The product range of Atlantic Zeiser GmbH in Emmingen, southwestern Germany, revolves around the task of “creating identity”. The company’s specialists develop and produce systems that provide banknotes, credit and cheque cards, lottery tickets and packages with individual markings. The abundance of precision-machined components required for this are produced by Atlantic Zeiser on an MV1200S wire-cutting machine from Mitsubishi Electric.
We all handle banknotes every day, but rarely take any notice of what makes them special: banknotes are printed with an individual series of numbers so that each one is genuinely unique. The same applies to personal identity documents, credit, cheque and access cards, and lottery tickets. As of recently, packages and particularly those for medicines have been individually marked. This process is known by the experts as serialisation. The purpose of this is to ensure that the product contained with it can be traced back to its production and insertion into the package. “This trend has given our business a boost,” Jürgen Keller confirms. Keller is Production Manager Impact Systems at Atlantic Zeiser GmbH in Emmingen, Germany.
Top quality and flexibility thanks to high vertical integration
Wire-cutting for efficiency and process security
The company was established in 1955 as “Zeiser Numerierwerke”, which initially produced precision-machined equipment that printed number combinations on banknotes, on paper and board. The latter included among other things order and invoice forms, admission tickets and lottery tickets.
The product spectrum was subsequently extended to printers that apply individual markings to cards made of plastic and to labels. The company currently employs a 260-strong workforce engaged in the activities of design, soft- and hardware development, production and assembly. Its merger with Atlantic, a US manufacturer, and its current membership of Orell Füssli Holding AG, a technology group domiciled in Zurich, has given rise to a globally active company with a total of 365 employees and production, service and sales locations in the USA, UK, France, India and China. “Worldwide, about 80 per cent of all printers that print banknotes use our numbering and printing systems to individualise banknotes,” says Keller stressing Atlantic Zeiser’s market-leading position.
Production for big-name premium manufacturers
Despite the advance of software, the numbering and printing mechanisms still comprise a multitude of precision-machined components. These include the housings, number printing wheels, plates, shafts and axes as well as safety pawls and similar special components. Keller explains: “Today, the printed data and markings are mainly managed with software. Even the setting of the printing stamps is often handled by software in tandem with electronics and electric drive systems. But printing itself still calls for ingenious precision-machined equipment, which we design and manufacture exclusively within the company.” With its high degree of vertical integration, Atlantic Zeiser ensures a high standard of quality while also creating the necessary flexibility to create optimal solutions under changing conditions at short notice. Such changing conditions can be the differing specifications concerning the quality and characteristics of the material from which the banknotes are made. In addition, the growing needs of forgery protection are affecting the printing inks and requiring the paper or plastic to be stamped or embossed.
As Keller says, the specialists in Emmingen are therefore concerned with all factors transcending the mere mechanics. These include the composition, storage, feed and drying of printing inks and the equipment and devices needed for this. “We have achieved our leading position worldwide above all on the strength of our precise knowledge of all the parameters. Our experts design and produce all the requisite equipment, electronics and software for the individualisation of printable materials,” Keller continues.
Despite the large-scale standardisation of the design of numbering machines and printers, the experts in Emmingen have to produce a broad range of components such as prototypes, one-offs or at most series of two to ten units. “The design of our equipment is based on a uniform concept. However, there is such variation among the component parts depending on the needs of the particular customer and on the interface with various printing and sorting machines that we produce many components of printing and sorting machines as one-off items. Small series arise when, for example, four, six or even more identical numbering and printing machines are built in parallel onto printers.
Since the components concerned are mainly made of hard materials – titanium or hardened or stainless steel – Keller prefers wire-cutting as the machining method. He reports that, in most cases, wire erosion is the only method that achieves high cost-effectiveness and process security in the machining of tiny components often measuring just a few millimetres in edge lenght and diameter. All the same, turning and (hard) milling are also performed by the specialists in Emmingen. To ensure flexibility and the highest quality, Atlantic Zeiser has always practised all production processes on its own premises, wire-cutting being one of them. The production technicians have therefore gathered a great deal of experience of this method over many years.
However, Keller and his colleagues were less than satisfied with the service and dependability of the rival products they used to work with. When finally irreparable damage to the previous wire- cutting machine excluded its continuing use, he decided to invest in a MV1200S from Mitsubishi Electric in the summer of 2016. He was encouraged in his choice by recommendations from neighbouring jobshops who spoke well of the mature technology, reliability and simple operation of the wire-cut machines from Mitsubishi Electric. Keller is happy to confirm having taken the right decision. His staff quickly identified with the technology without any difficulty. Only a few days of instruction and the standard training at the CNC control with its integrated CAD system were sufficient to get production up and running.
The components at Atlantic Zeiser are mainly programmed at external 3D CAM workstations. The design and job scheduling department make the data available via a data network. At the machine, the production technicians clamp the workpieces – plates, blocks and pre-machined blanks – with the aid of a quick-clamping system and add a number of technology parameters in the NC program. The latter are obtained from the integrated database – very mature, in Keller’s view – or are chosen on the basis of their longstanding experience of wire cutting. After this, the MV1200S cuts the components completely autonomously and unmanned. Keller has found that it is possible to machine in two and occasionally even in three shifts. So that the wire-cutting machine can operate unsupervised over these long periods, it has an additional wire station for 20 kg reels at Atlantic Zeiser. Keller explicitly praises the extremely reliable wire threading – even in exceptionally narrow kerfs and start holes only minimally larger than the wire’s diameter. “The MV1200S runs for many hours without manual intervention. This way we achieve rapid throughput and maximum flexibility,” Keller stresses.
Over and above this, he appreciates the high repeat accuracy of the wire erosion machine from Mitsubishi Electric. The reliable function of tiny components with edge lengths of a few millimetres depends on accuracies in the range of less than a hundredth, or even only thousandths of a millimetre. This applies, for example, to profiles for printing stamps, connecting members for numbering wheels, pawls and fingers for grippers. Some of these workpieces are paired with others so their motions are guided with precision. Integrated in the numbering and printing machines, they often have to perform several hundred or thousand switching cycles per minute. After cutting, these components therefore additionally undergo high-precision calibration with broaching tools. A reliable process is only possible if prior wire-cutting is sufficiently accurate. Even with difficult contours, such as inclined, spatially curved surfaces, narrow grooves and the tiniest corner radii, the MV1200S assures high process reliability and accuracy, aided by the innovative Tubular Shaft drives in combination with the Optical Drive system. Thanks to these advantages, the specialists at Atlantic Zeiser also process a wide range of production components on the MV1200S wire-cutting machine. These include, among other things, devices for precisely positioning components for soldering.
Summing up, Keller explains that he and his team have been highly impressed by the quality, accuracy and reliability of the MV1200S. This wire-cutting machine has thoroughly vindicated his decision to continue the production process of wire cutting in the company after the failure of the previously used machine. Proving its worth within only a few months, the MV1200S never fails to strike the right note for Atlantic Zeiser.
Name and place of company:
Atlantic Zeiser GmbH
Manfred Minich (CEO)
Thomas Obitz (CFO)
Number of employees:
Security Printing Systems: Systems for the personalisation of ID cards and other personal documents, flat finance cards, gift vouchers and other customer loyalty cards, solutions for the numbering of banknotes of a wide range of currencies, and for the serialisation of passports
Pharma & Packaging Solutions: Individualisation, serialisation and track & trace systems for the pharmaceuticals and cosmetics industries
Atlantic Zeiser GmbH
78576 Emmingen, Germany
Tel +49 (0)7465 2910
Fax +49 (0)7465 291166
Fields marked with a * are mandatory.
Mitsubishi Electric Europe B.V.
D - 40882 Ratingen
Tel.: +49 (0)2102 / 486 - 6120
Tel.: +49 (0)2102 / 486 - 7600
Tel.: +49 (0)2102 / 486 - 7700
Tel.: +49 (0)2102 / 486 - 7500