More efficient gear development supports growth into new markets
NX and Teamcenter play key role in penetrating heavy industry and plastics sectors
Setting standards in gear technology
When they hear the word “gears,” most people think about their cars. However, many of the gears and gear units manufactured by the 185-strong workforce at Eisenbeiss GmbH could not even be transported in a car. Eisenbeiss has made a name for itself as a manufacturer of the highest-possible quality gears during its 100-year history, concentrating on special gear units for the most stringent requirements of selected industry sectors since 1994.
One of these sectors is heavy industry, where Eisenbeiss supplies gear units all over the world to smelting works, continuous casting plants, hot and cold rolling mills and strip treatment and finishing operations. Eisenbeiss is also known for special gear units used for power transmissions in the lifts and cable cars of celebrated manufacturers. Another area in which Eisenbeiss specializes is that of extruder gears. Through a policy of consistent specialization, the company has been able to develop into a dynamic, innovative, highgrowth center of excellence on the international level. The main emphasis here is on complete drive concepts for PVC extrusion, compounding and food and animal feedstuff extrusion as well as recycling plants and foil and film manufacturing plants.
Progress brings new challenges
In all these areas, customized and individual solutions with highly specific performance capabilities are created from high-quality materials. In the design phase, special attention is paid to economical use of resources and the creation of gear solutions that are lightweight and need as little space as possible.
A few facts will make clear how far gearing technology has advanced: today’s gear units are around 50 to 60 percent lighter than their predecessors of 20 or 30 years ago; they have become smaller and quieter; and they use power more efficiently. Manufacturing costs have also dropped by approximately 20 percent. However, as the laws of physics have remained the same, forces inside the gear units have increased to such an extent that deformation can no longer be avoided and must be taken into consideration in the design. This places higher demands on the design engineers.
Product families, created for the requirements of the different branches of industry, combine the costeffectiveness of standardized components with the precise fit of individual tailor-made solutions. The Torque Master® family of gears working in the range between 50 to 280 kW, launched on the international market in 1999, is such a platform. These units are intended for use in parallel, counterrotating twin-worm extruders, which are primarily used in the manufacture of PVC. These gears have established themselves as the standard within the industry, thanks to their high power density and superior reliability.
Best people for best business
At Eisenbeiss, twenty CAD designers and four CAM programmers work on the development of gear units and high-quality teeth components. Very loyal to the company and specializing in the requirements of the company’s target customers, these experts are the most important asset within the enterprise. For example, Edwin Kimpl has worked at Eisenbeiss since 1990. Originally employed as a design engineer, today he is head of development and is responsible for both platform development and CAD support.
Kimpl’s readiness to learn and gain higher qualifications brought the engine fitter his qualification as an engineer through study at the evening institute of Higher Technical Education (HTL). He later studied mechatronics and economics at the University of Applied Sciences. This makes him a superb example of the Eisenbeiss philosophy that its employees are its most important asset and that “best business” can only be achieved with “best people.” Considering his qualifications and experience, Kimpl was the obvious choice when a staff member had to be entrusted with the task of modernizing the CAD systems and selecting appropriate software.
At Eisenbeiss, the computer age began in the design department at the end of the eighties with 2D CAD. After that system reached its limit, a start was made with 3D design in 1999 with the introduction of a second-generation CAD system. However, that software proved unsatisfactory in the long run, demonstrating limitations in the 3D area, and the limitations required a considerable amount of time and effort to circumvent. The fact that the data was stored in separate files was an obstacle to trouble-free communication between different design engineers. It also prevented the creation of a system for automating version control for all documents.
In 2003 the company considered replacing the system with a different, more advanced 3D solution. However, it immediately became clear that a change to the CAD system alone would not repay the necessary investment costs to the desired extent. The plan was therefore to optimize the entire process chain, from design through sales, planning and technical purchasing. It was hardly surprising when it was discovered that an electronic data model operating throughout the company would make work easier in all areas and would in general achieve considerable cost savings.
30 percent savings target
This led to a search for a solution that included integrated data and document management. An important selection criterion for Kimpl was that the entire solution should be available from one source – from 3D CAD/CAM/CAE software to a comprehensive data management system. In addition, the company hoped to integrate an existing engineering application with the new design software by transferring data in the form of parameters.
The actual search for a system suitable for Eisenbeiss began at the start of 2006. First, mid-range products from various manufacturers were investigated, but it rapidly became clear that high-end products were more likely to fulfill the comprehensive set of requirements. The selection was narrowed down to a range of products from different manufacturers. “Because the licensing schemes were structured in completely different ways, it was not at all easy to compare the different offerings with one another,” says Kimpl, remembering the difficult choice he had to make.
“Finally, the decision was made in favor of NX™ software and Teamcenter® software – both from Siemens PLM Software – because of the flexibility and openness of the systems, as well as the fact that this overall solution was consistent over all areas of the workflow.” In addition, the licensing policy with the so-called “Mach” packages, where package subdivision is better suited to mechanical engineering companies, certainly played a part.
Gentle transition through planning
Eisenbeiss did not want to take any risks when introducing the system and so the introduction itself was prepared in depth by a project team consisting of three people. Their work consisted of defining methods for 3D modeling and developing a standardized method of data transfer between the design and production departments. Also, having prepared the design engineers for the coming change enabled the transition to be implemented cleanly and without problems after only one week of training with Siemens PLM Software.
“The transition took place at the new year, and because it is taking place step by step it is not yet totally complete,” says Kimpl. This is not surprising, as numerous improvements in the workflow, such as the introduction of “watertight” automatic release procedures that only became possible following the introduction of Teamcenter, constitute basic changes in method. However, Kimpl points out that the desired productivity targets have at the least been fulfilled.
Eisenbeiss’ first product – developed from scratch using NX and Teamcenter – is Torque Master Direct, which in the medium term is intended to replace the existing extruder gear unit of the same name. “NX and Teamcenter were already able to convincingly demonstrate many of their strengths within this project,” reports Kimpl. “For example, within the area of housing design and piping concept, the 3D tool opened up new simulation possibilities and even the most complex geometries didn’t give rise to barriers for design engineers.”
At Eisenbeiss, it is apparent that the introduction of NX and Teamcenter has enabled the company to achieve its objective of releasing design engineers from administrative tasks and of giving them more time to develop high-quality products as rapidly as possible. The ability to innovate and do so quickly is helping the company to make tangible marketplace gains, especially in the heavy industry and plastics sectors.