasion Tester (ABT-3) can simulate three body abrasive wear according to ASTM G65 / B611 / G105. With it, we are able to investigate the wear behavior of molding tools regardless of the driver’s style! ABT-3 has helped us to relate heat treatment methods to abrasive wear resistance.

Wear Parts: moulding plates and stamp plates for sand-lime brick industry

Figure 4. Molding plates and stamp plates for sand-lime brick industry.

Why did you choose Ducom? What did you like of this abrasion tester and what did you not like?
Because of its features, especially the monitoring part. Ducom ABT-3 is embedded with friction sensor that helps us to understand the power consumption during abrasive wear. The other abrasion testers we found in the market did not have this possibility.

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