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Hermle large part machining centres in mould and tool making

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HETEC’s claim of “Performance is not a matter of chance” exactly expresses the philosophy and strategy of the machining services supplier from Breidenbach! And that philosophy was born out of Friedhelm Herhaus’ experience: For too long he felt hampered in his desire to put his specialist knowledge and skill to practical use and to the customer’s benefit. In such cases there is only one way forward: setting up one’s own operation. Together with his brother Günter Herhaus, he founded HETEC OHG, originally in Bad Laasphe. As the scope of the business grew, brother Werner Herhaus joined the company as well, and in 2000 the next milestone was reached with the founding of HETEC GmbH.

That meant anything but standstill, however, and in rapid succession the company invested in CAD/CAM systems (3-axis) and, in 2002, in the first five-axis machining centre as well as the associated data processing and organizational environment. In 2003, a new production hall focusing on large part machining was built at the present company headquarters in Breidenbach. Each shouldering executive responsibility for specific business areas, the three brothers systematically invested in more CAD/CAM systems, CNC machine tools, workflow optimization and remote monitoring of processes. This put them into a position to provide their growing customer base with state-of-the-art manufacturing technology for highly demanding, complex tool and mould construction components as well as large scale basic tools at all times.

 In order to meet the exacting and ever increasing customer requirements with sustainable reliability, HETEC has included five-axis machining centres from Maschinenfabrik Berthold Hermle AG in its machine park since 2009.This began with a C40 machining centre that was followed by a C 30 U and – as soon as they became available – the first large machines of the C 60 U and C 50 U series. In the course of time, a C 400 U was purchased for machining smaller items, and more recently by another large machine, a C 52 U.

 Friedhelm Herhaus has this to say about the cooperation with Hermle AG: “We have always received very good and fair advice from Hermle and we were and still are delighted with the 5-axis concept, with the performance, the very high degree of precision, the accessibility, the excellent and fast service as well as the very good support in all phases of a project.” As a practical and graphic illustration of this, he pointed out that to date the C 40 U machining centre purchased in 2009 has already clocked up over 30000 spindle running hours – and it is still using the original spindle! Not to mention the fact that the precision values recorded in a measurement log from 2016 simply repeated those that had been recorded seven years previously!

 It is worth mentioning that, despite the broad range of applications in the areas of full processing and finishing work, the Hermle machining centres are ‘only’ equipped with the standard tool magazines. The plausible reason for this is that HETEC has developed its own tool/magazine management system that allows all the milling machines and machining centres (each of which has the same HSK-A63 tool holding fixture, by the way) to be tooled according to the order and the work to be done. Altogether this involves around 2000 ‘sharp’ tools, each provided with a chip, including around 250 different milling tools and around 300 for drilling and thread cutting. This means that the tools can be changed ‘blind’, i.e. deployed as required and with drastically reduced changing and equipping times.

With the purchase of the new C 52 U five-axis machining centre, HETEC went another step further by ordering the HIMS (‘Hermle Information Monitoring Software’) base package for the first time. HIMS provides a display of the life status and transmission of the information by email as required. This fits perfectly to HETEC’s manufacturing and (remote) monitoring strategy: single-shift normal operation and otherwise (monitored) automatic operation. With a working range of X = 1000, Y = 1100, Z = 750 mm and the 700 mm swivelling rotary table with a load-bearing capacity of 2000 kg, the C 52 U machining centre is ideally suited to full/finishing machining of extremely intricate tool and mould components or base plates.

 In conclusion, Friedhelm Herhaus was full of praise regarding the teamwork with Hermle, remarking amongst other things that: “Despite their increasing complexity, the Hermle machining centres can be set up very simply, commissioned quickly and they are operator friendly. The good accessibility also enables us to carry out a full redeployment on the large machines from one workpiece to the next within 15 minutes. This means that even without further automation, we achieve spindle running times of 400 hours per month and machine as a single-part manufacturer. Another example of Hermle’s performance capabilities can be seen in the C 52 U five-axis machining centre project, which we needed very quickly to satisfy urgent customer requirements. We received our order on condition that capacity for 8 x 140 hours of manufacturing performance should be available on schedule. With Hermle’s help, we managed to set up and commission the C 52 U in a short space of time, and to meet the availability requirements not just temporarily, but in the long term as well. It really isn’t every supplier that can supply such a consistent and comprehensive package exactly on time – even in Germany with its reputation for machine construction there is not a great deal of choice.”

 Hermle’s five-axis machining centres are now operating in an air-conditioned hall, where they can supply the required degree of precision (e.g. 2/100ths mm deviation on a 500 mm milling stretch over long periods) giving the HETEC team a significant edge over the competition!

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Industrial Hardware and Machine Parts

Changing workplace: Digitalization and cognitive ergonomics

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Digitalization, automation and Industry 4.0 are impacting intralogistics. But how do employees cope with the upheavals of the digital revolution? This is what the still young discipline of cognitive ergonomics is investigating.

Smaller batch sizes and larger format changes, shorter product cycles and higher demands on delivery speed and flexibility – the changes in purchasing behavior and customer expectations associated with digitization are also directly reflected in intralogistics processes. At the same time, innovative, digital assistance systems such as robotics, wearables, RFID, etc., are holding their own. Moving into the warehouse, picking and shipping. Both mean a changed workload for the employees on site, whose tasks become more complex and run under greater time pressure.

Focus shifts to mental stress

Ergonomics is the adaptation of working conditions to people. Polluting environmental factors are, for example, poor lighting conditions, dirt, noise, smoke and dust or the wearing of protective clothing. In addition, there are physical exertions such as working in a standing position or under forced postures or lifting and carrying heavy loads. With the growing use of digital systems, the focus is now shifting to mental stress.

Dr. Veronika Kretschmer is a psychologist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material handling and Logistics IML specializing in cognitive ergonomics. Within the framework of the Logistics and IT Service Center, an initiative of the Fraunhofer IML in Dortmund in cooperation with other research institutions, an interdisciplinary working group is investigating the extent to which digitization is changing the work of those affected. After all, despite all the automation, people are indispensable.

Our analyses show that employees in the warehouse are exposed to psychological demands in addition to physical strain. With the digital transformation of processes, informational stresses are now being added, which will lead to a changed stress pattern.

Order picking: Customer immediately notices faulty system

The penetration of information in the cost- and time-intensive picking area has greatly increased in recent years with the use of electronic aids such as hand scanners, pick-by-light, pick-by-voice or pick-by-vision. However, despite growing automation, manual systems still play a major role in order picking because they are often more flexible.

According to estimates, around 80% of processes are still performed manually. Order picking has an immediate effect on the company’s reputation because the customer immediately notices a faulty system. And if the focus has so far been on cost efficiency, a human-centered and ergonomic design of work environments and processes is increasingly required.

Augmented Reality has opportunities in short-term deployment

Among the “smart devices”, augmented reality (AR), the linking of reality with well-established information, has a special appeal.

A comparison of paper lists, tablets and AR glasses during palletizing suggests that AR is suitable, but usability needs to be improved.

Veronika Kretschmer refers to problems such as weight, costs and software diversity. She therefore sees the chances of this technology primarily in short-term use, for example in training or maintenance.

Virtual Serious Games for realistic trainings

Virtual reality techniques (VR) for training in the form of virtual serious games are an exciting field of investigation. They allow a VR-supported simulation for training and education with a realistic perception of situations that are difficult or cost-intensive to convey. In this way, learning success can be increased in a playful way. This is also shown by a study conducted by Veronika Kretschmar together with others. Here, the logistical activities of a packaging process were simulated realistically. The results showed good user-friendliness, a positive user experience and moderate stress.

The central goal of cognitive ergonomics is to create a “stress optimized design” of industry 4.0 systems. The changing work processes will also increase the physical and cognitive demands in intralogistics in the future. Veronika Kretschmer recommends that, in addition to the known physical strain, psychosocial activity characteristics and work organisational conditions should also be given greater consideration.

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Industrial Hardware and Machine Parts

ABB’s award winning solar inverter

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At Intersolar Europe, ABB’s new PVS-175-TL string inverter, which delivers up to 185 kW active power has been recognized by industry experts as the leading PV product innovation at the 2018 Intersolar Awards.

Delivering up to 65 percent savings on installation and logistic costs for ground mounted utility scale applications, the ABB PVS-175-TL delivers the largest capacity on the market for a 1500Vdc string inverter.

The unique capabilities of ABB’s new PVS-175-TL lie in its ability to generate up to 185 kW active power and the judging panel was impressed by the high modularity of the product, which improves yields and reduces operational maintenance costs. Judges praised the string inverter as the next step in improving the overall efficiency in PV systems and recognized its high power density and operating temperature range between -20°C and up to 60°C.

Together with all the key benefits of traditional string inverters, its innovative modular design means that up to 65 percent fewer inverters are required to complete the optimal power block, without the need for AC recombiners. This delivers up to 65 percent savings on installation and logistic costs, improving Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) for utility-scale installations.

The three-phase PVS-175-TL with advanced digital capabilities through ABB Ability™, ABB’s comprehensive cross-divisional digital offering, delivers up to 185 kVA at 800 Vac and ultra-high-power density of 1.3 kW/kg. This not only maximizes the ROI for ground-mounted utility-scale applications but also reduces Balance of System costs for small to large scale, free field ground mounted PV installations.

“As demand for higher voltage and higher power class ratings continues to grow, we are very excited to bring to the solar energy industry a scalable and versatile solution. We are delighted to be recognized at the highest possible level in our industry, particularly with the market shifting towards new technologies to enhance solar power generation in a reliable, safe and cost-effective manner,” commented Giovanni Frassineti, who heads up ABB’s Solar Business Unit. “This latest product not only supports higher power densities, but also improves installation with reduced commissioning time. It also benefits from advanced communication and digitalization for condition based monitoring and proactive maintenance for the operator.”

Quick and easy installation, improved accessibility and visibility, advanced digitalization monitoring through ABB Ability™, bigger PV clusters and modular combiner free design are just some of the many advantages of the PVS-175-TL.

Presented at Intersolar Europe for the first time, the PVS-175-TL is a plug-and-play inverter with easy install directly onto the existing PV modules’ mounting system, using the same process as installing a DC string combiner box.

A dedicated Installer App provides simple and quick plant installation instructions and gets all inverters employed, in a single cluster, and commissioned in less than 20 minutes.

The high performing PVS-175-TL delivers:

  • High power density – largest on the market for a 1500 Vdc inverter, offering up to 65 percent savings on installation and logistics costs.
  • Installer friendly, reducing OPEX costs by 30-40 percent with quicker installation as the existing PV module’s mounting systems can be used to install the inverters, with no need for other devices like DC and AC combiner boxes, saving time and cost on site preparation and hire of plant.
  • Greater capacity without compromising on versatility – through its 12 MPPT input channels – the largest range available on the market – PV plant design flexibility and yields are increased in complex installations. The design friendly inverter solutions can be easily adapted for free field ground-mounted installations, ensuring that installers and developers are no longer locked into legacy systems.
  • Modular and combiner free design – up to 24 strings can be directly connected to the wiring compartment which, thanks to the integrated DC disconnect and AC wiring section with optional AC disconnect, eliminates the need for separate DC combiner box and AC 1st level combiners.
  • Enhanced O&M – can be achieved during the operating life of the plant through its unique Advanced Cooling Concept. The internal fans (which are not heavy-duty inverter cooling fans) can be easily removed during scheduled maintenance cycles, whilst the power module can be easily replaced without removing the wiring box. This preserves the lifetime and reliability of the product and minimizes O&M costs.
  • Digitalization – featuring ABB Ability™ to deliver improved user experience, reduced time on site through remote monitoring and predictive maintenance, future proofing the system via automatic upgrades, compliance and integration with new IP protocols. Multiple data streaming and services can be run in parallel.

ABB is consistently investing in R&D with extensive testing and development of its portfolio to deliver integrated technology and service solutions which optimize performance, reliability and return on investment of any solar installation and fulfill the requirements of local markets.

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Industrial Hardware and Machine Parts

Is PAT the paradigm-shift that process manufacturing has been looking for?

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Manufacturers worldwide are taking a closer look at how they can deliver cost-optimised, high-quality products. But will a paradigm shift to real time in-process quality testing allow more manufacturers to embrace the massive cost and productivity benefits available for both batch and continuous production?

Martin Gadsby, Director at Optimal Industrial Technologies, discusses how process analytical technology (PAT) can be a gamechanger in quality management for process manufacturing.

Conventionally, the quality of a batch manufactured product is controlled using manual laboratory testing on samples collected after each unit operation. This is called “Quality by Testing” (QbT). However, traditional quality control has limitations that hinder manufacturing efficiency as QbT takes place too late in the process to prevent scrap and rework. One methodology that has the potential to address this issue is PAT. This provides a real time quality prediction and assurance methodology that enables the process to be continually monitored and optimised, increasing product quality.

By assuring product quality automatically on a live, continuous basis, using multivariate models for instrument calibration, virtually all process manufactured products can be produced far more quickly, more cost effectively and to a higher quality.  QbT is no longer required, as timely automated process adjustments can be made to optimise the product quality and reduce or possibly eliminate rework and waste. Using a holistic PAT process model and the right management software, timely measurements of raw and in-process materials can also help contribute to improved process resilience and adaptability.

Why conventional quality control is obsolete

Traditional quality control can often identify issues in the manufacturing process only after the unit operation or batch is finished. In contrast, with PAT-led production the final quality is not tested into the product, but rather built into the product as process adjustments can be made in real-time. It is a “Quality by Design” (QbD) approach. Re-work of sub-standard product batches and wastage caused by the empirically-derived assumption that raw materials are all of a consistent quality is potentially eliminated by adopting a QbD approach. Also, “Real time Release Testing”, where product can be released for sale immediately after production, becomes a reality. The risk of lost sales or direct recall costs and brand damage is also removed.

The role PAT can play in different manufacturing industries

In a highly regulated industry such as biotech and pharmaceuticals, using a PAT based process model means product can be released straight from production into the distribution chain without any further tests or confirmation being required.  The significantly reduced development and production time leads to massive savings in production cost and manufacturing time and brings huge advantages in reducing the overhead of Work-In-Progress materials.

The benefits to using PAT for manufacturers of high-value goods are instantly apparent, as any sub-standard batches cause great financial losses due to the large amount of expensive off-spec material produced when things go wrong. Producing lower value product, but at very high speed and in large volumes has the same cost implications in this scenario, so other manufacturing industries such as FMCG can also substantially improve their production processes and reduce losses related to sub-standard products.

Manufacturers of high-volume low-value goods are arguably under more pressure to improve their productivity, speed up production times, reduce rework and scrap while improving the consistency of quality. Real-time QbD processes can also make a difference by allowing bulk producers to use a wider range of potentially lower-cost raw materials, slight variations to in-feed materials can be compensated for with recipe changes that can keep final quality controlled to a much tighter tolerance.  PAT is the one technology that has the potential to deliver improvements in all these areas.

Key drivers for PAT-led production

One main concern that may prevent manufacturers from investing in a new technology is whether it is approved by regulatory authorities. In the case of PAT, the shift from testing final batches to building quality into the product is promoted by regulatory bodies that see PAT as a way to foster manufacturing efficiency and product quality, while harmonising regulatory expectations. For example, since the early 2000s both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have promoted the adoption of PAT to support the proliferation of QbD in the pharmaceutical industry.

This holistic approach does however require an effective data and knowledge management tool that allows users to monitor the production critical attributes in real time and enable timely process improvements to optimise quality. Centralised and distributed systems that are designed specifically for PAT, that ensure regulatory compliance and that are helping to drive the PAT revolution are available. One of the most advanced and well-proven PAT data management tools on the market is synTQ, by Optimal. Its market status is underlined by the fact that over half the world’s top-ten global pharmaceutical manufacturers already use it.

At the tipping point of innovation adoption

Industry trends show that manufacturers who have already implemented PAT into their production processes are increasing their market responsiveness, productivity and production capacity whilst also improving the consistency of quality. Other industries are taking note of these successes; thus, the technology is now beginning to gain more widespread acceptance beyond pharmaceutical manufacturers that are effectively the ‘early adopters’. It is now beginning to gain interest among manufacturers of low-volume high-value and high-volume low-value goods. As its visibility increases and the technology matures, its adoption will become ever more widespread to a point where PAT is likely to become an industry standard in many sectors.

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