Event Highlights Growing, Diverse Tool Supplier

Horn’s biennial “Technology Days” proved aptly named, as attendees were treated to a wealth of technical information. That included a tour of a new carbide plant where “green” inserts are shaped via extrusion and injection molding.


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My trip to Tubingen included a guided tour of Horn’s entire manufacturing operation, which, among other processes, employs injection molding and extrusion to shape indexable inserts. Click here for highlights of what I saw.


Although Horn initially built its reputation on grooving and part-off technology, pigeonholing the tooling manufacturer as a specialist in those areas alone would be a huge disservice to the company and any potential customers. Moreover, a broader product line isn’t the only factor in Horn’s becoming a bigger contender during the past few decades. The company itself has grown steadily as well, a trend that management expects to continue throughout 2013 and beyond. 

These were two major takeaways from “Technology Days,” a biennial event at the company’s headquarters in picturesque Tubingen, Germany. Along with more than 2,000 customers and dealers from around the world—a reportedly larger crowd than in previous years—press members including me and Chris Koepfer, editor-and-chief of MMS sister publication Production Machining, enjoyed a busy three days of demonstrations, tours and technical presentations.

Although Horn’s grooving expertise was evident from the get-go, demos and placards also showcased products that ran the gamut from milling and turning to broaching, reaming and thread-whirling. Notably, not all of these offerings were selections from the company’s 20,000-strong line of standard tools. Many were custom-designed models—which represent more than 50 percent of the company’s total annual turnover. The merits of custom tooling was also the topic of a particularly interesting technical presentation, while others focused on high-feed-rate machining, cutting with ultra-hard diamond and CBN materials, and performing broaching on CNC machines. (Watch for in-depth coverage of these topics in upcoming issues of both MMS and PM.)

In the United States, standard and custom tools alike are manufactured at Horn USA’s facility in Franklin, Tennessee. The U.S. market’s strength and growth potential has spurred plans to more than double the size of that facility beginning this year.  The overall company is growing, too. With annual turnover expected to rise by € 5 million this year over the € 220 million reported in 2012, the company is constructing a new building at the Tubingen campus for additional capacity. That project is slated for completion in 2015.

These expansions follow close on the heels of the 2012 completion of another new facility in Tubingen: a 16,000-square-meter factory for Horn Hartstoffe, the company’s carbide manufacturing operation. Here, powdered carbide mixes are shaped into “green” inserts via three different processes: axial pressing, and, perhaps more notably, extrusion and injection molding. This aspect of Horn’s manufacturing process, as well as the custom machines it uses to grind inserts after sintering, were among the most fascinating aspects of my trip. Click here for a brief virtual tour.  

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