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Through the well-considered penetration of new business areas and consistent investment in new technologies, Trissler & Kielkopf has successfully achieved the transition from a knitting machine manufacturer to a supplier of ready-to-assemble precision parts.
The medium-sized firm Trissler & Kielkopf represents a good example for the change that has come about in machine engineering in Baden-Württemberg. When Johannes Trissler started making knitting machines in 1921, he had no idea that this sector would practically no longer exist 70 years later. Business was excellent for many years - and this continued with the specialization in flat-bed knitting machines.
As the knitting and textile machine industry began to experience major change, Trissler & Kielkopf adjusted its focus to the supplier trade and general machine engineering. The last knitting machine left the Reutlingen works in the early nineteen-eighties. In 1990, the European textile machinery industry was practically at an end, but the Reutlingen company had long since established itself in other industrial and machine engineering sectors. A short time later, the time had come for a new generation to take the helm. Mr Peter Dorau, who some time previously had already shouldered managerial esponsibility, and his wife Christel took charge. With a view to maintaining their competitiveness, they immediately introduced structural alterations.
"The parts manufacturing division was strongly oriented towards conventional turning, drilling, milling and grinding machines. We did actually start with 3-axis milling using a Hermle UWF 900 universal milling machine as early as 1991, but otherwise we still used the machines that were already there," explains CEO Peter Dorau. This went well until the orders flooded in so fast that the company was unable to find enough qualified personnel. Mr Dorau continues: "We realized that we had to invest in more highly automated CNC machining centers as soon as possible so that we could satisfy the demand with the same level of staffing."
Being very satisfied with the UWF 900, Trissler & Kielkopf took the logical step and extended its plant resources through the purchase of 5-axis CNC machining centers from Hermle: C 800 U (1999), C 800 V (2000) and three C 40 U (2006, 2008, 2010). As an engineer and technical operation manager, Ms Dorau assesses the investment in Hermle machines as follows: "The reliability and precision of the machines are demonstrably very good. We can deliver the precision parts on time and in excellent, reproducible quality. But most of all we find the rapid response of the service team and quick availability of spare parts impressive."
Entering the world of robotics
Even after thirteen years, the C 800 U is still running as well as it did at the start. Nevertheless, Trissler & Kielkopf is increasing the level of automation further and pays close attention to the compatibility of the Hermle machining centers, that are generally identically equipped - the latest C 40 U combined with a fully automated workpiece magazine and loading system. The C 40 U installed in 2008 started operation with an RS2 robot system, and since then highly flexible production is possible round the clock. As Peter Dorau confirms: The mix of high-performance 5-axis full processing and integrated, fully automated workpiece management is the ideal solution for Trissler & Kielkopf: "We have to be able to manage runs from between one and 20000 pieces, divided into batches. Generally, we deal with complex individual parts and small series, using steel, tooling steel, stainless steels, aluminum and plastic. With the Hermle C 800 U, and especially the C 40 U machining center, we are able to fully process precision workpieces from 3 mm in size, using the working area of the C 40 U to the full and the rotation and swiveling capability of the NC rotary tables."
No idle times
Thanks to the workpiece magazine and workpiece / pallet handling with the RS2, the process runs fully automatically and autonomously, so that the staff can concentrate on other tasks while the order is being executed. For a medium-sized company like Trissler & Kielkopf this is essential - it cannot afford the luxury of idle times. That is why Peter and Christel Dorau put their confidence in the production expertise of their eleven highly-qualified employees and in the 5-axis capabilities of their long-term partner Hermle. This provides an excellent basis for being able to supply convincing tenders that are in a different league compared with ones based on a conventional workbench.