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The giants move in: Schüco presents its largest global machine park yet

The Schüco AF 510 CNC machine weighs over 10 tonnes and has a length of 11 metres. In this interview Andreas Darlath, Head of the Schüco Fabrication business unit, explains just how a giant of this size was moved into the Welcome Forum. He also lets us know why no fabricator should miss out on a chance to visit the Fabrication Showroom.

Mr Darlath, moving the machines into the new Fabrication Showroom was clearly not a simple matter of opening the door, moving the machines in and closing the door again. How did you do it?

Well, it was a lot of work! Shortly before the start of the year, Schüco reached a milestone for the Welcome Forum when we constructed the building shell. Then it was time to move some 30 large and small machines – such as punches, saws, CNC processing centres, and assembly machines – into the 2000 m2 showroom.

What was the biggest challenge?

We came up with a detailed logistics plan for moving the machines in and around. We were able to bring in 90% of the machines in January as planned. We're very proud of that. The final challenge was coordinating different trades on the building site – construction on the inside and outside of the Welcome Center was still continuing. Our delivery schedule was very strict. The machines come from different locations, some from old customer workshops and from a special hall in Herford. Our suppliers also delivered new models.

This doesn't sound particularly unusual so far...

The loading gate is a tight space. We had to use a 100 tonne truck-mounted crane and a heavy-duty forklift for transporting the machines. With their help, we were able to bring all the machines into the hall. Unfortunately the weather did not always smile on us. We had to move one of the largest processing centres, the AS 100, while being pelted by sleet! The truck-mounted crane was still able to put the machine down safely, though. Next it was time for the air cushion pads.

Andreas Darlath, Head of Business Unit Schüco Fabrication, Bielefeld
The hall is ready to welcome around 30 machines.

Air cushion pads and heavy machinery – how does that work?

The Service team came up with the fantastic idea of using the pads. We wanted to make sure that the new green flooring of the hall remained untarnished. If we had used tank steel rollers to transport the machines, they would have left imprints on the floor. So we had to find another solution.

And what was it?

The air cushion pads work in principle like a hovercraft or hovercar. Four pads made of extruded aluminium, each 500 x 500 m in size, were simply pushed underneath the machines. A compressor then builds up an air current and the machine is elevated. The machine can then be moved easily, like a shopping trolley! We still had to watch out with one of our machines, though – it was so wide that we only had two centimetres of space between the pillars on each side.

So you simply parked the machines in the hall?

The Service team had already planned the order in which the machines would be moved in. Sometimes we had to park machines somewhere temporarily. Up to ten colleagues were involved with the moving: directing, pushing, measuring the positioning...

What was your focus when deciding where to place the machines?

We wanted to lead our guests through the processes of metal fabrication, showcasing different production lines depending on the size of operation. A large fabricator that works on commercial projects has different requirements to a medium-size metal fabrication partner, for example.

And do the machines then run automatically?

Installation continues to involve a lot of manual work. To assist in this area, we have various small aids at hand which can be controlled via computer. We want everyone to be welcome here. The different areas also give us the opportunity to introduce customers to new and efficient product developments. We're always asking the question: What would be the next helpful step for the fabricator?

The 100 tonne truck-mounted crane was an indispensable aid.
The somewhat tight space in front of the gate was mastered by the Schüco team with a careful eye and a lot of skill.

DiSo the consultation is tailored to each individual fabricator?

Our specialists offer all-round support for the workshop. We advise, create a workshop layout plan, invite the customer to visit us, and discuss the planning process and proposed layout with them. Our colleagues take into consideration the special requirements for partner companies, such as space and the flow of materials.

Which machines excite you the most and why?

It's hard to say – each machine has something special about it. The new combination of the AF 510 CNC processing machine and RX Load 500 loading robots is definitely a highlight. The automated production cell signifies a new age of technology and offers new approaches to industrial fabrication. It will certainly be helpful to Schüco partners with regard to demographic change in our society.

Another innovative aid is Schüco GP 100. The new gasket cutting machine is computer-aided and allows centre gaskets to be fabricated very efficiently.

What awaits guests once everything is finished?

Nowhere else in the world can Schüco partners see so many metal fabrication machines in one place as in the new Fabrication Showroom in the Welcome Forum in Bielefeld. We've found a good mix of machines and the space is three times larger than our old customer workshop. The AS 100 continuous feed machining centre alone requires an area of around 160 m2. Previously, we could only show this system at a customer site or we had to present it on a screen.

Why should I, as a Schüco partner, be sure to visit the Fabrication Showroom?

The showroom showcases the entire range and value chain of the Schüco world, from planning and calculation through to prefabrication and assembly. The Welcome Forum enables you to experience all of Schüco up close and personal: systems, fabrication, digital services and other services. This is a unique concept and does not exist anywhere else in the world. From my point of view, all Schüco partners should visit the Welcome Forum once a year to get to know our new developments. We heartily invite you to become regular visitors!

The aluminium air cushion pads enabled even the large machines to be easily positioned in the Fabrication Showroom.

New robots show what they can do

A new product at Schüco is the RX Load 500 system with robot loading, which will shortly be introduced on the market. This represents an innovative development for Schüco. For around three years, we have been collaborating with Kuka, one of the largest robot manufacturers in the world. RX Load 500 is a new approach to industrial fabrication. In conjunction with a 5-axis processing centre, it allows for autonomous processing which can operate without the need for people.

The robots take profiles from the magazine, insert them into the machine and then move the processed profiles on for the next step.

Schüco is currently working on the question of whether robots can build a window, with the aim of going in a different direction to competitors in the area of automation. Ultimately, Schüco is not focusing on simply one specific window type. Schüco works on system technology in general and offers solutions with tailored sizes and requirements.