Maschinenfabrik Berthold Hermle AGMaschinenfabrik Berthold Hermle AG

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Robot-supported custom flexible parts production

23.01.2013

A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: INNOVATION FROM TRADITION

In its made-to-order production of specialist medical technology components and kits, Innovations Medical relies on daily production of parts. It is able to meet this requirement thanks to two CNC 5-axis high performance machining centers, which are fed by a robot system from the workpiece/pallet magazine.

When it comes to precision mechanical manufacturing, Innovations Medical lives up to the tradition of the medical technology crafts that abound in the region around Tuttlingen and the Heuberg. Nevertheless, innovative products and constant expansion of the company's product range have contributed to around 8000 individual articles being listed under surgical instruments and around 9000 more in the other business areas of implants and sterile containers. Since it possesses the expertise and quality capabilities in house, Innovations Medical manufactures most of these items itself, in industrial single-piece and batch manufacturing processes with around 65 qualified employees working at two sites in Tuttlingen and another in Steg in Switzerland.

NO ALTERNATIVES: INTELLIGENT TECHNOLOGY RATHER THAN COSTLY INVENTORIES

Innovations Medical and its predecessor companies took an early decision to implement highly automated parts production, and were among the first to use robot technology in these processes. Based on a a high-quality and constantly expanded machine pool, including series F and UWF Hermle milling machines and universal milling machines, the company has developed masses of expertise in milling and automation, and has acquired 3 and 4-axis machining centers from a number of manufacturers. Designed for the company's piece-by-piece manufacturing processes, these machines became a bottleneck, however, as the number of product variants rose and manufacturing batches increased in size to today's 20 to 1000 units. "With the objective of providing individual parts and components or entire assemblies more quickly and flexibly, for immediate or next-day assembly and shipment, our requirements in terms of flexibility, performance and feasibility of parts production changed completely," explains Winfried Kreidler, Managing Director of Innovations Medical.

STATE-OF-THE-ART: SWITCHING TO 5-AXIS MANUFACTURING AND ROBOT AUTOMATION

"We gave up our solution for flexible single-unit production and looked instead for an appropriate 5-axis machining center. During a live demonstration of the equipment we were convinced by the performance and quality of the C series and the robotic automation, which was by then much more mature than before," says Mr Kreidler, justifying his decision to work with Hermle. An order was placed for a highly automated, flexible production system, comprising two C 22 U 5-axis CNC high performance machining centers and one RS 2 robot system for workpiece/pallet management with one magazine.

FUTURE-PROOF: REQUIREMENTS ARE REALIZED EFFICIENTLY

Parts that once were machined in 3 or 4 axes before then being reclamped for finishing can now remain in place on the C 22 U until they have been completed. As a result, throughput times can be reduced in some cases from two months to three weeks. Unit for unit, we are significantly quicker, and more accurate thanks to the single clamping. "Overnight we can produce 50 kits for a product, which are then assembled the next day. That is only possible as the parts are reproducible and leave the machines with exactly the right fit. The option of loading individual workpieces for automatic production and then to assemble these later or another day is simply marvellous. Summary: We made absolutely the right decision, and have discovered a truly expert partner for our solutions in Hermle," states Winfried Kreidler, with satisfaction from his investment.

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