Sustainability 10 examples of sustainability in machine tool manufacturing

Editor: Steffen Donath

Sustainability is not a niche topic — more and more machine tool manufacturers are devoting themselves to the subject. Properly implemented, this can lead to advantages in many areas.

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Sustainability has to move from a niche topic to be the central focus.
Sustainability has to move from a niche topic to be the central focus.
(Source: Tobias Weinhold (Unsplash))

The topic of sustainability and climate protection is becoming more and more central to the industry. There are several reasons for this: Firstly, there is a general increase in awareness of sustainability; users and customers alike are placing more value on the topic. On the other hand, the requirements in terms of climate protection are also increasing — and are likely to increase much more in the future.

In the following, machine tool manufacturers report on how they contribute to more sustainability. Incidentally, the companies and their ideas can be seen at this year's AMB from 15 - 19 September.

1. Save resources with durable products

Products often end up directly on the rubbish heap after individual components have worn out. The fact that this can also be done differently is shown by clamping device manufacturer Hainbuchen. The manufacturer relies on a long service life of its products, which goes beyond the natural wear of individual components.

For regular maintenance and inspections, Hainbuchen offers to re-vulcanise clamping elements that come into contact with the workpiece, to level out any unevenness that may have arisen and to re-coat areas of wear. The costs for this are far less than the purchase of new products.

Users themselves could also do more to make their clamping devices more durable, explains Hainbuchen. Ideally, they should stop the machines briefly once a day to remove chips and dirt. Due to lack of time, however, this often falls by the wayside.

2. Efficiency can be sustainable

Sustainability must be worthwhile, because for many users the profitability of the company has the highest priority. For Stefan Nitsche, Head of Product Management at Hainbuch, it is the task of the tool industry to combine sustainability and efficiency.

An example of this is a modular system with which machine tools can be easily adapted to different production orders: For different workpiece geometries, for example, it is no longer necessary to replace the entire clamping device, but only to insert the corresponding adaptation into the clamping device.

This should be particularly profitable for contract manufacturers. Here, manufacturing companies often change their clamping devices several times a day in order to machine different components. When changing entire clamping devices, such a change process takes 20 to 30 minutes, with the modular system it takes one to two minutes. According to the product manager, the fast changeover helps to save entire machines — which in turn contributes to sustainability.

3. One machine for everything

Many users want to produce in a more environmentally friendly way, but this is often not possible. For example, components with nine fixtures often have to be produced in four different machines: turning, cubic machining, gear cutting and grinding.

It is more resource-saving to combine these different machining steps as far as possible in one machine, which is offered by the machine tool manufacturer Burkhardt+Weber, for example.

Managing Director Olaf Furtmeier explains: “If these steps are carried out in three set-ups and only one machine, the entire process becomes more efficient. And we also prevent the so-called parts tourism.”

Delivery times and risk would also be reduced if a component was machined with only one clamping. “The environmental footprint is improved by saving resources, energy, time and space.” The challenge for the machine tool manufacturer is to deal with machining methods that were previously unfamiliar to him — in this example grinding and gear cutting.

4. Save raw materials through better preparation

The saving of raw materials in the machining of workpieces is more likely to be considered state of the art. According to Gerhard Knienieder, Managing Director of the tool manufacturer Emuge, the trend towards “near net shape” has been in place in the machining process for several years now: Even before machining, the workpieces are adapted to the shape of the finished component in order to reduce the allowance for machining as much as possible.

The closer the blank is to the finished component, the faster the job is done and, as an additional benefit, there is less chip waste in production. As a consequence, the roughing operation during milling, for example, is reduced, while the finishing operation gains in importance.

5. Recycling of waste

Waste recycling has also long been a well-established practice in the metalworking industry. Metal chips and other production waste are collected by the manufacturing companies themselves or by specialised recycling companies and returned to the raw metal extraction process. According to Managing Director Knienieder, this is an important and common process, especially in the case of precious metals containing cobalt and tungsten, such as those used by Emuge in tool manufacture.

6. Less lubrication

Another sustainability trend in the metalworking industry: Instead of large quantities of coolants and other lubricants, people are increasingly turning to minimum quantity lubrication: If only a drop of oil is needed for machining, this is of course extremely resource-friendly. This technology is already being used in series production in the automotive industry in particular. According to Managing Director Knienieder, it is the task of tool manufacturers to prepare more and more tools for this type of use.

7. Consider the CO2 balance of the supply chain

In the long term, it is essential for companies to review the entire production and supply chain for sustainability. In the future, companies should approach suppliers, for example, to be aware of the carbon footprint of the crude steel they purchase. Knienieder predicts: “In a few years we will have to be able to prove what the CO2 footprint of our individual products is. It is therefore important not only to document energy consumption but also to allocate it. And, of course, to continue to reduce emissions in the long term.”

8. More precise software

Not only the machines themselves, but also the software has a lot to offer in terms of sustainability. Kai Lehmann, Sales Manager at software manufacturer DP Technology, explains how sustainability has found its way into their new CAM system for CNC machines. “We have integrated a lot of knowledge into the software to make the preparation of the machining process sustainable in terms of programming. A key aspect is that we have achieved a high degree of reproducibility.” The aim must be to get to the finished product on the machine quickly and easily. If more machined parts are good parts because the repeatability of the processes is improved, this has a direct impact on the conservation of resources.

9. Artificial intelligence prevents idling

Improved operating capacity utilisation leads to less idling and positive environmental effects. The software provider DP Technology has implemented this using artificial intelligence. In future, the software will be able to react more quickly to changing situations. For example, a machining job that was originally designed for a Siemens control system can quickly be produced on a Heidenhain, or a machining job that was planned on a milling machine can be completed in a few steps on a lathe/milling machine.

10. Paying attention to the sustainability of raw materials

In addition to functionality and compatibility with machine components, the lubricant supplier Oelheld GmbH pays particular attention to using sustainable raw materials and concentrates its development on environmentally friendly and resource-saving products. According to the regulations, the products contain neither heavy metals nor aromatic hydrocarbons and are furthermore odourless and skin-friendly.

In its own mission statement, Oelheld has also laid down the careful use of resources and relies on energy-saving plant technology and production facilities in its own production. Newer buildings such as the company's own technology centre and a company building in the USA are designed to be particularly energy-saving and are equipped with modern air conditioning, ventilation and lighting technology, for example, according to the company.

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