Case Study The many possibilities of automatising the handling of electrodes

Author Rosemarie Stahl

Walther Wolf is one of those mould makers that is constantly optimising manufacturing processes. When they wanted to further perfect their automation in machining electrodes, they turned to Zimmer & Kreim to build an automated 23-metre-long machining centre: A Chameleon.

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The plate changer is only one part of the system. In the background, a part of the storage capacity can be seen.
The plate changer is only one part of the system. In the background, a part of the storage capacity can be seen.

When Jochen Dorlöchter, executive manager of Walther Wolf, talks about the company’s achievements of the last years, one can’t help but recognise the pride in his voice. In the recent years, many things have changed in the production halls in Wendelstein near Nuremberg, Germany. For the installation of an automated machining centre, Dorlöchter even had to pull down a wall. Less visible but still evident are the effects of consequently working towards an automated production. A number of changes has led to significant time savings and an increase in turnover.


Dorloechter's great-grandfather founded Walther Wolf in 1907. At that time, it still was an engraving plant. Later, they started to work in mould making and today specialise in plastic injection mouldiing. The current staff of 55 employees work mainly on moulds for technical components. Among Walther Wolf’s customers are big players such as Siemens, INA, ZF Friedrichshafen and Bosch.

Jochen Dorlöchter is someone who always seems to think about how to optimise processes and the quality of his products. This is one of the reasons why Walther Wolf has its own department for measuring. Five workers are engaged in the specially established measuring room, working with tactical and optical methods to ensure that Walther Wolf’s customers only receive high-quality products. Dorlöchter is proud to be able to verify the accuracy of his products himself.

One of his largest projects started in 2008. In co-operation with EDM specialist Zimmer & Kreim, he converted his section for the processing of graphite electrodes to a complex and fully automated machining centre. This centre is able to erode, measure, mill, engrave with a laser and clean the electrodes simultaneously, therefore combining a huge number of processes into one single unit. Since its implementation, the cell enabled Walther Wolf to drastically reduce idle times: With the help of a software that manages different jobs, the automated processes are carried out simultaneously and 24 hours a day.

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About Zimmer & Kreim’s Chameleon

Founded in 1985, Zimmer & Kreim looks back on more than 30 years of experience in working on EDM. Its first cavity-sinking EDM machine was delivered to Lego. Today, the company offers solutions covering cavity-sinking, handling and software-controlled process optimisation in tool and mould making.

With Chameleon, the company was able to offer an innovative linear handling system for tool manufacture and mould making. The system is able to automate the entire production process. The modular design enables manufacturers to operate it flexibly and to expand it whenever necessary. From cleaning to machining and measuring, the system can integrate all processes that are needed for an automated and time-efficient process chain.

According to Dorlöchter, the decision for working with Zimmer & Kreim was an easy one. “Their software is very user-friendly,” he explains, “and it runs very reliably.” Another advantage of Zimmer & Kreim’s software is its flexibility. Users do not depend on particular machines but are free to decide whose products they use in their production. Because of its interface function, Dorlöchter is also able to implement further advanced features in the software.