Since our first visit to the AWEBA Group about ten years ago, a great deal has changed at one of Europe’s largest and most progressive toolmakers. In pursuit of its aggressive expansion strategy, the company has evolved from purely a toolmaking specialist into a full-range supplier. In doing so, the company has remained true to its keys to success: innovative solutions, outstanding quality and the ultimate in precision. The company’s machinery has also moved on in the meantime. Ten years ago, one of its 18 EDM machines was a Mitsubishi Electric NA2400 Essence. Today, there are still 18 EDM systems in operation in Aue, but 13 of them are now from Mitsubishi Electric.
The AWEBA Group is one of Europe’s leading toolmakers. Its success is founded on innovative solutions in product development and the production of tools and fixtures. Its portfolio also includes maintenance, repair and spare parts supply services. In its growth strategy, the AWEBA Group focuses on selected areas of toolmaking such as automotive and renewable energy. Through strategic investment in toolmaking, AWEBA has aligned its capacity, expertise and processes to the new challenges, such as the current trends in the automotive industry. The new strategic business areas also include the series production of coupling bodies in a patented tool production process.
One focus of its toolmaking activities is on stamping tools for electric motors for the high-precision production of rotor and stator laminations. “In this area, we mainly machine cemented carbide, and of course all materials commonly used in toolmaking as well,” says Thomas Schlemmbach, head of machining. Extreme precision is required especially for the machining of large engine and generator blades. Generator blades for wind and hydropower turbines are composed of a large number of segments. The diameter of a complete sheet can come to three to four metres. A maximum tolerance of two micrometres is often absolutely essential. AWEBA specialises in large tools. “We build tools of up to 5,000 by 3,000 millimetres and weighing up to 50 tonnes, which we test in our trial presses,” Schlemmbach explains. The tools are also tested during development to ensure that everything runs smoothly during production. “During development, our designers use modern simulation tools, among other things, in order to subject parts to thorough testing and optimise them before the tools are built.”
To produce tools with high precision, comprehensive production and design expertise is essential. “Here in Aue we have the specialists who work hand in glove to produce flawless tools,” Schlemmbach explains. For tool production, the employees can resort to a huge array of machinery, with over 100 machines at their disposal to deliver the desired quality in all accuracy classes. With its in-house hardening shop with vacuum equipment, AWEBA ensures rapid access to a wide range of highly tempered steels. “As a rule, the toolshop works in three shifts,” Schlemmbach explains. “This is the only way we can produce 50,000 to 60,000 workpieces per year from a batch size of one.”
Consistently with the latest technology.
Due to the enormous advances in electromobility, there is huge demand for electric motors, which in turn translates into rising demand for stamped metal sheet. “Today, toolmaking has a strong automotive focus,” says Schlemmbach, summing up current trends. The company has therefore invested heavily in EDM equipment. For the production of electric motors, AWEBA makes stamping tools for rotor and stator laminations. These stamping tools are mainly made of cemented carbide, a material that has a special structure and requires a special type of machining.
Of the 18 EDM systems, 13 are from Mitsubishi Electric.
Stamping tools for the production of rotor and stator laminations often consist of 250 to 300 individual parts that have to be made and assembled with high precision. “These tools may well take 2,000 to 3,000 hours of machining until they are finished to the desired quality,” Schlemmbach explains. “So that we can process such orders competitively, we are constantly investing in the latest technology. The decisive factor here is productivity.”
Clearly superior productivity.
When it came to upgrading its EDM equipment, Mitsubishi Electric scored heavily. Ten years ago, the toolmakers in Aue were operating with 18 EDM systems, and a Mitsubishi Electric NA2400 Essence had just been installed. Today, 18 EDM machines are still in operation at the Aue plant, but with markedly improved productivity. These now include 13 new Mitsubishi Electric systems. “During the intervening years, the number of machines has remained constant, but our EDM capacity has increased dramatically,” Schlemmbach reports. “In terms of productivity and also quality, our new machines can no longer be compared with those of ten years ago. But that applies not just to Mitsubishi, but to many other manufacturers as well.”
Before a new machine is admitted to AWEBA’s shopfloor, it is subjected to a comprehensive battery of tests. Productivity and quality are top of the agenda. So that the assessment has a solid basis, workpieces from the standard repertoire and customised components are included. Since the first comparative tests ten years ago, Mitsubishi Electric machines have clearly surpassed their rivals in productivity in all tests. In the standard tests, Mitsubishi Electric has been about 15 per cent ahead throughout this time. In the machining of customised components, Mitsubishi Electric machines have impressed with higher productivity.
“EDM accounts for around 100,000 hours per year,” says Schlemmbach. “15 per cent of this is equivalent to the machine output of two EDM units. In addition to the initial investment, there is also the cost of six employees working in three shifts, resulting in a cost advantage that continues to impress us. Of course, even these machines have their weak points, but, taken as a whole, they are simply outstanding.”
Having purchased the EDM systems, the company also feels well served by Mitsubishi Electric. “When making investment decisions,” Schlemmbach emphasises, “the experience we have gained with the manufacturer is also of course important. We keep a close eye on how service and support are performing. And here, too, we can’t fault Mitsubishi on any count.”
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AWEBA Werkzeugbau GmbH Aue
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