C 32 U | RS 1 robot system | SAM Precision B.V. | The C 32 U was our good luck
Managing Director Theo Zegers describes the fact that SAM Precision ordered a new 5-axis machining centre from Hermle at the beginning of 2021 as a stroke of luck. Because the demand for precision machining rose unpredictably shortly afterwards. By letting the new C 32 U with RS 1 robot system work autonomously overnight and at weekends, he can respond more flexibly and quickly to customer wishes.
In the Netherlands, the semiconductor industry is booming and therefore also filling the order books of the machining subcontractors. SAM Precision B.V. is one of them. Since the company was founded in 1985, SAM Precision B.V. has developed into a specialist for the high-tech machining of precision components, especially those made of difficult-to-machine metals, such as titanium and surgical steel. "We actually only have customers who are constantly growing. And we have also grown healthily," says company founder Theo Zegers. Initially, he milled for the luxury food industry. Later, medical technology, optics and the semiconductor industry, which has dominated since the beginning of 2021, were added. He sees the current situation with mixed feelings: "I have not seen such industry growth and capacity utilisation in the past 35 years. Actually, it's happening too fast."
For SAM Precision, this means having to offer ever shorter machining times and greater flexibility. In addition, there are the high demands which, despite the different sectors, have a lot in common: The parts are complex, must be manufactured with precision and be back at the customer's within two weeks – in Eindhoven, Belgium and Germany. The machining technicians literally wear velvet gloves when handling the finished components because every invisible fingerprint on the surface will result in a complaint. In general, the finished components should be handled as little as possible. According to Zegers, the milling machine must produce all parts so perfectly that no reworking is required – except for cleaning with compressed air to quickly remove residue from the cooling lubricant or any chips which may have become stuck.
"If we deliver good results, we get follow-up orders," is how Zegers sums it up. And this is what SAM Precision gets. In order not to jeopardise the delivery reliability, Zegers turned to Maschinenfabrik Berthold Hermle AG. "With 28 employees, we are a very small company. We simply don't have the staff for a multi-shift operation. In order to still be productive even during ghost shifts, I wanted to invest in an automated 5-axis machining centre," says Zegers. He has put his trust in Hermle for more than 25 years, even if he has been on the "wrong track" in the meantime, as the Managing Director puts it. But he knows what he can expect from the Gosheim-based machine manufacturer: a high level of service readiness, know-how about all systems as well as reliable and extremely precise milling machines. The fact that Hermle develops and offers its own automation solutions is another advantage: "Availability is very important for us because our milling centres have to run 24 hours a day. If there is a problem with the machine or the automation, we have a contact person who takes care of it quickly and competently."
He decided on a C 32 U, automated with the RS 1 robot system – after he had been to the Hermle Technology and Training Centre in Kassel-Lohfelden for extensive discussions. "The complete solution combines parts handling with a universal die and an automatically clamping vice. This allows us to produce different components automatically, regardless of their dimensions," explains Zegers. At the time of the order, the Dutchman did not yet know that he would more than urgently need the flexible capacity of the C 32 U. His motivation at that time: "We are actually always too small – and therefore have to invest more in automated equipment. So we wanted to replace an older stand-alone machine." Only one month after he signed the contract, the order intake increased enormously – within a few months, SAM Precision was fully booked until 2022. The entrepreneur describes the fact that he now has more capacity with the C 32 U as a stroke of luck. "Machining in the Netherlands is booming thanks to the semiconductor industry," says Zegers, explaining the increase in orders of around 70 per cent compared to the previous year – without Corona giving him a dramatic drop in orders.
In view of the worldwide shutdown, Zegers is glad to have bought again in Germany: "Quite apart from the excellent quality, there were no delivery problems and we always had a reliable service technician on hand." Since July 2021, the new machining centre of the High Performance Line has been at SAM Precision alongside eleven other Hermle machines. Among them are four C 40 U – two of them with pallet changers – and two C 50 U which embrace the stand-alone concept: Both milling centres process complex components up to one metre in size and the runtimes are correspondingly long. "Within ten hours, we mill up to 315 kilograms of material out of 350 kilogram blanks. Every week, one of these components must be delivered just-in-time to the assembly line," says Zegers. In order to be able to meet the quality and the strict schedule, the focus here is on long-term precision and process reliability.
Fast and attractive
SAM Precision usually buys the blanks itself. Therefore, the subcontractor cannot afford rejects – regardless of the acutely difficult material supply situation. "All our Hermle machining centres run reliably and with precision and are very user-friendly at the same time," praises Zegers and adds: "The C 32 U with automation also machines small standard parts quickly and efficiently and has significantly expanded our capacity without us having to hire new qualified employees." Instead of the previous ten parts per day, the subcontractor produces a complete repeat order of up to 70 pieces overnight using the new system. "During the day we program, mill and measure a test piece. If everything is correct, the machine runs autonomously. In the morning, everything is ready – including the measurement protocols," confirms Zegers. Another advantage for him is that, thanks to the uniform control, he can deploy his employees flexibly on every machine and absorb bottlenecks during holiday or sick periods. In addition, the Hermle name attracts motivated applicants as well as new and exciting projects. The result according to Zegers: "We are very challenged – with parts which are as beautiful as they are complex."
In the meantime the C 32 U, including the RS 1 robot system, is well linked to the company's digital infrastructure which is also new. Zeger's employees are on standby on a rotating basis and are on hand should the machine report a fault. "But that happens only every two to three weeks. Usually it is then a trivial problem, such as chips blocking the door. That is quickly solved," the Managing Director reports and adds: "We are very happy with our new investment. We now have a good basis to keep up with our customers."