System 3R Automation for training earns spot on mould-shop floor
A leading European mould maker was using a pallet-changing system to instruct its apprentices. The advantages of the system convinced the company to add similar technology from the same supplier to its tooling production.
Automation is being increasingly considered by many companies today, according to Swiss supplier System 3R, and not because of the economic climate that has prevailed over the past few years. One firm that has embraced the technology is Austrian mould manufacturer, Haidlmair. The company has chosen to promote the acceptance of automation by its workforce with the addition of a multi-operation machine in the training school, namely a System 3R automated pallet changer.
Investment in staff, machinery keeps shop at the top
Josef Haidlmair, CEO and founder of Haidlmair Werkzeugbau, explained that from the outset, the shop’s guiding principle has been that a production facility will never be better than the company's investment in terms of equipment and personnel. This applies equally to the standard and performance of the available machines and tools as to the training of its employees.
The company has grown steadily during the past 25 years and now has 200 employees. Haidlmair is regarded as one of Austria's most modern mould manufacturers, and despite its location was a finalist in last year’s German Toolmaker of the Year competition. It exports 87% of its output and mainly produces tools for injection and compression moulding of pallets and transport containers, as well as parts for the domestic appliances and vehicles. Haidlmair now leads the world in the manufacture of tools for the injection moulding of beverage crates.
Training lays the foundation for success
Currently, 30 apprentices are training to be tool and production technicians or draughtsmen. Roman Dannesberger, head of CNC training, said: “We're very proud of our apprentices, since practically all of them complete their training with excellent results, and many of them stay on with the company.”
Getting newbies up to speed with the latest kit
The training school has the latest machine tools, with control systems from Siemens and Heidenhain. “This is essential, since the apprentices are introduced to the production side as early as their second year, when the training workshop works on actual production parts and electrodes instead of practice pieces,” Dannesberger said.
The company thus decided to purchase a new 3-axis multi-operation machine for the training workshop and chose the DMG Mori DMC 635 V compact vertical milling machine. The staff soon realised that automated changing of the workpieces would be essential for both machine productivity and flexibility. They also wanted to gain valuable technical experience and to raise the level of acceptance of automation throughout the company.
Increased flexibility with a compact pallet changer
Since there was a shortage of space, the configuration had to be compact, so Haidlmair chose the Work Pal Compact pallet changer from System 3R, a company the shop had been working with for several years.
Alfred Edlinger from System 3R said, “An automated production cell is an effective means of competing for both long and short runs – even for one-off production.” He noted that the main strength of the unit is its minimal floor-space requirements and ability to serve milling and grinding centres as well as wire and die-sinking EDM machines.
The unit, which automatically changes the pallet into a chuck on the machine table, has a sliding door over its entire side, making it easier to handle the pallets in the magazine, the supplier noted. Edlinger said, “The magazine is chosen to match the customer's requirements – from 60 pallets of 54 x 54mm to five pallets of 250 x 250mm.” At Haidlmair, automated operation comprises seven 240 x 240mm pallets. This set up is said to provide flexibility and allow for unmanned “lights-out” production.
Convincing toolmakers young and old of the adantages
The shop’s owner lauded the results: “It was not long before the advantages of the milling cell became apparent together with the smooth acceptance of automation by our employees. Not only the apprentices, but also our craftsmen were quickly convinced of the benefits of an automated production cell.”
The positive outcome of the cell in the training workshop led to the decision to apply this experience to the production of mould tools. An automatic production cell in the form of a high-speed milling machine and a System 3R Work Master pallet changer is in operation on the shop floor. The unit is a modular automated pallet-changing system serving one or more machines. Thanks to the modular construction, one or more magazine units can be added as time goes by, a way to keep in step with the development of the business.