The well-known trade fairs show a wide range of machining centers from Europe and increasingly also from Asia. How does the Licon offer differ from this?
Our typical customer is looking for a production system that offers him maximum economic benefits. Usually, these are complex and highly accurate work pieces that need to be machined. In the first approach, customers often tend to want to use the previously successful “standard concept”: single-spindle, 4-axis, multiple clamping positions, multiple clamping with a correspondingly higher number of clamping nests, manual loading, coolant machining. Cost drivers such as machine investment, hall space, energy, personnel and not to forget costs for quality assurance and cutting tools prompt the customer on closer inspection to discuss alternative production concepts with us. Ultimately, then decides our “technological package” that convinces our customers.
“The choice of the best solution, in our opinion, rather results from the ‘tailor-made composition of the overall solution’.”
In addition to single-spindle solutions, there are other competitors who offer twin-spindle solutions. Why then Licon?
The times when the principle was in the machine design in particular in Germany, “Much helps much” is long gone. German machining center builders have modern development tools that combine competing criteria such as “stability and longevity”. At the same time, they offer “high dynamic rigidity and competitive manufacturing costs”. Thus, we still see differences in the basic performance of the machines among European machining center manufacturers. These should not make the big difference anymore. In our opinion, the choice of the best solution results rather from the “tailor-made composition of the overall solution”. In the struggle for the most economical variant of the machinery to be selected, we believe that more and more individual criteria must be taken into account.
Licon dealt early with minimum quantity lubrication (MQL) as an alternative to coolant. How are your experiences in the meantime?
15 years ago, we worked intensively on this topic within our projects with car manufacturers. Currently we realize about 50 percent of our projects with MQL. In addition to forged steel, aluminum and gray cast iron, our machining centers also machine work pieces made of magnesium and stainless steel successfully with MQL and sometimes even completely dry without the addition of oil. Basically we are open for both ways, coolant and MQL. The often cited advantage for coolant, the better thermal consistency in the process, is in our view only partially correct. Just think of situations where large temperature fluctuations over the production day affect the machine and the workpiece. Even tempered coolant can not compensate for these fluctuations. With MQL in combination with our automatic, algorithmic compensation, we achieve significantly better results with regard to the dimensional stability of the work pieces to be machined.
What kind of role does digitization play?
The questions and findings are manifold. By way of example, the interactions between the inserted work spindle, selected cutting edge geometries and cutting parameters of the cutting tools used and clamping concepts for machining work pieces may be mentioned. In order to achieve optimal processing results, operators still often use the “trial & error” principle. Our development efforts in this area are showing initial successes. This has enabled us to significantly reduce cycle times while reducing the costs of tool consumption. In individual cases, this can make the difference whether profits or losses are produced. Of course, we also use the standard techniques such as remote diagnostics for questions on machine diagnostics and preventive maintenance.
“On our machining centers, work pieces are machined with individual weights of more than 50 kg, with the highest accuracy requirements and required torques for cutting up to 500 Nm.”
How does the much discussed change in the automotive industry affect Licon and thus the further strategic strategy of the company?
First and foremost, the discussion is about the future of the internal combustion engine. Traditionally, our cutting solutions have historically been used fairly little for mechanical machining of work pieces for the internal combustion engine. Our focus was and are in the areas of suspension, steering and structural components. In these areas, we see a continuing high number of new projects, including electric cars. Large, high-precision housings made of cast steel also form a focal point. In addition, our intensive innovation work of recent years has brought us new interesting customers outside the automotive industry. We are recording continuous increases in this area.