Update only with automation

C 650 | HS flex | C 400 | Cafmeyer

Cafmeyer manufactures press moulds. The more complex the part, the more parts needed for the mould. In the past, the Belgian mould maker was sometimes pushed to the limits of its capabilities – both in terms of dimension and capacity. The company therefore decided to invest in a Hermle C 650 U 5-axis machining centre with HS flex heavy automation.
From flat coil to three-dimensional moulded profile in multiple cycles. Every time the press moves down, a bead, a recess or a seam is added. Every time it moves up, the seemingly endless metal strip is fed through the press. In the end, a finished profile drops out of the press line – one piece per cycle. Cafmeyer ensures that all the sheet metal parts exit the production line exactly as they were drawn by the designers: The Belgian company develops and manufactures moulds of every shape and size – from the drawing to the assembled product.
It also witnessed a sudden boom during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since some of its tools are used to produce rack struts and profiles that can be found in furniture warehouses and storerooms as well as in private households. “People were stuck at home tidying the place up – and they bought themselves shelves,” adds Frederik Deneire, production manager at Cafmeyer NV. The energy crisis has also helped to prolong this boom, as Cafmeyer also manufactures moulds for the solar industry. Racks and solar technology – these two main points of focus have not come about by chance: Since 2019, the former family business has been part of Avasco Industries, whose products include racks and mounting structures for the installation of solar modules. The investment firm behind Avasco, the Vergalle Group, decided to secure Cafmeyer’s know-how when Roland Cafmeyer was unable to find a successor for his business. At that time, Roland Cafmeyer was running the business in the third generation. His grandfather started out as a blacksmith, his father introduced milling and turning machines and Roland further developed the company into a successful mould maker. When he reached retiring age, he decided to sell the company.

  • Nutzung der C 650 U auch für kleinere Bauteile bei Cafmeyer
    Cafmeyer also utilises the C 650 U for smaller components – and places them together on one pallet for efficient machining.
  • Die 5-Achs-Technologie
    The 5-axis technology provides Cafmeyer with more machining opportunities while also challenging the machine operators.
  • Von links: Frederik Deneire, Betriebsleiter bei Cafmeyer NV, Jan Van Houtte, Geschäftsführer der Cafmeyer NV, John Verlinden, Hermle Nederland B.V
    From the left: Frederik Deneire, production manager at Cafmeyer NV, Jan Van Houtte, managing director of Cafmeyer NV, John Verlinden, Hermle Nederland B.V.

Automation, precision and dimension

“Since the takeover, a lot has happened here in the workshop,” explains the current managing director Jan Van Houtte. The plan is to update and expand the machinery. The opportunity to automate processes is a key criterion when picking a particular product. Yet another is the level of precision and maximum component volume that can be provided and accommodated by the system. “The shortage of skilled workers is a major issue that we are also facing. Automation nevertheless enables us to expand our capacity,” claims Van Houtte. In 2021, Cafmeyer invested in a 5-axis machining centre from Maschinenfabrik Berthold Hermle AG, which not only satisfied the first criterion, but also provided the mould maker with a unique selling point: “When it comes to its size, this machine is one of a kind in our industry,” says Van Houtte. This has enabled Cafmeyer to win an order for a complete assembly which it had previously had to turn down. “The most complex part from this order is a 640-millimetre-long axle featuring a 540-millimetre-deep eccentric bore. This might sound simple enough but manufacturing an eccentric of this length precisely is a real challenge,” explains the managing director.
It is possible thanks to the new C 650 U, automated with the HS flex heavy handling system. There is space for 15 pallets in the rack storage, which Cafmeyer also utilises for smaller components. “We simply clamp several parts onto one large pallet, thus making us much more efficient and flexible,” says Frederik Deneire. The automation and the traverse paths of 1,050 x 900 x 600 millimetres – plus its overall precision – were the factors that convinced those in charge that the 5-axis machining centre from Gosheim was the right choice for them. They were already aware of these attributes thanks to a C 400 V machine which has been in use at Cafmeyer since 2016. “Depending on its actual size, a mould can consist of over 280 parts. We manufacture every single component here in Kortemark and must be able to rely on the parts fitting together exactly during subsequent assembly. We are talking about a machining period that takes up to 16 weeks,” explains Deneire.

Automatisierte C 650 U bei Cafmeyer
Cafmeyer is updating its machinery and invested in an automated C 650 U.

5-axis technology: Brake and accelerator

Even though the C 650 U has been up and running for about a year, the operators are not yet able to fully utilise the new capacities. “However, if there is a chance of using the C 650 U, the 5-axis machine is always the first choice,” stresses Deneire. So, where is the problem? “The most difficult part is in fact the extra axes compared to the C 400 V. We only recently entered the world of 5-axis machining and this still requires a bit of rethinking. However, we have also discovered that we can produce parts faster and run completely new machining processes than on our 3-axis machine,” adds the production manager. For instance, the new Hermle machine replaces a production step at the spark eroding machine – thus reducing the machining time from 40 to just 5 hours.
In contrast, the operators soon came to terms with the automation, even though it was a completely new concept for Cafmeyer. The same applies to the Heidenhein control unit, which they already knew in principle from the existing Hermle machine. “In total, we had eight days of training: Four immediately after installation and another four a few weeks later once the operators had become familiarised with the C 650 U and HS flex heavy,” explains Deneire. Since then, the employees have continued to make progress and learned to trust their programming skills and the machine. Should the tool and the workpiece nevertheless collide, Van Houtte has the peace of mind that Hermle uses compression sleeves to protect its spindles from greater damage, thus avoiding longer machine downtime.
Cafmeyer currently uses the C 650 U in particular for its mould making processes. In the future, it will also be used to produce milled parts for other companies. “The C 650 U opens up a whole host of opportunities. And Hermle has significantly raised the standards in terms of the support we now expect from our other service suppliers,” concludes Frederik Deneire, who had not worked with Hermle before joining Cafmeyer in February 2021.

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