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High-tech comes to golf clubs.

High-tech comes to golf clubs Laser digitizing and CAD/CAM/CAE help speed design and development of custom clubs, at the same time increasing quality.

Karsten Mfg Corp, Phoenix, AZ, has adopted laser digitizing and computer-aided design, NC programming, and analysis (CAD/CAM/CAE) in making its world-famous Ping line of custom golf clubs. Results to date include higher-quality clubs and the ability to introduce new club designs four to six times faster than previously.

The company was started 31 years ago by Karsten Solheim, an avid golfer and mechanical engineer. In the late 1950s, frustrated by his poor putting, he applied his knowledge of physics and engineering to develop a new putter design.

It didn't look like other putters, and it made a "ping" sound when it made contact with the ball. But professional golfers liked the design, and began winning matches with it. Solheim put the putter into production, and began designing and manufacturing other clubs, along with bag tops and other accessories.

Until recently, the design process relied entirely on Solheim's experience and intuition. First he hand-ground a rough metal model. From that, an epoxy mold was made, and several prototype heads were cast in stainless steel.

Workers then assembled shafts and grips to the prototype heads. These were tested in "Ping Man," a special Karsten machine that simulates a golfer's swing and helps engineers evaluate clubs. Sometimes prototype clubs were given to golfers who evaluated them subjectively for feel and performance.

Woods were crafted by hand. Solheim carved prototype heads from blocks of maple laminate, then subjected them to evaluation by "Ping Man" and golfers.

Though the design and development process resulted in fine golf clubs, it was exasperatingly slow. A new design took several years to move from conception to production.

Speed wanted

About two years ago, Karsten engineers began investigating technologies that might help them speed the process. At the same time, the company sought ways to enhance the performance and quality of their clubs.

First, the company decided to establish a database of past designs. This would enable evaluation of what worked well and what didn't in club designs.

"We started by trying to capture surface data from our woods," explains Derick Balsiger, a company design engineer. "We attempted to collect data points using an optical comparator, but the resulting surfaces weren't very accurate.

"Then we tried contact digitizing. With this process, however, the probe head was too large to pick up the fine detail data we needed."

In 1986, the company heard about laser digitizing technology. The first laser digitizing system they tested was one based on interferometry, which works on the principle of triangulation. A laser beam is cast across the part surface, and a camera picks up points as it scans the illuminated surface.

"We had a problem, though, with spikes and bad data," Balsiger relates. "What's more, the files we accumulated were quite large, and required too much work to get usable data."

Then the company heard about a 3-D laser digitizing system offered by Laser Design Inc, Minneapolis, MN. This system, along with the company's Datasculpt software, enables users to rapidly acquire 3-D point data from models or prototypes. Data are digitized and transmitted to a computer. There the data are edited before being loaded into a CAD, CAD/CAM, CAE, or simulation system.

Called Surveyor, the system uses a point-range laser probe for sensing. Accuracy of measurement, including edge-finding, can be as high as plus or minus 0.002".

Surveyor measures several hundred thousand points on any grid, acquiring fine feature detail as well as contours. Control software provides for multiple scan regions, each with its own line-scan pattern, point density, and frequency. The probe measures accurately even when angled up to 87 degrees from the perpendicular.

According to Balsiger, "Laser Design's system gives us more control over digitized data than other laser digitizing packages we've seen. In addition, Datasculpt software lets us eliminate bad points and put files into a manageable size before sending them to our CAD system. The software also lets us smooth a point set, and create a surface tailored to our needs."

For a while, Karsten Mfg Corp used Laser Design's contract digitizing service. Recently, though, Karsten bought a 4-axis Model 12189-4XC system and Datasculpt software, and installed them in Phoenix.

Computer aids

Four years ago, the company bought and installed computer products for CAD/CAM and CAE. Camand CAD/CAM software (Camax Inc, Minneapolis, MN) is used for 3-D design and NC programming. Karsten employs Ideas software (SDRC, Milford, OH) for solid modeling and analysis. Catia software (Dassault Systems USA, Hasbrook, NJ) serves in design and analysis of other products that involve multiple subassemblies and require kinematic analysis.

Camand and Ideas run on an Ethernet local-area network with four workstations--three Model 4D80-GRTs and one Iris 3130--from Silicon Graphics Inc, Mountain View, CA. Catia runs on an IBM mainframe.

Six CNC machine tools are linked through RS-232C to the CAD/CAM/CAE network. There are two Matsuuras--one Model 800, one Model 600--and four Bostomatics. These include two Model 312s, a Model 417, and a 5-axis mill. All four have 8 MB Winchester hard-disk drives for mass program storage.

Karsten Mfg Corp's shop also is equipped with three surface grinders and 16 manual and semi-automatic mills. These are mostly Bridgeports and Trees.

The new procedure

Today, with the new laser digitizing and computer systems running, Karsten's design and development procedure goes like this:

As in the past, Solheim does each individual club-head design by hand, making a rough model out of metal. The model goes into the 4-axis digitizer, which has a work envelope measuring 12" x 18" x 9".

The fourth axis, provided by a wrist-like mechanism, permits scanning completely around the model, collecting data from all surfaces. A wrap/unwrap capability of Datasculpt software translates digitized points into X-Y-Z values.

After a model has been scanned completely, the collected X-Y-Z data file is edited to create point sets or polylines for the part surface. The edited file is then converted into IGES formats compatible with the company's Camand and Ideas systems. After that, the file is transmitted to the network of Silicon Graphics workstations, where designers refine the design in Camand.

From there, the model file is loaded into Ideas. Engineers use finite-element analysis to optimize head thickness, the face's shape and angle, and other critical design elements.

When designers and engineers are satisfied with the design, its file goes back into Camand. A manufacturing engineer generates an NC program, postprocesses it, and downloads it to one of the CNC Bostomatics. To prove out the NC program, this machine mills a model out of blue machinable wax.

After the part program has been proved and refined, it is loaded into another CNC Bostomatic. Equipped with ball-nose end mills, this machine mills a master club head from an aluminum billet.

The master, after being thoroughly measured, is used to make an epoxy mold. From this, Karsten workers make wax parts. These in turn are used for casting the final club heads out of 17-4 stainless steel, beryllium copper, or manganese bronze.

After cooling, cast heads for "irons" and putters are ground, sand-blasted, heat-treated, tumbled, and polished for fine finish. Heads then go to assembly stations for installation of shafts and grips.

Supplied by True Temper Inc, Memphis, TN, the shafts are tapered stainless steel tubes with wall thickness of 0.006". Tube taper increases evenly from 0.25" at the base to 0.60" at the grip. In some cases, to accommodate an individual golfer's swing and strength, variations from standard shaft taper and thickness are provided.

The head is epoxied to its shaft, and tight fit is ensured by compression with an air hammer. Workers then slide the grips in place. Completely assembled clubs are adjusted for custom line and fit, then packaged and shipped.

Karsten Mfg Corp now sells over a million sets a year, to golfers in 66 countries. According to a story recently published in Business Week, the company's Ping 2 clubs are the best-selling single brand in the world.

Big benefits

As a result of installing their laser digitizing and CAD/CAM/CAE systems, Karsten has been able to collect and store 3-D data on many successful club-head designs. This has eliminated much duplication of design and development work.

Further, the new systems have eliminated trial-and-error machining and casting. A new head can now be designed and analyzed almost entirely on the computer system before a prototype is made.

"The laser digitizing system enables us to introduce new club designs anywhere from four to six times faster than previously," says Balsiger. "Furthermore, the quality of our products has improved."

The next project at Karsten is development of family-of-parts programming. "Although consistency among parts has improved, we're not there yet," says Balsiger. "Family-of-parts programming will enable us to create a family of consistent club-head designs. This will not only save development time, but also help our customers improve their games.

"A player should get distance variation on his shots from the shape of the club heads and length of shafts, not from his swing," he concludes. "Family-of-parts programming will make that possible."

PHOTO : Pro golfer Mark Calcavecchia swings a Karsten Ping club at the Northern Telecom Tucson

PHOTO : Open. Karsten's Ping 2 line is now the world's most popular. The Phoenix company sells

PHOTO : custom-made clubs to golfers in 66 countries.

PHOTO : Machining a club-head model out of blue machinable wax on one of Karsten's CNC

PHOTO : Bostomatics. This process proves out NC programs generated in Camand software.

PHOTO : A Surveyor 3-D laser digitizing system from Laser Design Inc, Minneapolis, MN. This

PHOTO : system measures to an accuracy of plus or minus 0.002", including edge-finding.

PHOTO : Here 3-D scan data for a Karsten Eye-2 sand wedge is displayed in Datasculpt before being

PHOTO : loaded into Camand for final surfacing and NC programming.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:laser digitizing, computer design and manufacturing
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Jul 1, 1989
Previous Article:MRP made easy.
Next Article:Throwing a little light on laser-cutting issues.

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