Elphinstone looks to future with new investment

Elphinstone Engineering has invested in a new Okuma CNC vertical machining centre with OSP Control to strengthen output at its Triabunna plant on Tasmania’s East Coast, and secure additional work in-house with new capabilities.

“The speed of the new machine is unbelievable with a time reduction of 1.5 hours on one complex part alone to just nine minutes fully finished,” said Jason Cameron, Production Manager at Elphinstone. “The new machine complements another recent Okuma machine, a CNC lathe model LB3000EX, also with Okuma’s own CNC OSP Control, allowing us to meet strong demand and drastically reduce production delays, and at the same time bringing work back in-house. The latest machine will also be used for fast prototyping and product development.”

The Elphinstone story is a long one, commencing with Graeme Elphinstone moving from Burnie to Triabunna in 1971. Graeme had been a logger and started welding and chainsaw repairs before purchasing a two-hectare block of land in Triabunna and establishing Elphinstone Saw Centre.

Graeme’s specialist knowledge of the logging industry led the company to import Australia’s first on-board weighing system fitted to a logging truck. Further developments followed, with a special folding pole tandem jinker; an automatic weighing platform for axle groups; Australia’s first ‘Stretch’ mudguard system; folding tri-axle jinkers, and many more. In 1985, the company won the BHP Steel Award for innovation and design of the ‘Tri-Beam’ suspension, and this was followed by the world’s first folding skeletal trailer, the Fold-A Skel.

In 1994 this innovative company’s expertise in logging also extended to highly specialised equipment that was required for Antarctica. Design and development was a natural fit for the company in items such as special-purpose trailers for general haulage and the transportation of large tanks in ice conditions. Visiting Antarctica for the first time in 2000, Graeme saw the company’s special equipment in person, driving a snow train some 1,100km to Dome C, and he has since made two further trips to the ice continent. Special heavy-haulage trailers with skis, modular building support systems, walkways, platforms have all been developed through the first-hand Antarctic experience of Elphinstone personnel.

Developments also continued in the logging area with the Elphinstone Auto Tensioning System, self-loading Tri-Tri B-Double Trailers, the development of electronic scales, the first hydraulic folding skel, and the introduction of air suspension to the company’s trailers. Elphinstone has been a winner of numerous awards, such as the Australian Freight Industry ‘Australian Trailer of the Year’ for its ‘Easyloader’.

For the small community of Triabunna, with a population of some 1,000, Elphinstone provides highly valued employment opportunities for young people. With its strong commitment to training, a number of Year Ten students are provided the opportunity of work experience within the various departments of the business. Today there are four apprentices at various stages under training in the machine shop, and an additional five training as fabricators, thus ensuring the future of the industry and employment for locals.

Cameron himself originally joined Elphinstone’s as a storeman in 2004 but took the opportunity of a mature age apprenticeship which has since led him to his current position as production manager for the machining, steel management and quality control of finished trailers and equipment. Following the company’s latest acquisition, he is complementary about Okuma’s support during and after the installation.

“Okuma’s after-sales service and training back-up are impeccable and a stand out in the industry, which is a strong reason for this investment due to our somewhat remote location of the business,” he says. “We couldn’t be happier with the commissioning of this machine and the backup we have received.”


ANCA collaboration brings efficiency gains for Fraisa

A collaboration with ANCA helped Swiss tool maker Fraisa reduce production costs by 50% through a customised automation solution.

Fraisa is a family-owned business that offers its customers a complete range of solid round tools with endmills, drills and taps, with a full service offering encompassing logistics, customised tooling, regrinding and recycling of tools. Headquartered in Switzerland, Fraisa has a strong position in Europe and has entered the US and Chinese markets in the last ten years as it capitalises on a tap market predicted to reach $699m globally by 2020.

“I think opportunities in the tool and cutter market are significant,” says Josef Maushart, CEO and President of Fraisa. “I expect a further growth of 2-3% a year and see especially high growth in solid round tools. To meet this demand, we are moving into a complete renewal of our tap production.

“We knew that providing taps was a unique selling proposition for us as most of our competitors only manufacture endmills and drills. However, with high labour costs in Switzerland we needed to incorporate automation into the manufacturing process and that took us to the edge of technology as far as cutting tool production is concerned, especially with a complex tool like a tap.”

The classic way to grind a tap is to first grind the flute and then on a separate machine, grind the thread. The ANCA TapXcell combines these operations on a single machine, creating an opportunity to automate the entire process. Fraisa also wanted the flexibility to change the product without people being involved in the fabrication for small and large lot orders.

Amelinda Ilardi, Engineering Project Manager at ANCA, facilitated the collaboration with Fraisa.

“To remain competitive in high cost labour markets like Switzerland, Fraisa wanted a machine that could grind multiple tap types unmanned for 50 hours,” says Ilardi. “There was no solution on the market, and Fraisa approached us to develop the technology they needed.

“To enable the machine to run unmanned, we needed an in-process measurement capability to ensure grinding stability. To do this we designed a new application where the thread pitch diameter is measured by a Renishaw MP250 touch probe. Measuring to ±0.002mm accuracy, this feature is crucial as it ensures every batch of taps are of consistently high quality.”

Not only can the machine run unmanned for 50 hours, it is fully connected to Fraisa’s factory ERP system for further efficiency and reliable production data gains. The machine can be remotely monitored using ANCA’s RedaX product and automatically sends notifications to keep remote staff aware of the machines progress and also any issues or faults that need to be addressed. RedaX can also be used to track the productivity and up-time of multiple ANCA machines.

“ANCA’s commitment to innovation is by being able to deliver custom solutions as an enhancement to our standard product,” adds Ilardi. “This requires agile response and capacity in our engineering to deliver what can be quite a complex set of customer requirements.”

Unique to the market, the TapXcell is a complete production package for tap manufacturers. The grinder itself includes a 37kW grinding spindle that enables grinding of even taps above M32, as well us dual wheel dressers and between-centre workholding. Industry leading iTap software makes setting up all machine operations easy, even for the more complex tool geometries. Grinding capability is complemented by the TXcell’s robot loader, which manages auto-changing of up to 24-wheel packs and tool changing. For Fraisa, ANCA introduced an extended-capacity turntable to the current TapXcell design to meet additional capacity requirements.

“ANCA has the capability and will to answer our specific requirements and collaborate with our teams to customise a solution fairly quickly,” says Maushart. “From previous projects I knew they had an experienced engineering team with the capabilities and capacity to take on complex challenges such as automating tap grinding.

“As a CEO I am often asked how a country with high labour costs like Switzerland can have such a thriving manufacturing sector. The answer is easy, Switzerland is one of the most innovative countries in the world. At Fraisa, innovation means we have a steady product renewal process and renew on average 800 of our 8,000 articles each year. This is the evolutionary aspect of our business, with daily improvements. But to really succeed, from time to time it is important to have a revolutionary innovation.

According to Maushart, the change from a manned three-shift operation for five days a week to an unmanned seven-days operation, Fraisa has cut costs by half. Productive hours have risen from an average of 105 per machine per week, to 150 hours, with serious efficiency benefits.

Fraisa does not see unmanned production as a negative for its employees, Maushart adds: “There are several advantages for our workers. We made the decision to retain their salary if they invested more time in upskilling themselves in other manufacturing processes. This benefits us as we have a more engaged and skilled workforce who can focus on more value-added work rather than just monitoring machines. It also offers them a better work-life balance by not having to work on weekends or shift work.”


Lightweight electricity solution emerges for deployed defence units

A micro gas turbine designed to provide electricity to defence units in the field has been demonstrated to leading industry players in Australia.

South Australian company ecoJet Engineering demonstrated its 20kW gas turbine in Canberra in late November. The prototype engine system is only about 10% of the weight of a comparable internal combustion diesel engine and can be configured to run on a range of liquid and gaseous fuels, including propane, natural gas and diesel.

ecoJet Engineering received funding at the beginning of this year from the South Australian government and the RAAF Air Warfare Centre Innovation Hub to progress its concept design for a 20kW micro gas turbine into a viable prototype unit. The demonstration unit is the first stage in developing the next generation in deployable power generators for the military.

The demonstration unit generator weighs just 48kg, excluding the control system and the fuel tank, compared to 433kg for a current military diesel generator. It is also about two-thirds the size of the diesel engine, measuring about 600mm long and 250mm wide

ecoJet Co-director Alexander Wright says the mobility of the unit, the versatility of the fuel source, and its potential for more efficient electricity production are among the advantages of the system compared with traditional diesel generators. Moreover, according to Wright, the demonstration unit already had flow rates comparable with current diesel generators.

“And that’s comparing a prototype unit with a commercially mature product,” says Wright. “We have a lot of scope for improving our efficiencies above that with things like heat recuperation, bearing advancements, the use of advanced materials such as ceramics and graphenes, and multi-stage turbo machinery, which is uncommon for turbines of this scale.

“It is quite efficient and it’s not restrictive of other technologies. It can work quite well in parallel with solar and battery storage, so it’s not a competitor to other products exclusively – it can complement other systems.”

The micro turbine works in basically the same way as a typical jet engine where a compressor draws in air and passes it into a combustion chamber where fuel is injected and ignited as it passes through a turbine, creating rotation.

“What we’ve got as part of our novel solution is an integrated shaft assembly where the shaft that connects the turbine and the rotor has an integrated generator attached to it,” says Wright. “The generator spins with the turbine to create electrical energy from the rotational energy extracted from those combusted gases.”

The origins of the formation of ecoJet Engineering began in 2015 with an Honours project at the University of Adelaide. The project – a collaboration involving Wright, James Kim and Warren Day – achieved one of the world’s smallest ultra-micro gas turbines. Through further studies at the University of South Australia, the collaboration won a Venture Capitalist grant in 2016, which helped launch the company. ecoJet Engineering also pitched its ultra-micro gas turbine design at this year’s Land Forces event in Adelaide where it was named best innovation.

Major players in the global micro gas turbine industry include Capstone Turbine Corporation (US) and Bladon Micro Turbines (UK), but Wright says their focus is  more on industrial applications in the 30kW and greater range. He says the ecoJet micro gas turbine also had potential as a domestic product to complement renewable technologies such as solar and help households become independent from the electricity grid.

“A military product is a commercial product with a bunch of extra stuff on top so we can easily tweak it to suit both markets because we are very much looking to break into both areas,” Wright says. “We’re planning a fairly rapid development timeline and as part of this demonstration we’re looking for further investment from defence and government grants.”

The Canberra demonstration included five sessions throughout the day with various stakeholders including senior representatives from all three Australian armed services, the Air Warfare Centre and the Defence Innovation Hub.

“It was a really good opportunity for us to understand from the defence side where they would use this particular application, what requirements they value more highly, such as size over weight or fuel efficiency over fuel versatility,” Wright says. “So it was really helpful in terms of the next stage of development. It was received well and we had some good conversations around some of the funding opportunities for the next stage of developing the technology and the specific capabilities.”


Henkel launches new materials and adhesive solutions for 3D printing

Henkel has released a range of next-generation materials designed to enable and optimise 3D printing and manufacturing processes according to required functionalities and designs.

The materials were launched at Formnext 2018, the leading trade show for additive manufacturing technologies, in Frankfurt in November. Henkel was appearing at Formnext for the first time ever, presenting a variety of differentiated new engineering resin platforms: General Purpose, Flexible, High Temperature, Durable High Impact, Ultra Clear and Silicone Elastomeric.

The company showcased its growing solution portfolio for end-to-end-processes. As an enabler for the resins, Henkel also introduced its new Loctite 3D Printer and equipment for functional prototyping applications at an entry-level. For small-run production and industrial manufacturing of final parts the company is collaborating with technology leaders such as HP and others.

Henkel also launched its first General Bonding Kit for 3D Printing applications. The kit consists of Loctite 3D Printing Universal Bonder and the Loctite 3D Printing Instant Bonder, as well as activators, primers and cleaning products. The kit aims to easily support customers in bonding prototyping parts for the most-known 3D printing technologies. Henkel also offers bonding solutions for the industrial series production of 3D-printed parts. The company also plans to set-up bonding trainings for industrial users via tutorials and webinars soon.

“Formnext is an ideal platform to strengthen our positioning as partner for end-to-end 3D printing processes – for prototyping as well as for applications in the production of final parts”, explained Philipp Loosen, Head of 3D Printing at Henkel.


RONDO rolls out increased business insight, productivity and savings

RONDO North America, founded in 1964, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Swiss-based RONDO Group, developers and manufacturers of high-quality machines and systems for the production of pastry, bread and all types of baked goods.

Thousands of customers – from small artisanal bakeries right through to large-scale industrial applications, rely on RONDO “dough-how”, the company’s unique combination of expert knowledge and experience in dough and technology. RONDO North America is responsible for sales and after sales support across the US and Canada. As RONDO North America grew, it became clear that its 18-year-old, UNIX-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system was struggling to cope with business demands.

Jerry Murphy, President of RONDO North America explains: “We had significant problems reconciling sales, managing inventory and creating accurate reports. The user experience was also very poor and employees were frustrated by the limitations of the systems. In many instances hours of additional work had to be done to get the information we needed – so it began impacting our productivity.”

After a competitive bid process, the organisation chose Pronto Xi.

“One of the key features of Pronto Xi for us, was the ability to organise and track every sale and each transaction using Pronto’s Project module. This enables optimal business planning,” says Murphy.

RONDO North America uses the Sales Order functionality to order and track parts. Some sales however, are more complex. They may have progress payments or, span a period of several months– from the initial order, to the machinery being built and then installed.

“We typically have more than 100 different types of projects – or sales processes – on the go in any month,” adds Murphy. “Pronto Xi’s Project module enables us to track each individual project, right from if we’ve ordered the equipment to receipt of payment and when we expect the shipments to arrive. This real-time information that Pronto Xi provides about the status of each individual sale or project enables us to confidently make better business decisions.

“It ensures RONDO North America maintains the outstanding service standards we are recognised for in this industry. The previous aging ERP system we had just did not offer any of this functionality. Pronto Xi is clearly a significant contributor to our business success.”

Layering reporting with powerful analytics

RONDO also makes use of CRM functionality to track customer interactions across their whole life cycle, from prospect to customer or accounts receivable stage.

“We conduct business for North America as a whole,” says Murphy. “Our administrator, who is located in Canada, must also be able to process an order for any customer and everything needs to be captured in the one system so that anyone in any office can complete the next steps. Pronto Xi allows us to do this seamlessly.”

Zeffriena Milton, Financial Controller at RONDO North America, adds: “We also use the service module to manage our preventive maintenance contracts, capturing the time spent at a location by our service agents and which parts were purchased through the Pronto Xi inventory module. This ensures we have complete records and bill accurately. We gained a time savings of up to 50% in inventory management through correct inventory reconciliation and in the year-end stocktaking processes with Pronto Xi.”

The greatest transformation for RONDO North America since moving to Pronto Xi has been the efficiencies introduced in business reporting and financial analysis.

“We need to provide specific reports to our Swiss head office and these reports are now easily created with Pronto’s reporting and business intelligence module,” explains Milton. “One of the key reports created is a trial balance, which then provides us with a balance sheet, profit and loss statement. Pronto has enabled an estimated 26% reduction in the time we spent reconciling end of financial quarter and end of year reporting.

“We’ve completely eliminated a lot of time-consuming manual tasks, such as foreign exchange revaluation which was especially tedious. This has enabled a 10% increase in the time I can invest in business analysis that provides incredibly valuable insight about how we can improve the profitability of our business.”

Blending in cloud perfection

Like many other sales and support teams, the business experiences staff turnover and Pronto’s intuitive design is a big advantage – making it possible to train new staff quickly.

“With our old system we did not have discipline,” says Murphy. “Staff could do things their own way, and so there was significant variety in the way transactions were processed. Pronto has enabled us to enforce a standardised approach which delivers substantial efficiency improvements. This discipline also ensures reporting accuracy which is really vital.”

To satisfy its uptime and service requirements, RONDO chose to move to Pronto Cloud Managed Services. Murphy said that the motivation for going to cloud hosting was the need for comprehensive disaster recovery, as well as unparalleled uptime.

“Given our geographic dispersed operations, having ‘anywhere-anytime’ access was critical. Now with Pronto Cloud even if we have a power outage onsite, our other office still has access,” he explains.

Milton adds: “Further, when we factored in the cost of hardware, and the cost of maintaining Pronto ourselves, it was apparent that cloud was the only way for us to go. For all the right reasons, the time was right for us to migrate to the cloud.”

In 2014, RONDO updated to a later version of Pronto Xi and the process was seamless.

“We were pleased to see that some of the customisations we had are now available ‘out-of-the box’, as additional functionality,” says Murphy. “This is great because it makes supporting us easier. Our relationship with Pronto is best described as collaborative. The team is knowledgeable and in the rare instances when we have encountered a persistent problem they have worked with us to resolve it – despite us being half a world away. I would suggest Pronto to any organisation looking to manage a growing business built on accurate reporting and insight.”


AMTIL to oversee Rail Haulage Supply Chain Export Hub

The Federal Government has appointed AMTIL to provide the Rail Haulage Supply Chain Export Hub, a new initiative aimed at helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) gain better access to international markets in the rail and haulage sectors.

The launch of the Export Hub was announced at an event on 13 March at the headquarters of Volgren in Dandenong, south-east Melbourne. The event was attended by Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews, Dr Jens Goennemann, Managing Director of the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC – a partner organisation in the Export Hub), and Paul Fowler, President of AMTIL. AMTIL will receive $1.5m from the Federal Government’s Small and Medium Enterprise Export Hubs Initiative to run the Export Hub.

Export hubs are business networks that help SMEs harness opportunities in international markets, particularly where the Federal Government has signed free-trade agreements – including China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia. Minister Andrews said the funding will boost the economy by helping more businesses to gain access to new and bigger markets, to increase sales, and create more Australian jobs.

“The funding for this Hub is integral to helping Australian businesses grow and will ultimately increase local and regional job opportunities in Victoria,” said Minister Andrews. “The Coalition is committed to supporting small and medium businesses through the Small and Medium Enterprise Export Hubs Initiative and other successful programs like the Entrepreneurs’ Programme and the Industry Growth Centres initiative.

“Export Hubs will be expected to develop export strategies based on local strengths, which in turn will align with the national strategies and networks of the Growth Centres. With 1.2m jobs created since the Coalition was first elected in 2013, these hubs will help our goal of creating 1.25m more jobs over the next five years.”

Dr Goennemann added: “This announcement today by Minister Karen Andrews shows that advanced manufacturing has a very strong export story. As an industry, we ship over $9bn per month in goods and services. The AMTIL Export Hub initiative is positive evidence that Australian manufacturing is on the move and there’s much more potential to grow.”

The Export Hubs operate in six key industry sectors of competitive strength and strategic priority identified under the Government’s Industry Growth Centres initiative. These sectors were identified as having strong prospects for creating future economic and jobs growth for our nation. For more information on the SME Export Hubs Initiative, visit: www.business.gov.au/SMEEH


The Australian Manufacturing Technology Institute Limited (AMTIL) is the peak national body that represents the interests of manufacturing technology suppliers and users within the precision engineering and advanced manufacturing sector. Since its establishment in 1999, AMTIL has engaged in a range of initiatives aimed at supporting and promoting the industry in Australia. These include: Austech, Australia’s premier advanced manufacturing and machine tool exhibition; the industry-leading publication AMT Magazine; and an array of other services for its members.

Contact: Greg Chalker, Corporate Services Manager
03 9800 3666; gchalker@amtil.com.au


Photo caption:
Paul Fowler, President of AMTIL; Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology; Peter Dale Chief Executive Officer of Volgren,
Dr Jens Goennemann, Managing Director of the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre.

26-year-old Aussie invents new-breed of e-motorcycles

Dennis Savic is the 26-year-old inventor and founder behind a new breed of electric motorcycle, developed under the brand Savic Motorcycles, which is promising to shake up the motorcycle industry.

The young Australian entrepreneur has been dreaming about designing a vehicle ever since he was six, when he made his first sketch of the new and very different engine configuration. At the age of 14, Dennis shifted his interest to motorcycles. Since then, he has been working on a new concept for an electric motorcycle, which features impressively instantaneous torque and rapid acceleration, all with a vastly reduced environmental impact. This will be the first electric motorcycle company in Australia, manufacturing internationally and assembling bikes locally in Melbourne.

Savic Motorcycles, a young start-up, is currently in the design phase and will build their production prototypes in 2019, followed by their first production run in 2020. The company has already received seed investment and is preparing for a Part Series A capital raise. The plan is to focus on sales and production first in Australia, then take the offering to international markets.

Driven by his passion to do to motorcycles what entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk and Mate Rimac have done for cars, Dennis had completed a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering and an MBA by the age of 25, while he was building motorcycles at night. He worked for three years in the oil & gas industry, and after some inspiration from Horacio Pagani, the founder of Pagani Automobili, Dennis decided to work in the automotive industry, while developing Savic Motorcycles in his spare time.

Meeting the challenge

The challenge was to develop Australia’s first range of electric motorcycles in order to address pollution issues that the world is facing and to capitalise on the exponential growth of electric vehicles at a global scale. Dennis aimed to develop a market-leading brand with unique and noticeable styling features, and electric motor technology that will set Savic Motorcycles apart from 95% of other motorcycles on the market.

To obtain access to the most sophisticated engineering software available to prototype and build his vision, Dennis applied for Altair’s Global Startup Program and was successful at gaining access to leading simulation design tools and computer aided engineering software used by the likes of Ford, Airbus and Samsung. Access to Altair’s technology has enabled the Savic Motorcycles team to reduce development times and lower costs through the entire product lifecycle from design to in-service operation.

“Altair has enabled us to get quickly trained in the platform within just a couple days,” says Dennis. “We’re using the software to develop CAE analysis, simulation, stress testing, topology optimisations and load testing.

“We want to offer our customers the most advanced technology in our products, because that is our point of differentiation. We will be the first Australian motorcycle manufacturer to feature a metal 3D-printed component. In 2019, we will progress several research projects with various universities to further develop our technological advantage. As an early-stage company, we’re agile and can quickly pivot and position ourselves and our products to ensure customer satisfaction and retention.”

In the realm of virtual product development and simulation, there are several technology tools that can be used to develop a market-ready product. Using Altair’s HyperWorks and Altair SmartWorks software, the team at Savic Motorcycles used Altair’s software to create a digital twin that is very close to reality, thanks to coupling the physical with the virtual world.

“Creating a digital twin means we can gain valuable insights and make powerful predictions about failure risk, functional safety, and durability,” Dennis explains. “The virtual prototype knows the ideal state of the product and therefore becomes a prediction tool for that product across its entire life cycle.”

Dennis and the team have created a unique design featuring a perfectly rolled backbone frame, and developed their own electric motor and energy storage system. Multiple capacities will be available for all their models to ensure a personalised solution for every rider.

Compared to the traditional internal combustion engine, the Savic Motorcycles technology drastically reduces operational costs. For example, a single charge of 9kWh would cost the rider only $3 and will take the rider 200km, as opposed to the equivalent internal combustion engine costing approximately $15. Being electric, the Savic Motorcycles powertrain delivers near instantaneous torque, with the bikes able to accelerate from zero to 100km per hour in four seconds (and even quicker if a customised gearing ratio is requested).

Ready for launch

The first product line that Savic Motorcycles will take to market is the C-Series, a Café Racer-inspired design, which was launched at Moto Expo in Melbourne in November. On show at the Expo was the C-40, the concept prototype for the vehicles they intend on taking through to production. Savic Motorcycles also took pre-production orders at the event.

Customers can choose from four models, including the C-FE (founder edition), the Alpha (60kW, from $20,000), the Delta (40kW, from $15,000), and the Omega (LAMS, 25kW, from $12,000). C-FE models are limited to ten orders, and will be delivered in 2019, while the Alpha, Delta, and Omega orders will be delivered in 2020.

Each model comes with several battery pack options. Larger pack size will provide a range of 170-200km, while the smallest will have a range of 50km. Customised styling will be key, with each vehicle coming in a range of options for brakes, suspensions, wheels and tires, and a choice of three colours – Spectre, Stealth, and Rustic. Aftermarket upgrades will also be offered.

Savic Motorcycles intends to take the product global by 2022, but the team is currently focusing on becoming the leader in electric motorcycles in Australia. The aim is to close their Series A round by the end of February, collect 50-100 production orders by the end 2019, and begin production in 2020.


Tools at the touch of a button

By focusing on the needs of customers machining specialist Walter seeks to set itself apart, including when it comes to providing digital product data. Walter supports its customers with high-quality product data, which is available from tool data management systems and online libraries such as MachiningCloud.

Konstantinos Bountolas, Product Data Solutions Manager at Walter, summarises the company’s data philosophy as follows: “Product data that is ready to use enables our users to find, choose and assemble tools more quickly when it comes to designing, planning, NC programming and purchasing, as well as on the shop floor.”

Walter’s strategy of focusing on its customers is also geared towards the customers’ procurement preferences.

“We leave it to our customers to choose where they would like to access the product data for our tools,” Bountolas explains. “Everyone has their own preferred channels for obtaining this data. All that matters is making sure that we provide our data exactly where our customers are looking for it.”

Walter mainly relies on the “channels” of MachiningCloud, the e-catalogue for TDM, and Tools United.

Walter on MachiningCloud

Customers around the world can access more than 40,000 Walter tool elements on MachiningCloud.

“MachiningCloud is perfect for us,” underlines Bountolas. “There, we present our tools in virtually the same way as in our catalogue. Thanks to Walter’s standardised product designations, the way in which the products are presented and the logos that customers are familiar with, users will find our products without fail on MachiningCloud.”

Walter e-catalogue for TDM

MachiningCloud and the Walter e-catalogue for TDM have similar functions, such as product specification lists (cutting diameter, projection length, length of cutting edge, the direction of rotation, and so on), 2D drawings, 3D models, photos and descriptions. However, the Walter e-catalogue for TDM goes into even greater detail. With an average of 20 parameters, it contains all the information that is required by a CAD/CAM system. The e-catalogue can also be linked to ERP software via TDM.

“It’s not good when customers have to manually re-measure missing properties, such as lengths and diameters and have to manually enter parameters,” says Bountolas. “Customers want product data at the touch of a button.”

Tools United

More than 900,000 tool components from 36 different manufacturers, including Walter, are stored on the Tools United tool platform. The platform provides NC programmers, buyers, tool managers, project managers and design engineers with product data based on their requirements in standardised formats and common export interfaces for tool management systems and CAM systems.

Optimising processes with apps

Optimally prepared digital product data, which the company provides to its customers across different platforms, is just one part of the digital product range. Walter offers a whole host of apps for various applications in the machining process. These include apps for wear optimisation, for ascertaining the ideal indexable inserts, for calculating starting values, and for configuring special tools.

  • Walter eLibrary – The Walter eLibrary app provides access to all printed catalogues and brochures in 17 languages. PDFs can be printed out as individual pages. The app is optimised for use on all devices.
  • Walter GPS – The Walter GPS machining navigation system is another way of finding the right tool without fail. It supplies tool and cutting data recommendations perfectly adapted to the machining task at hand, along with information on the machining strategy, cost-efficiency calculations and more. Bountolas is certain that “with Walter GPS, we definitely have one of the best applications for tool recommendations currently available on the market.”
  • Walter Machining Calculator – The Walter Machining Calculator supplies cutting data for milling, drilling and turning machining operations. For example, torque, drive power and machining volume, as well as the main operating time, main cutting force and chip thickness. In addition, a simple cost comparison of two tool solutions is possible with the integrated profitability calculator.
  • Wear Optimisation – Walter’s Wear Optimisation app helps increase the tool life by visualising forms of wear and illustrating the causes of wear.
  • Walter Insert Converter – The Insert Converter app specifies exactly which Walter indexable insert is compatible with the solution that is currently in use.
  • Feeds & Speeds – The Walter Feeds & Speeds app calculates starting values and the cutting speed and feed for turning, drilling, threading and milling.
  • Walter Xpress – Walter Xpress configures special tools using an interactive online form and is available for around 10,000 defined variants.

Bountolas summarises: “At Walter, we are convinced that high-quality data is the basis for optimising customers’ processes. With our digital solutions, we are paving the way towards Industry 4.0 for our customers.”


Collaborative robot saves time, money for innovative manufacturer in Tasmania

Huntingfield-based manufacturer Lightning Protection International (LPI) has been making lightning protection equipment in Tasmania since 2002.

The company makes a highly-customised range of direct-strike lightning protection products, along with grounding equipment and transient protection goods, for customers all over the world. Due to an increased demand for LPI’s know-how, both in Australia and overseas, the company engaged ABB Robotics to supply it with a YuMi Collaborative Robot – a dual-arm, industrial robot that offers high scalability for short and variable production runs.

In a few short months, the robot – supplied by ABB in Melbourne – has not only reduced costs and production lead times, but has also maximised quality within LPI’s production facility, in Hobart’s southern suburbs.

Customer demands

LPI’s customers are predominantly infrastructure-based, with many of these operating in the telecommunications and utilities sectors. Due to the changing nature of telecommunications industries around the world, the team at LPI has its work cut out for it to ensure customer installations remain up-to-date, and safe from power surges – often with short lead times.

“Recently in Australia we’ve been involved with upgrades to 4G networks for all carriers,” says Paul Hollingsworth, LPI’s CEO. “The National Broadband Network (NBN) network has benefitted from a lot of our expertise. Similarly in other countries, deployment of telecommunications and upgrades of telecommunications networks is one of our major customer segments. Others are utilities including power and water, as well as commercial construction.”

LPI’s products help these customers improve the reliability of their infrastructure. In the case of telecommunications clients, LPI ensures events such as lightning don’t cause damage or downtime to their installations.

“Across much of Australia we probably wouldn’t perceive that as a big issue, but in lots of our customer base in South-East Asia and other parts of the equatorial belt, lightning events are the sorts of things that happen perhaps realistically every second day throughout the year,” says Hollingsworth. “So if you have such high lightning incidents, damage or downtime becomes a very routine event.”

Flexible manufacturing

With LPI’s short and small production runs – and lots of variety from one product to the next – traditional robotic work cells were not ideally suited to the changing nature of the company’s manufacturing. It needed an equally-malleable robot. The team began by researching ‘flexible robotics’, and came across the concept of collaborative robots. It wasn’t long before they happened upon ABB’s YuMi.

“YuMi was probably the best fit for what we required as a company. I hadn’t been to trade shows or seen YuMi in action at this stage, but from what we saw on the web, we decided pretty early on that it was the best fit for our needs,” Hollingsworth explains. “The fact that YuMi has two co-ordinated arms working together – so let’s say, simulating a human being – was a very attractive feature.

“And with options for integrated video, as well as vacuum and servo-grippers, YuMi gives us a lot of flexibility – not only of what we can manufacture, but of how we can handle and manipulate different parts, and how we can identify them. Essentially, YuMi gave us an entire box of tools in one robot – and that has ended up giving us quite a lot of flexibility for different tasks, as well.”

LPI had previously used robotic work cells with traditional fencing. However according to Hollingsworth, this set-up reduced the flexibility of their robotics.

“The collaborative feature that has been helpful in this respect is the ability to work with human beings – with less interlocking, safety fencing, and so forth. YuMi as a collaborative robot has been an excellent fit in that respect.”

Support, service and useability

Hollingsworth and the team at LPI have been ‘very impressed’ with the service and support from ABB since installing the YuMi robot.

“Geographically, Australia is a large place, with lots of distance between us – as a customer – and ABB,” says Hollingsworth. “But regardless, I’ve found that when we have issues, we’ve been able to get those resolved fairly quickly, in our case through ABB in Melbourne. We’ve found their service and support very good.”

YuMi has enabled the team to move from testing and configuring one product to a completely different product in only half an hour.

“Of course that’s required a little bit of thought and planning in terms of how we interface to YuMi with test jigs and so forth, but we’ve been able to show that we can swap from one type of product to another quite quickly,” Hollingsworth adds. ““Changing from one task to another – for example, from testing to assembling a product – takes a little bit longer, but we’re still only talking a matter of hours, not days.”

In a matter of only months, using YuMi in test and inspection, and product assembly, the team at LPI has noticed a positive change in their production.

“In the first few months of using YuMi in real production, we’ve already increased productivity, while at the same time giving our people more interesting work and less repetitive tasks,” Hollingsworth concludes. “And that’s really only with the first product release that we’ve pushed through YuMi. We’re optimistic that productivity gains from fully deploying YuMi will lead to a payback of less than a year.”


The evolution of manufacturing is driving Industry 4.0

An increasingly competitive market will drive manufacturers to fully embrace digital transformation and pay attention to the trends leading the Fourth Industrial Revolution – Industry 4.0 – if they want to remain competitive. By Mike Russell.

The manufacturing industry is undergoing dramatic changes. Companies face growing demand to deliver quality products with minimum go-to-market time. A recent survey from Statista reveals that by 2020, the industrial manufacturing industry is forecast to invest more than US$175bn in Industry 4.0 endeavours. Therefore, the onus is on the businesses to embrace the required technological advancements in order to become more efficient and build a competitive advantage.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution encompasses a range of concepts, including the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, human-machine interaction through augmented reality and digital-to-physical transfers, and technologies such as 3D printing. The industrial IoT will further enable interconnectivity of technologies to create seamless manufacturing processes.

According to PWC, 86% of 2,000 manufacturers are expecting to see cost reductions and revenue gains from their digitisation efforts over the next five years. With investments in digitisation expected to reduce costs by 3.6%, manufacturing will evolve into smart factories with increased productivity and accelerated on-time delivery of products.

Game-changers in Industry 4.0

Big data is the emerging player in the manufacturing industry. The ability to collect, store and analyse data through cloud services and analytics solutions will enable businesses to successfully streamline information, subsequently increasing efficiency and accuracy, as well as providing better services and products. Retrieving actionable insights will become a growing source of economic value for businesses, no matter their size.

Additionally, using machine learning analysis to perform quick product enhancements and changes will become crucial to preserve high-priced assets and machinery. Leveraging the IoT to undertake predictive maintenance can accurately predict failure and reduce downtime for maintenance. With benefits such as decreased malfunctions, improved safety and increased efficiency, predictive maintenance will prove to be a game changer for manufacturers competing to stay relevant in the technology revolution.

Embracing the transformation

According to a Deloitte report, only 2% of Australian business leaders are highly confident that they are ready for the changes associated with Industry 4.0, in comparison to 14% of their global counterparts. On the other hand, 71% of Australian executives (compared with 40%percent globally) say they have people in place with the right skills to maximise their potential – the highest percentage of any country surveyed.

Within the manufacturing industry, skill proficiency in the likes of computer-aided design (CAD) and building information modelling (BIM) is critical in ensuring a business is responding to the changing demands of the industry by allowing complex products to be designed and manufactured faster than ever before. In the current digitised world, customer experience needs to be revisited as consumers are constantly connected to the industry.

Solutions like CAD and BIM are becoming a strategic imperative to increase customisation capabilities and improve production of bespoke goods at small volumes. By embracing next-generation manufacturing, businesses can leverage from the efficiencies of new processes to allow for mass customisation of unique products. Customers are now looking for companies with high-quality products and quick turnaround time; consequently, the manufacturers who prioritise production lifecycle with customisation will stay ahead.

Transforming your workforce

Industry 4.0 will change how manufacturing works and as a result; it will also change who is needed to work within the industry. Traditional skills like machining and tooling will remain valuable, but manufacturers will require employees with proficiency in fields like augmented reality, big data and robotics to get the most out of the new technology. To keep up with digitisation, current employees will need to prepare for more value-added responsibilities, as businesses must invest in up-skilling their facilities to be able to leverage the new technology and adapt to its implications.

Moreover, giving direct access to the information that the employees need the most will make them feel more connected and empowered. Training through collaboration platforms and tools will make it easy for employees to access data remotely and will also enable organisations to attract potential global talent in the future.

As Industry 4.0 emerges as the key digitalisation trend and continues to make a major paradigm shift in the manufacturing industry, it also offers opportunities for companies to optimise the production cycle and be efficient. For manufacturers, keeping up with the pace of digital transformation is critical for success. Industry 4.0 will continue to create changes, whether it’s through the use of machine learning analysis or big data extraction, and manufacturers must make sure that both their processes and workforce are evolving to meet these growing demands.

Mike Russell is the Chief Operating Officer at Central Innovation.