Wide belt technology provides a competitive edge

The recent arrival of an 81 series wide belt precision grinding machine at metal polishing and finishing specialist Van Geenen has had an immediate impact. Through improved capacity, productivity and overall capability the Rijssen, Netherlands-based company is opening up new business opportunities. PES reports.

For a business that began back in 1977 when Arnold van Geenen and his sons Nico and Gerrit joined forces to provide a hand polishing service, with the founders having to sell their cars to buy the vital tools required to get started, Van Geenen B.V. Metaalfinishing is unrecognisable.

Now under the guidance of Nico’s son Bart van Geenen the company operates from 5,000m² premises, housing the latest in polishing and grinding technology. The most recent arrival being the €2 million investment in the Timesavers 81 Series grinding machine, which places the business firmly in the 21st century.

Nico (right) and Bart van Geenen with their Timesavers 81 Series machine, an investment driven both by the heart and head
Nico (right) and Bart van Geenen with their Timesavers 81 Series machine, an investment driven both by the heart and head

From those early days the company began to specialise, particularly on stainless steel and other exotic materials. The emphasis is firmly on producing sheet and tube material to the highest quality in terms of surface finish (right up to Mirror 8 grade), with greater efficiency and consistent technical quality of products.

“Hand polishing remains a critical part of our business, but automation has been central to our development since our first investment in a Grindingmaster/Timesavers back in 1984. We are always looking to improve efficiency and our investment in automation has boosted productivity,” says managing director, Bart van Geenen.

“As such, our partnership with Timesavers continues with this major investment in the 81 Series machine, an investment that driven both by the heart, with my father’s desire for manufacturing technology, and head, with me focused on the commercial potential.”   

Quality and relationships

Van Geenen prides itself on the quality of its work and the strength of its relationships with customers – a combination that has opened up new business opportunities for its polished sheet and tube products across markets including architectural, tanks, and food processing.

“We have always had the ability to do things that our competitors can’t and to continue that we recognised it was time to move into precision grinding,” Mr van Geenan adds.

The scale of the 81 series will also futureproof production at Van Geenen; with an overall length of 24m the machine has the capacity to grind sheet or plate from 0.15mm up to 100mm with stock removal rates of up to 0.2mm/pass achievable with a table size of 2.1m x 8.5m to an accuracy of ±0.02mm and 0.3 Ra.

The 81 Series is already delivering significant time savings for van Geenen compared with existing processes. For example, producing a 4m long, 2m wide by 20mm thick sheet for a customer in the food processing industry, which required a 0.8 Ra surface finish used to take between four and five hours to complete, this is now achieved in one hour on the 81 series.

“With the level of investment in the Timesavers 81 series, our hourly rate has increased, but this is justified as our throughput is much greater and lead-times much shorter – and that level of efficiency is vital when putting forward proposals to customers. We are also aware that none of our competitors in Europe have this capability,” says Bart van Geenan.

Positive customer response

Encouraging for van Geenan has been the enthusiasm from customers for the use of this wide belt grinding technology with the Timesavers 81 Series. The efficiency of the system allows it to replace milling as an operation, reducing the number of processes and improving efficiency.

With milling, at least two set-ups may be required for roughing and finishing, whereas with the 81 Series just one operation takes the part to the finished state. This is particularly important on stainless steel parts where the clamping of the material for milling can induce stress in the part. Using the vacuum table of the 81 series eliminates this completely, while achieving improved results in terms of flatness and surface finish.

The Timesavers 81 Series grinding machine can reduce process times by eliminating other machining processes
The Timesavers 81 Series grinding machine can reduce process times by eliminating other machining processes

“The 81 Series is a genuine alternative to conventional processes and, it is my role to convince customers that the process is viable and meets their requirements. Thankfully, clients are open to innovation and are willing to listen and try new processes,” says Mr van Geenen. “I recently quoted a customer for some polished titanium plate; within five minutes of delivering the quote I received the order.”

Partnership and collaboration

The development of the Timesavers 81 Series came about following conversations with suppliers of sheet material, particularly titanium and other exotics such zirconium and molybdenum, who were facing challenges processing these materials accurately and efficiently.

The result is a wide belt reciprocating table abrasive machine that eliminates problems found when milling or grinding using stones or abrasive wheel technology. In collaboration with abrasive belt manufacturers Hermes and 3M, the 81 series can process materials much more efficiently, in some cases such as grinding molybdenum, a conventional cycle time of 10 hours was cut to 25 minutes.

A typical Timesavers 81 Series cycle consists of a fast rough grinding cycle followed by up to three spark-out passes, with the sheet, which is positioned on the powerful vacuum table, then rotated and the cycle repeated on the opposite face. The result is a thickness accuracy across the entire sheet of 0.25µm with the major benefit of the process creating a ‘short-scratch’ finish.

Timesavers and Van Geenen are also collaborating with this new investment with Timesavers introducing potential customers, who may not be in a position justify the purchase of an 81 Series just yet to Van Geenen, and the machine being made available to Timesavers as a real-world example for customers to see the potential of this grinding technology.

“This investment is backed by our experience of the service provided by Timesavers over many years. Both our respective businesses will continue to grow alongside each other as a result of that relationship,” Mr van Geenen concludes.

In the UK and Ireland, Timesavers is represented by Ellesco.         

Timesavers has produced this video offering more insight into the 81 Series machine at van Geenen: https://youtu.be/ZvlMaIdakmA


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