By offering 5-axis grinding machines and customizable application software that can perform multiple operations, Haas Schleifmaschinen GmbH is making quite a name for itself in several industries, including gear manufacturing.

When a gear or a geared shaft is being produced, it’s often moved through several machines before the finished product is ready. But Haas Schleifmaschinen GmbH has the capability of offering gear manufacturing that takes the multiple machines out of the process.

“We’re about combining operations,” said David Drechsler, business development manager for Haas Multigrind® LLC in the U.S. “For example, shoulders, diameters, threads, worms, and much more complex parts typically would move through a shop on several machines — four, five, six machines. And, of course, every time a part moves, it’s an opportunity to introduce error. What we are about in the gear market is combining multiple operations — multiple complex high precision features — into one clamping.”

Not only will one machine aid in reducing potential manufacturing errors, but it can also significantly reduce a shop’s overall footprint, according to Drechsler.

“When you combine that floor space, you combine the operations, and you improve the overall precision of the workpiece by grinding all those features off of one set of locating features (datum features),” he said.

Using a multi-purpose machine will aid in reducing potential manufacturing errors while significantly reducing a shop’s overall footprint. (Courtesy: Haas Schleifmaschinen)

5-axis CNC grinding centers

Haas Schleifmaschinen offers in the Multigrind® series several models of 5-axis CNC grinding centers that can grind parts from three millimeters up to three meters. All of the company’s machines have an option for an automatic wheel changer and onboard wheel dressing. Those technologies are what enable Haas’ customers to combine operations, according to Drechsler.

Another advantage that Haas offers is its custom application software that allows for customer-specific jobs, according to Haas Multigrind® LLC General Manager Harry Schorner.

“Our machines are built to base models, but then the last 20 percent are application specific,” he said. “We do customer-specific designs, and we have the capability to provide a solution very, very quickly because of the combined effort of machine design as well as the application software, which then allows us to program to the machine in a particular environment, which is very cost effective and easy to do for the customers.”

With increased automation being the trend in the gear-manufacturing industry, Drechsler stressed that Haas is riding the crest of that innovation wave.

“We’re going in parallel with several of the trends in the industry,” he said. “Of course, everyone’s trying to collapse throughput time, so by combining operations, that’s a big hit for us there. Quality, of course, is paramount. We check that box. There’s also a trend to replace rough milling, grinding from solid, which we do there as well. So, we’re hitting on all cylinders as far as a lot of those trends in the marketplace.”

With Multigrind® Styx software, users can create a 3D representation of a part like this hob. (Courtesy: Haas Schleifmaschinen)

Turnkey solutions

Haas also offers what Schorner refers to as turnkey solutions that allow a customer to add secondary operations to the machine.

“With robotic automation, we can also include additional secondary operations such as cleaning, marking, deburring as well as measuring the part and then feeding the measurement results of data back to the machine where the machine automatically makes the adjustments for the next part,” he said. “We offer different forms of automation and integrate all this within one complete system.”

Of course, the machines are only as functional as the software allows, and Schorner said Haas’ software is something he is extremely proud of.

“Multigrind® Horizon is the name of our application software, and we spent a lot of time and effort on it as well as money,” he said. “Multigrind® Horizon today is very universal to use, and it is operator friendly within the industries we serve, such as aerospace, cutting tools, gears and the medical industry. We are, for example, the leading machine tool supplier for producing medical implants such as knee implants or medical surgical instruments.”

The Multigrind® CB XL. (Courtesy: Haas Schleifmaschinen)

3D simulations

Schorner said Haas Schleifmaschinen recently had a breakthrough with their software’s ability to create 3D simulations, where it uses NC or ISO codes to generate a 3D model of a part, which simulates the exact features and geometries of the actual physical part that would come off the machine.

“With this simulation, called Multigrind® Styx, the programmer or engineer is now capable of verifying that the tooling, the grinding technology parameters, and other geometry data he inputs into the software will actually create the part he desires,” he said. “The other thing is, within our application software, the customer has the ability not only to simulate or illustrate the part itself, but the entire machine can verify collision detection and take a big portion out of the trial and error approach throughout its setup.”

This software ability to create 3D simulations can save time, which ultimately saves the customer money, according to Schorner.

“When a machine is not running, it’s just sitting while waiting for it to be set up; this all costs money,” he said. “With the things we are offering to the customer, there is a significant reduction in setup time. We also have the ability in our application software to utilize these features not just to determine the grinding parameters, but also to design the tooling.”

If the operator or the customer is not familiar with the grinding technology, he can input his 3D model or even create a 2D profile of the part he wants to produce, according to Schorner. Haas can take that data and calculate the profile of the grinding wheel needed.

Taking it to the customer

“One-stop grinding” is definitely the direction much of gear manufacturing is headed, but it still can be a challenge to convince potential customers of that, according to Drechsler.

“A lot of people believe, correctly, that if it sounds too good to be true, sometimes it is, so we do look for opportunities, niches,” he said. “We’re not competing head-to-head against the established, dedicated gear-grinding machine builders. They make very fine machines that are used to mass produce gears. Likewise, with an OD grinder, we don’t compete directly with OD grinders, although our machines can do that operation. It’s the same way with thread grinders, even cam grinders. What we’re looking for is niche applications where it makes technical and commercial sense to combine those operations.”

Haas Schleifmaschinen is a third-generation, family-owned company. (Courtesy: Haas Schleifmaschinen)

Moving into gears

Since Haas Schleifmaschinen opened its doors in the southwest of Germany in 1934, it has always produced multi-axis high precision grinding machines. In the beginning, those machines served the automotive and watch-manufacturing industries, but Haas has been making more and more inroads into the gear industry, according to Drechsler. Haas Multgrind® LLC is Haas Schleifmaschinen’s daughter company in the U.S.

“With regard to gears, it’s a relatively new market for us,” he said. “When people think about gear-grinding machines, Haas probably doesn’t rise to the top of the list, but we’re having this conversation and other conversations in an effort to improve that.”

Part of that conversation is creating a larger U.S. presence, according to Schorner. That includes relocating to Charlotte, North Carolina.

“We are already securing a bigger facility where we’ll have the possibility to better serve our customers with more resources, including more service technicians to provide repair and maintenance,” he said.

Those resources will allow for better response times, as well as application engineering side with training seminars and programming support for both new and existing customers, according to Schorner. This will also include an upgraded showroom.

“We will have machines available in a showroom where customers can come and look at them,” he said. “We will have prototyping capabilities for customers throughout the sales process so that we can either grind sample parts or even work hand-in-hand with the customer who wants to develop new products and needs support in the R&D area to produce prototypes or even in what’s called the DFM, design-for-manufacturing approach. Those are the things we want to offer to the customers as well.”

This growth would one day expand to a U.S. facility that mirrors Haas Schleifmaschinen’s capabilities in Germany, according to Schorner.

“The ultimate plan for us — maybe in the next two or three years — is to build our own facility in the Charlotte area,” he said. “A facility close to 50,000 square feet that can literally duplicate the same capability as we have currently in Germany where we can build complete machines from the beginning to the end, as well as having design capability and customer service.”

Family owned

Schorner pointed out that with Haas being a fairly common German name, the company sometimes gets associated with Haas Automation; however, the two companies are not related.

“The only thing we have in common is the name,” he said. “It is a very common name in the southern region of Germany.”

But Haas is making a name for itself in its own right. And with all of its innovation, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Haas Schleifmaschinen is, ultimately, a third-generation, family-owned company, according to Schorner. That familial bond often carries through to the relationships Haas forges with its customers.

“We are the first ones raising our hands to say, ‘Yeah, we will work this; we will help,’” he said. “We have a strong R&D and software development department, and this is what we’re focusing on.”

And that boils down to offering more to its customers than just an off-the-shelf product, according to Schorner.

“Many times, machine tool builders offer a standard product and a standard approach on how to produce the product,” he said. “We actually like the challenges. We like to take new challenges and develop new technologies, working with customers when they have ideas. We take those ideas, and we turn them into reality.”