Supfina Grieshaber GmbH & Co. KG develops and produces custom machinery for precision surface machining. Along with internationally recognized applications for superfinish tasks in the automotive, supplier, roller bearing, general precision and medical industries, the company also manufactures economical finishing systems for double disk and band grinding.
Supfina Grieshaber GmbH & Co. KG (Supfina) has its origin in two companies. In 1903, brothers Albin and Bruno Grieshaber founded a craft business in the Black Forest, which spawned the company Grieshaber Drehteile (Grieshaber Turned Parts) in Wolfach, Germany. The Bergische tool factory, established in 1910, changed its name to Supfina in 1951 and, from that time on, concentrated on special purpose machinery and mountable modules for superfinish, a machining production process in which complete surface contact is between tool and workpiece. In the 1960s, demand for superfinish surfaces increased. The Grieshaber family recognized the market potential and, like Supfina, concentrated on manufacturing superfinish machines. The two companies began cooperating in 1972 and finally merged in 1995. Supfina Grieshaber GmbH & Co. KG has about 190 employees. A market leader, the organization has a sister company in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, United States and a regional office in Beijing, China.
Customers in the automobile, roller bearing and precision industries require superfinish parts such as pinions, camshafts and crankshafts, roller bearings and rolling elements and plane surfaces. The machines are produced according to the requirements of each customer, including production quantity, cycle time and the workpieces.
Until 2001, the designers’ main tool was a 2D computer-aided design (CAD) system. However, requirements changed. For example, a client wanted proof for encumbrances through finite element (FE) model calculations. Markus Müller, project manager and the company’s CAD officer, designed the necessary 3D model with a free demonstration version of Solid Edge® software, the 2D/3D CAD system from product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens PLM Software, which came with a trade magazine as part of a marketing program.
“Our decision to introduce Solid Edge in the year 2001 was forward-looking and appropriate for our company,” says Müller.
The designer was impressed by the easy operation, so he modeled additional components. He was able to figure out the software without training. Within a short period of time, he was convinced that Solid Edge would bring significant improvements to the company’s design process.
“At the time, only the very best was good enough, so right away my boss was open to the suggestion to introduce a new CAD system,” says Müller. Today 28 licenses are in use at Wolfach, with another seven at North Kingstown. In addition, the company has three licenses for Solid Edge XpresRoute, the module for designing pipelines, and one license for Solid Edge Simulation FEM, an integrated calculation solution that is available for all the designers.
Together with Siemens PLM Software solution partner ISAP AG, an ideal hardware was determined in connection with the current upgrade during intensive testing; the high-performance workstations are equipped with high-class Intel® CORE® i7 dual-core processors.
“At a high frequency, the processor cache proves to be a bottleneck of the application,” says Müller. Loading a machine assembly consisting of 15,000 individual parts in this configuration takes only a minute, and opening and loading system assemblies takes only a couple of seconds. Rapid handling of large assemblies through special functionalities has always been one of the advantages of Solid Edge. “We are very satisfied with the performance,” says Müller. “There is no delay caused by opening times that take too long.”
For more than 12 years, all of the design tasks for product development, customer-specific adaptation and presentation have been solved with Solid Edge. From the smallest standard parts for more than 45,000 subassemblies and assemblies to more than 500 complete machine assemblies, the data is available in a structured, modular product system that is managed with the integrated product data management (PDM) system PRO.FILE. The assembly inventory is organized by frequency of use.
“Our goal lies in pulling the standard parts from the inventory that we can then identify using color coding and a number system,” says Müller.
In the future, the classification will be made easier via the use of simus classmate software. Since Supfina Grieshaber purchases about 98 percent of the parts, the adoption of third-party parts has to run smoothly: “For example, functions such as adaptable assemblies and automatic feature recognition of bore holes in data import via direct interfaces offer important convenience,” says Müller. “This is one of the biggest advantages of the program.” Turned and milled parts are delivered in STEP format accompanied by drawings in PDF files. Models of sheet metal parts go as originals to manufacturing facilities, which likewise make use of the outstanding sheet metal functions of Solid Edge.
Design according to measurements and dependencies, as it was known in the 2D world, peaked with the application of parametric modeling. When Siemens PLM Software offered synchronous technology, a group of tools for directly influencing geometry elements, Supfina questioned the rule-based approach: “The building of parametric models takes place in a highly personalized manner,” says Müller. “As a result, making changes and re-using models becomes more difficult.”
Using synchronous technology enables Supfina to respond more rapidly to new requirements, thus saving time and money. Assemblies and components of suppliers can be scanned in, quickly edited and easily re-used. Also, the sample work pieces of customers can be more easily adapted afterwards.
In spite of all these advantages, changing over represented a big leap for the employees: “In particular, designers with many years of experience had to go through a fundamental rethinking process and had trouble parting with the measurements,” says Müller. “On the other hand, our American coworkers managed quite well with the new technology; they didn’t know anything different.” After three days of training by the ISAP and six months of transition time, a new era of 3D design began at Supfina.
“ISAP has proven itself to be a reliable partner over many years and succeeded in helping us over this hurdle,” says Müller, who annually evaluates the latest functions of Solid Edge as a beta tester.
Today only 20 percent of models are parametrically defined. In the case of revisions, components are transferred to synchronous technology. The results speak for themselves. For example, the company documented how the adjustment of a chuck jaw with conventional methods leads to termination after nine minutes; the consequence would be reconstruction. With synchronous technology the change was made in 40 seconds.
“Fast reaction times are imperative in today’s market,” notes Müller. “Without Solid Edge, we could not meet the increasingly shorter project time frames requested.”
The efficient design process leads to savings in other areas; from purchasing to warehousing to capital commitment in the workshop: “With the help of Solid Edge, we were able to measurably speed up the project phases, due to virtual machine models,” says Müller. In the process, market demands can be implemented more cost-effectively without sacrificing quality. It is precisely this that is supposed to make a new design of the machines visible to the eye. For example, designed with Solid Edge, Supfina’s Race machine won the Red Dot Design Award in 2012 and its CenFlex machine was awarded both the Red Dot Design Award and the iF Product Design Award in 2013.