Held under the theme of ‘The Art of Grinding’ Swiss cylindrical grinding specialist Fritz Studer focused on three main aspects of the company’s areas of operation at this year’s Motion Meeting press conference held at its headquarters in Thun. Ed Hill reports.
Although there were no new major machine announcements at Studer’s industry press conference held earlier this year, the company used the opportunity to reiterate the range and capability of its machines, focus on its own automation systems and highlight the company’s well-established machine overhaul division.
However, proceedings began with Studer CEO Jens Bleher outlining the company’s sales performance over 2019. Despite some very challenging economic headwinds such as global trade disputes, conflicts and a large downturn in the automotive sector, the company still achieved the third best sales year in its history.
This was partly due to the fact that sales in Asia and North America (where it achieved it second best ever results) performed well and the fact that 40% of its customers were first time buyers of Studer machines.
(Studer’s Motion Meeting took place before the current Covid-19 crisis)
Mr Bleher commented: “As you know machine manufacturing is a cyclical business and only a company that can cope with these fluctuations can survive. The theme of this year’s Motion Meeting ‘The Art of Grinding’ is what defines us and sets us apart from other businesses.
“This claim requires us to overcome limitations and focus our concentration on barely perceptible details which ultimately make the difference in order to achieve what initially appears impossible. At times like these there is a special focus on the efficiency and quality of our processes and products.”
Mr Bleher added: “The launch of the new universal machines was both a feat of strength and a highlight. In fact it took less than a year for Studer to sell approximately 100 of these new machines.”
[caption id="attachment_52483" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] The Studer easyLoader automation system[/caption]
Although Studer appears to have taken a hit in the automotive sector, the machine tool builder has offset this by strong sales in other markets such as aerospace as Sandro Bottazzo, Studer’s chief strategy officer explained: "Our company has been very well positioned in the aerospace customer segment for many years and is a preferred supplier of many component suppliers."
Studer also had rising sales in smaller markets such as the UK and its home market of Switzerland.
Machine overhauls and maintenance achieved a new record turnover for Studer with both service areas enjoying a double-digit increase. Mr Bottazzo added: "Machine overhauls are an important business area for us and ideally complement our new machine business. This means that our customers can have the complete range, from new machine through to machine overhaul, from a single source.”
Studer has been carrying out machine overhauls for more than 20 years. Around 25 of the company’s technicians are involved in this element of the business and around 400 machines have been completely overhauled to date.
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Before and after of a refurbished spindle on a Studer cylindrical grinder
The company says an overhaul carried out by Studer, as the original manufacturer with its specific knowledge and expertise, means the customer gets a product where quality and precision are comparable to that of a new machine. In fact virtually every aspect of a machine can be renovated from the machine base to the workhead and paintwork. Even upgrades such as automation and digitalisation can be incorporated. No doubt this is why Studer has the confidence to give each overhauled machine a year’s guarantee.
For example, its easyLoad ancillary machine is an entry-level option for feeding and removing the desired parts to and from the grinding machine. For Studer’s S33, S31, S22 and S41 grinders it is a portal loading system with V-type grippers. It is suitable for shaft components up to a part length of 300mm and a gripper diameter of 4 to 30mm (maximum interfering contour 50mm diameter). It therefore accommodates the majority of parts produced on these machines.
In the mid-range of its automation equipment Studer offers loading machines such as the WeStack and WeSpeed which can be linked to additional processes such as deburring, brushing or re-measuring of ground parts. Other functions such as marking and reading codes on ground parts as well as sorting and measurement between grinding cycles can be supplied. A 6-axis robotic system in the form of Studer’s flexLoad is also available.
Stephan Stoll, Studer’s chief operating officer explained: "Digitalisation is also finding its way into our production. As a user of our own machines we are the internal customer so to speak and we support our developers with practical tests and suggestions for product improvements from a user’s point of view."
Studer itself has implemented a number of Smart Factory advances in its own production facilities.
“With the use of digital tools, the entire process chain from electrical engineering through to the assembly of a control cabinet can be carried out efficiently and partially automated,” Mr Stoll added.
“Digitalisation is also finding its way into assembly. Instead of using outdated drawings, the assembler drags the most recent data as a 3D representation directly onto the screen at the workstation and has optimal working documents. Via a chat function the employee can easily send questions and ideas for improvement to the relevant engineering department and create a short and direct feedback loop.”
When it comes to its technical developments of its machines, further improvements can soon be expected from Studer, including a new hydraulic synchronous tailstock according to company chief technology officer Daniel Huber.
He revealed: "The hydraulics of the redesigned synchronous tailstock have been replaced by a servo drive with an electrical clamping function. The repeatability and accuracy of the clamping force have been increased to the exact gram and an even lower contact pressure can now also be selected.”
As a company Studer places great importance on continually making improvements to the grinding process of its machines and its own production methods; both strengths that have contributed to its position as conceivably the foremost manufacturer in this market.
CEO Jens Bleher concluded: “We have achieved a great deal in the area of operations with concentration and passion. Many major new investments have been implemented and others will follow in order to increase productivity.
“The ‘Art of Grinding’ is dynamic and we must continue to further develop it with inventiveness and creativity. Despite tough market conditions our principle that the customer comes first remains unchanged because ultimately we can only be successful ourselves if our customers are successful.”