Automotive solutions from the modular system
HELLER has established itself as a competent partner as a supplier to the automotive industry. All around the globe, cylinder blocks, crankshafts and transmission components are machined on HELLER production systems. To be able to cover the broad range, from the small two-cylinder motorcycle engine to the V12 construction machine engine, HELLER goes for scalable production systems according to the modular principle.
According to the German Automotive Association (VDA), some 78.7 million passenger cars were produced worldwide last year, 1.7% more than in 2014. In Germany alone, 5.7 million vehicles rolled off the production line - an increase of almost 2%. The car makers are being driven by increasingly shorter innovation cycles and a growing model and variant diversity. Manfred Maier, Managing Director and COO of the HELLER Group explains what this means for the machine tool manufacturers as suppliers to car builders: “For many companies in the automotive industry today, maximum flexibility comes before maximum productivity - with the smallest possible investment. The implementation time between the investment decision and start of production is also becoming an increasingly important criterion.”
The automotive industry makes up 75% of the business
The global group of companies realises approx. 75 % of its business with the automotive industry, from the passenger car to the heavy goods vehicle to agricultural machinery. The “Heavy Duty Powertrain On and Off Highway”, “Crankshaft Machining” and “Light Duty Powertrain” automotive segments are supported with production solutions for machining cylinder blocks and heads, crankshafts and camshafts, transmission and chassis components. The systems are realised with four- and five-axis modules with direct loading, as well as custom made and process machines that can be interlinked at any point in time to create fully-automated manufacturing systems.
The challenges for machining are increasingly smaller batch sizes, more complex components and the integration of innovative technologies to achieve complete machining operations. The Application Engineering (AE) department is working on an organisational solution for these requirements at HELLER. In this department, around 150 employees are handling all the process-related and mechanical engineering procedures for customer projects, including quotation preparation, project execution with project management and all mechanical application constructions. “The Application Engineering segment is devoting 70 to 75% of its capacity to components that are required in the combustion enginebased powertrain,” explains Werner Roth, Area Manager. The know-how resulting from the development and design of corresponding automotive production solutions then becomes the basis for the expert advice and support given to many other customers in various sectors outside of the automotive industry.
Describing the work of the Application Engineering department, Roth explains: “We consistently help our
customers optimise production processes and create the maximum possible value”. HELLER engineers contribute their extensive product and process expertise, while the customer, as the user, contributes its production experience to the project. “During the course of the collaboration, we not only focus on designing the machine technology and the machining processes,” Roth continues, “we also provide assistance and support for optimising the part for production, for questions about material flow, workpiece clamping design, optimum handling between the machining steps and for the selection of process-optimised tools. Depending on requirements, we also deliver various automation solutions.”
The advantage of this central unit: HELLER offers its products and solutions in bundles and from a single source in every market. “We're talking here about the Global Footprint,”explains Roth. “In contrast to international, global means that our customers can expect the same services from us anywhere in the world. This means we have to carry the expertise required at all key locations.”
Over 1,000 two-cylinder engines per day
A specific project example is a production system for the Fiat plant in the Polish city of Bielsko-Biala. Over 1,000 two-cylinder engines roll off the production line here every day. The production solution from HELLER comprises three MCi 25.1 machining centres, 40 MC 10 machining modules with direct loading, six MCH 250 machining centres, one automated loader via a portal, statistical process control, an NOK conveyor for loading and unloading defective parts, as well as an automated part handling facility between the individual stations.
Because, for reasons of strength, the Fiat engineers prefer cast iron rather than the current standard light alloy engines for their engine block, the delicate structure of the compact component presents a difficult challenge. In addition to the prominent cylinder bores, the cubic component features numerous flange surfaces, cooling channels and bores - all in the smallest space. Some 450,000 two-cylinder engine housings from G25 GH190B cast iron per year with a cycle time of under 40 sec.
HELLER has established itself as a long-term partner to the automotive industry with numerous projects like this, and is usually on-board with development activities from the very beginning. “We were Fiat's key development partner for designing the production of the Twin-Air engine”, emphasises Roth. And when truck manufacturer MAN was looking for a partner with adequate experience in the development of diesel engines and the machining of GGV as the housing material, the Nürtingen-based company was there.
So the spectrum of engines is substantial, ranging from the small two-cylinder engine with 0.9 l capacity to the V12 engine with over 16 l. To be able to offer tailored solutions for this range, HELLER consistently goes for scalable production systems according to the modular principle. Four- and five-axis machining modules with direct loading, as well as special-purpose and process machines for high-quantity yet flexible production form the basis. “We will not develop a proprietary machine for every task. Instead, we will make use of a modular system,” explains the Head of AE. “Such a machine must be designed for series production, and must also be adaptable to customer requirements. In a nutshell, at HELLER we talk about ‘rightsizing’. This means that the customer gets a production solution that exactly matches their specific application.”
Coating process expands process chain
For the machine tool manufacturer, a focal point is and remains the expansion of the product range to deliver an even better service to existing customers and for systematically tapping into new target groups. One example is the new CBC (CylinderBoreCoating) coating process, which HELLER has added to its crankcase production process chain. As part of its turnkey expertise, systems for the coating of cylinder bores in accordance with the LDS principle (arc wire spraying) are already successfully offered on the market. The first systems are already being used in mass production in Germany and Japan.