Our editors travel the world searching out the latest manufacturing technology. Read what Chris Koepfer, editor-in-chief of Production Machining, is learning about in Germany.
Editor-in-Chief, Production Machining
Well, the early morning broke clear and cool. Of course, air conditioning is still a relative novelty here in Germany. One sleeps with the two-way windows leaning in for air with hopes the temperature doesn’t drop to cold. So far, so good.
Our first visit this day is the VMC builder Hermle in Gosheim, Germany. We meet with their marketing manager Udo Hipp. A nice and knowledgeable young man, he tells us about the Hermle line of three-, four- and five-axis machining centers. Their focus seems to be on the mold and die industry; however, they’re active in product development to address other metalworking segments.
Udo Hipp has a wealth of knowledge about Hermle's three-, four- and five-axis machining centers.
The company’s trademark trunnion with rotary table under a three-axis spindle lends itself to a wide variety of materials and applications. They use an epoxy granite base for all but the largest machine to provide a solid machining foundation. Check out their website, but be sure to hit the English button.
Call #2 in Wehingen, Germany is with Swiss-type machine builder, Maier. I was expecting to meet with the owner, Michael Maier, but found out that we passed each other somewhere over the Atlantic as he made his way to U.S. HQ in Webster, MA. However, he’s attending the Eastec show and so am I. I’ll catch him there.
In the meantime, Michael Blessing hosted us Americans, along with a very able intern named Martin. One of the newer developments from Maier is called the Hybrid. It can machine diameters ranging from 3 to 36 mm. It gives shops the ability to change the machine from a Swiss-type (with a guide bushing) to sliding-headstock lathe (without a guide bushing) in about 20 minutes. Now Maier customers have a choice, and from what Michael told me, its working. Business is good! Visit Maier, and don’t forget the English button.
I snapped this photo from the assembly floor at Maier.
Last but not least on this busy day is a delightful visit with Clemens Guenert, president of form tool maker Schwanog. He’s a third-generation ball of fire. Probably our best take-away from this visit is an understanding of how he has applied lean and automation to his low-volume/high-mix product production. It enables his company to compete successfully against the big boys. He also has branched out manufacturing to Elgin, Illinois and France to be close to the customer—a strategy he’s continuing to evolve.
His lot sizes average 10.8 pieces, and the variety of jobs runs into the thousands, yet they are thriving and manufacturing in Germany where it’s not cheap. I think there is a lesson in this somewhere.
Here is an example of components that Schwanog produces on its bar-fed machining centers.