Tracking down efficiency
TRUMPF’s preliminary engineering section works behind the scenes. The output is visible not only in terms of energy and resource efficiency — the bottom line is affected, too.
“Energy efficiency means minimizing the amount of energy needed to achieve a specific result,” is how Felix Riesenhuber defines the primary focus of his day-to-day work. At TRUMPF he is responsible for coordinating preliminary engineering. In this way he sets the course for resource conservation together with the developers. “Resource efficiency is not a separate topic for us, but is the driving force behind the ongoing development of our machines. After all, efficiency and cost effectiveness are closely linked,” he says. That is why avoiding wastefulness has been one of TRUMPF’s maxims since the early 1990s and one that has formed the backbone of the SYNCHRO philosophy.
Focus on the customer
“We can develop a good system only if we understand our customers’ requirements and operating setting and fully master the technology in the machinery,” is how Riesenhuber summarizes the basis for his work. This is why his search for the right way to fine tune manufacturing starts with the customer. Queries made at trade fairs and worldwide customer surveys serve as the starting point.
“Our service departments also give us a fair idea of which materials and gauges our customers are processing,” explains Riesenhuber. “We have various benchmarks that describe our customers’ requirements.” They let our engineers assess at an early development stage how a technological “leap forward” is likely to bring about energy savings for various customers. “There is no point in optimizing areas the user will not notice.”
A bird’s-eye view
When you consider that material alone represents some 50 percent of parts costs, many presumed efficiency tweaks soon become only marginally effective. “When discussing energy efficiency, people frequently talk about electricity consumption, but that falls short of the mark,” emphasizes Riesenhuber. That’s why he values a bird’s-eye perspective for his work. “On our journey from design to the final product, we have to keep in mind all the aspects involved.”
This begins with selecting the right machine, with a configuration suitable for the product line. It ends only when the best arrangement for nesting the parts has been found. That, in turn, provides higher yields and reduces waste. “We offer a broad range of lasers, but it is possible to work inefficiently even with an efficient machine — if it’s not the one best suited for the parts you’re making.” This is the reason why development engineers evaluate the benefits of new technologies on the customers’ premises — in terms of both productivity and parts costs.
Small helpers, big concepts
TRUMPF’s developers have implemented this motto in every TRUMPF machine. The smallest of nozzles and precise beam focusing save gas; the mirror cutting head does away with focusing lenses; standby modes reduce the turbine’s power consumption in CO₂ lasers. Perhaps the greatest lever for resource-conserving production, however, is to be found in the design of the part being made. Items previously made with conventional milling and drilling can frequently be produced faster and significantly cheaper with a laser. What’s necessary is to rethink the design for the sheet metal part. Compared with savings in energy consumption, the material saved makes a much greater contribution toward resource conservation.
Laser manufacturing technology has thus opened up many a new opportunity for resource-conserving products. “But we are not only involved in designing machines that provide energy efficiency for our customers. We strive to produce the machinery efficiently, too,” Riesenhuber stresses. A new cooling concept now regulates temperatures during TRUMPF’s electronics production processes. “TRUMPF Hüttinger is, therefore, able to save up to 74 megawatt hours a month,” he says. Although that project is not within his purview, it is one that is clearly in line with his thinking.
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in spring 2012.