Maschinenfabrik Berthold Hermle AGMaschinenfabrik Berthold Hermle AG

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Fully automated production of high-precision, low-volume parts

10.12.2012

The strategic switch from motor sport to precision part specialist and the very high level of automation in production for a relatively small company represent the two foundation stones on which the Alsatian company GAT (Gaertner Automotive Technology) based a successful future at an early stage.

The full works

"Crazy" contours, challenging materials, the finest tolerances and tight schedules - anyone who has spent as many years developing and manufacturing motor sport engines and vehicles as the German/French twin companies GÄTMO Fahrzeugbau and GAT cannot be easily put off course.
On the contrary: When the GÄTMO company was founded over 40 years ago, the main focus was on the development and construction of rally and motor sport vehicles (Formula Junior, Formula König and Formula 3). Very soon it became clear that the various individual parts should not only be developed within the firm (and then manufactured elsewhere), but to remain flexible and meet tight schedules the production needed to be done in-house as well. In 30 years of engine and vehicle construction a great deal of experience was built up - especially in the area of mechanical processing. But it soon became clear to Martin Gaertner, the son of the founder, that this extremely anti-cyclical business could only be lucrative when ways could be found to exploit the necessary technologies and machine tools to the full. This led to a strategic reorientation and the extension of the service portfolio to include CNC processing of customer parts as well as investment in honing machines and heat treatment equipment.

A partnership based on mutual confidence

This change in strategy led to the need for more machines, as Martin Gaertner explains: "We had CNC machining centers that were OK as such, but every little disturbance gave us headaches. The service staff was always overloaded with work and sometimes the machines were down for weeks. So we started looking for a new supplier, and in 2006 we installed a second-hand Hermle U 1130. At first that was just a stop-gap solution. We were completely satisfied with the machine - and still are. Also, the service really earned its name, which wasn't exactly the case before."
So the "stop-gap solution" developed into a close partnership that was reflected by further investments. Subsequent years saw investments in C 40 UPs with PW 160 pallet changers and in a Hermle RS 2 robot system. And that was when GAT finally completed the transition to highly automated manufacturing of precision parts.

Robotic automation

At the moment, the state-of-the-art at GAT is represented by the C 40 U machining center plus RS 2. The machining center with robotic support has a workpiece magazine with 50 pallet locations, an additional magazine for 194 tools as well as a robot for fully automated pallet and workpiece handling. In addition, the machining center has an 80 bar internal coolant supply, a tool failure monitoring system, a 3D touch probe for measuring tools and workpieces, as well as a flexibly deployable motor spindle (max. 18000 RPM).

A satisfying feeling

Martin Gaertner relates: "This change of strategy meant that we were able to open up channels to new customers in the areas of crane technology, measurement equipment, hydraulics, security technology, as well as within the motor sport sector. Entering the world of 5 axis technology, and the high degree of automation thanks to the RS 2, gave us an additional boost.
We reckon to have the most modern machinery within a range of hundred kilometers and we are in a position to satisfy all customer wishes for single-part and series production up to 60000 items / year - reliably and on schedule.
We see our guarantee to deliver as being based on our having adopted the high quality requirements for racing engines and components in respect of materials, precision and reliability, of course coupled with adequate machinery.
GAT processes up to 2000 orders per year with approx 9000 active parts, and that requires a great deal of flexible and powerful processing machinery. Taking account of the extreme delivery expectations as well, technical availability and service become the paramount factors. We simply can't afford to try any experiments, and we know we can rely on our partnership with Hermle day after day after day."

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