The German Association of Tool and Mould Makers‘ (VDWF) networking event for young entrepreneurs took around 40 mouldmakers on a three-day trip around Lake Constance in October 2017 to visit OEMs and innovative mould shops in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
The event called “Voll Wild” has traditionally been a one-day event and aims to bring young entrepreneurs in Germany’s tool and mould making sector together, who benefit of mingling with other entrepreneurs who might share some of their own business acumen, ideas or even potential customers. German “Voll Wild” means “totally wild” and describes the relaxed atmosphere during these events, giving participants space to network, rub shoulders and share new ideas – during scheduled presentations and factory visits, as well as over dinner and a beer or two later at night.
A total of seven companies were on the list during the three-day trip, including Diebold, Erowa, Listemann, Meusburger, Kern Microtechnik, Schweiger Formenbau and Krauss Maffei.
The first stop was at Helmut Diebold GmbH & Co. KG in Jungingen, Germany, a premier manufacturer of high precision components for the machine tool industry. Diebold produces four complimentary product lines: high-frequency spindles and spindle components, tool holders and accessories, gauging systems and tool management equipment. According to Managing Director Herrmann Diebold, the company supplies many well-known machine tool builders with their spindles, including Hermle. In 1996, Diebold Goldring Tooling USA was established. Meanwhile, the whole marketing in the US-market is done by Diebold’s ThermoGrip-partner company Bilz Tool USA in Chicago.
In Büron, Switzerland, the group had the chance to gain an insight into Erowa’s product offerings and production facilities. The company is well-known in the mouldmaking industry for its automation systems like the Robot Dynamic Linear handling system connecting machining centers, EDM and milling machines as well as measuring and cleaning stations to enable unmanned, efficient production. MD Frank Pröpster presented some interesting case studies, including automated machining cells including wire EDM machines, which are usually very difficult to automate.
Vacuum Brazing in Liechtenstein
The next stop was Liechtenstein. A micro-state located between Switzerland and Austria, the fourth smallest country in the world, Liechtenstein is known for being a tax haven enjoyed by holding companies and financial services. “But it’s not like everyone here is running around with money cases, not knowing what to do with them,” said Manfred Boretius, CEO of Liechtenstein-based Listemann Technologies. “Around 40% of the workforce – which almost equals the entire population – is employed in the industrial sector, which together with the manufacturing sector generates almost 40% of the country's gross value added.”
Founded in 1990, Listemann has grown to become one of the leading suppliers of thermal processing including heat treatment, brazing, electron beam welding, sintering and engineering services. Among other things, the company specialises in supporting mouldmakers with the manufacture of injection moulds with conformal cooling channels for optimised heat dissipation to decrease cycle times in injection moulding operations. “There are several methods of creating conformal cooling systems in moulds, including laser sintering and vacuum brazing,” Boretius said. “We have specialised in vacuum brazing technology to fuse multi-component mould cores and cavity assemblies for conformal cooling systems because it is a great technology to join different materials, e.g. copper and steel, steel and ceramics, and it is a fully developed and proven technology in contrast to laser sintering, for instance.”
Standard Parts and Knowledge Management Made in Austria
In Wolfurt, Austria, Meusburger not only manufactures high-quality standard parts, hot runner and control systems and selected items in workshop equipment for more than 17,500 customers all over the world, but also offers support in knowledge management, which has been practiced at Meusburger with the so-called WBI method for over twenty years, Marketing Manager Andreas Sutter explained. It’s a method developed by Guntram Meusburger to take employees’ technical knowledge “from their heads to the hard drive” to be available for everyone anytime.
The company’s huge modern training facility, which spans over 2,500 square meters, was certainly among the highlights. Here, students are trained to become machinists, IT specialists, process technicians or electricians.
Back in Germany, Bavaria-based Kern Microtechnik opened its factory doors, where the company’s three line of machines are manufactured: Micro, Evo and Pyramid Nano. As the name suggests, the machines are designed for microtechnology. According to Kern, their milling machines are suitable for high-precision milling of small parts made of hard materials such as carbide, hardened steel as well as copper, tungsten copper and graphite electrodes. Moreover, milling of free-form surfaces with high precision through μ-exact spindle movements and 5-axis simultaneous milling are possible. The company has its own subsidiary in Addison, IL.
Kangaroos in Bavaria
While kangaroos (or to be more precise: wallabies) are certainly worth a notice when you meet the little Aussies in Bavaria, the real highlight at the 75-head-strong mouldmaking company Schweiger was a new production hall which is host to two large machining centers from DMG Mori. Schweiger invested 5.5 Million Euros in a DMC 270 U to machine workpieces weighing up to nine tons, fully automated, 24/7. A DMC 210 U portal machining center can handle up to eight tons. Both machines are equipped with pallet and tool changers for automated, lights-out milling and boring large moulds in one set-up for the automotive industry, including premium brands such as Porsche, Daimler-Benz, Audi, BMW and Lamborghini.
The last visit was scheduled with injection moulding machine manufacturer KraussMaffei based in Munich. The group has 5000 employees, 1800 are based in Munich. With its injection moulding machine series CX, GX, MX and PX, KraussMaffei covers not only standard applications, but also all process variants and special processes in the clamping force range between 350 and a whopping 55,000 kN.
Of course there was plenty of time in between the various stops and during evening events to chat, network and have some fun; the next tour is already in the planning stage (scheduled from 3-6 October 2018) and will surely attract as many enthusiastic young tool and mould shop owners and managers as this inaugurate three-day event has.