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28-Oct 2022: Automation and digitization for maximum quality and sustainable success

HAIMER Plant and Production Manager, Manfred Mayr: “Only with optimal tool presetting can the machines run rather than the employee.”

HAIMER, an innovative global player in tool management for machine tools, is convinced that production engineering will be determined by automation and digitization in the future. This development is an established part of the company's own production and has accordingly also found its way into the product range from i4.0-capable machines to the HAIMER Automation Cube robot cell, which can be scaled according tocustomer’s request and is suitable for automated shrinking, presetting and balancing.

Efficient machining demands powerful machines and tools “as well as high-precision tool holding technology which ensures that the precision of the spindle is transferred to the cutting edge,” says Andreas Haimer. This is the sort of statement you would expect from the Managing Director of Haimer GmbH and President of the HAIMER Group, the worldwide leading manufacturer in the field of tool holding. But it is not simply a marketing slogan – there are many years of experience behind it. HAIMER started off 45 years ago as a machine shop for the aerospace industry and soon started to develop high-precision toolholders for their own use.

HAIMER also has many years of experience in automation. The Bavarian family company made the decision to equip their first machine tools with robots for loading and unloading over 20 years ago. Since then, automation at HAIMER has advanced swiftly, as evidenced by their manufacturing facilities at their headquarters in Igenhausen or in Motzenhofen, just 5 km away. The Motzenhofen production plant in particular, which has been operating since 2018, has been equipped from the beginning with numerous automated machining centers in recent years.

 

Automation is a necessity

Andreas Haimer stresses: “If, like us, you depend on a very high level of in-house production completely ‘made in Germany’, there is no way you can avoid extensive digitization and automation. Otherwise we would not be able to keep up economically with our global competition.”

Soft machining of the tool holders is carried out in Motzenhofen alongside all precision components for shrink fit and balancing machines including accessories. Up to 4,000 rotating tool holders can be turned and milled there per day before heat treatment, followed by µm-precise grinding at the headquarters in Igenhausen. Fine balancing is also carried out in Igenhausen – using systems that have been developed in-house and are fully automated.

Not every automation is complex

Back to Motzenhofen: Amongst others, HAIMER operates a fully automated manufacturing cell with several five-axis DMG MORI MILLTAP 700 machines. 

These highly dynamic vertical machining centers, which were installed at the beginning of 2019, are perfect for boring and milling components such as the BT30 or the SK30 steep taper tool holders. Manfred Mayr, who completed his apprenticeship at HAIMER over 40 years ago and is now responsible for around 100 machine tools as the plant and production manager, explains: “Here we use a simple plug & play complete solution, which includes a fully automated loading and unloading system using a KUKA robot. Blanks and the machined parts are placed in three drawers, each of which has around 78 positions. This ensures that unmanned production is possible for a minimum of eight hours up to 20 hours.”

The automation of four identical DMG MORI NHX4000 machining centers, which are equipped with a pallet pool FMS system, is considerably more demanding, as Manfred Mayr describes: “There are twelve pallets, each with 400 places, ready to process various components. This provides us with ideal flexibility, also when it comes to smaller batch sizes and short-notice changes in the production flow.” The machines generally work highly productively and trouble-free in a 3-shift operation, supervised by just one employee. In order to operate the machines as autonomously as possible with a large variety of products, HAIMER had the machines equipped with a tool magazine with 183 tool pots. 

Manfred Mayr considers the fact that all tools for these machines are equipped with an RFID chip on the tool holder to be a key factor of success. They are read in at a dedicated station when they are changed into the magazine. This means the control receives the correct tool data digitally from the HAIMER Microset VIO linear presetter. This completely eliminates any input errors or mix-ups.

Digital data flow between the tool room and the machining center

A key basic requirement for economic operation of the NHX and all other machine tools – according to the plant manager – is a perfectly operating and well organized tool room: “This technology represents a central component of our expertise. Of course we use our own products here – from shrink fit, balancing and presetting machines to tool holders and cutting tools. This enables end-to-end digitization all the way to the machine, which is an essential component for automated, economic manufacturing operations.” 

This means that all tools for milling and turning machines are centrally prepared and managed in the tool room. They are mounted, shrunk, measured, and balanced – and all data is digitally recorded. This either takes place on the aforementioned RFID chips, by means of digital interfaces, such as post processors, or via a QR code. Only then they are packed onto special tool wagons as required, where the machine operator can pick them up for their machine. This eliminates extra walking throughout the shop. “Only with optimal tool presetting room, the machines run and not the employee,” is Plant Manager Mayr’s credo.

 

The tool must fit into the digital production environment

The digitization of the production processes represents a key factor for success not only for HAIMER but for every company. “As the tool with its specific data is a central component of the process chain for machining, it needs to fit into the digital production environment,” explains Andreas Haimer. This includes the consistent implementation of all digital options – from the tool itself, the tool holder including the clamping process, the balancing to the tool presetting, and the use on the machine.

Especially when making new investments, the user should ensure that every element in the tool environment is Industry 4.0 capable and can be incorporated into the digital workflow, advises Andreas Haimer: “Our products are fully prepared for digital production. We have even developed our own tool management software, the HAIMER Data Analyzer and Controller (DAC), which establishes and manages the exchange between the actual and target values along with other tool data between the individual stations in the tool room and the company network. Our equipment in the Industry 4.0 series are prepared for automation with modern digital features and interfaces. Moreover, they have been designed to be robust with a long service life, which is a guarantee of the highest process reliability – a decisive factor for successful automation.”

HAIMER supports a wide range of automation models with its products. The range starts with individual machines which combine several work steps, such as the presetter HAIMER Microset VIO linear toolshrink. It is capable of shrinking tools with a length adjustment on the μm scale and at the same time measuring the tool. Amongst other things, it is ideal for sister tools, which always need to be shrunk to the same dimensions. Their use in series production or in multi-spindle machines promises to increase process reliability and minimize setup times.

 

One robot cell for shrinking, presetting and balancing

Just last year at the EMO Milano, HAIMER presented a much more far-reaching solution: the HAIMER Shrink Automation Cube. This automated shrink station contains a cobot, that supports shrinking and unshrinking of tools with highly accurate length repeatability. The cell is scalable according to the customer’s requirements. This means the cube is controlled by the HAIMER DAC Tool Management and HAIMER presetting and balancing technology can be integrated in the Automation Cube. A scanner for reading out unique tool combinations and a conveyor belt that is variable in lengths are also available.

Such equipment allows the following procedure to be carried out, for example: The operator places the worn complete tool assembly (consisting of tool holder and cutting tool) on the conveyor belt and provides a new cutting tool. The cobot picks up the complete tool holder assembly and identifies it via its unique data matrix code (optionally via RFID). It then picks up the new cutting tool and measures the cutting edge. In the meantime, the coil moves onto the worn complete tool holder assembly, unshrinks the old cutting tool and then shrinks in the new one to the required projection length. After air cooling, the new complete tool is ready for use. The old cutting tool is disposed of.

Andreas Haimer is convinced: “This automation solution is suitable for companies that perform a very large number of shrink operations every day.” Especially if there is only limited automation expertise in the company, a complete solution like this from a single source is a good idea. Andreas Haimer also points out that HAIMER components can be integrated into almost any existing automation environment: “We are also happy to partner on larger automation projects.”

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