The automotive industry faces constant pressure to come up with pioneering innovations. In the premium sector in particular, interior textures are an important decision criterion for today's sophisticated clientele. Innovations from tradition for solutions of tomorrow – this is the philosophy of Oechsler. The company is one of the leading processors of plastics in Germany and specialised in the manufacturing of demanding technical parts and assemblies. For one particular innovative solution, the company has found a competent partner in toolcraft. Together we are working on the production of ceramic components for the gear lever display and the parking and menu buttons of a new premium car model.
The Automatica, the leading trade fair for industrial automation and mechatronics, welcomed its visitors on the 21th June 2016 in Munich. Toolcraft exhibited as well and presented the cooperation agreement with Oechsler regarding the processing of ceramics.
The task involves grinding and polishing a fired ceramic ingot, on to which the symbols are back-moulded with illuminable plastic. The surface has to meet extremely high demands. A very special processing technique is required for the combination of glass-hard ceramic and relatively soft plastic. The engineering team at toolcraft developed a process that enables the components to be ground and polished without damaging them. A long-term strategic alliance with the software company unicam proved invaluable in this case. Working in collaboration, the team decided to use Octopuz robotic software to simulate and programme the grinding work. This is suitable for highly complex applications and yet is easy to use.
When faced with the customer's requirements in terms of form and surface, such as sharp edges on highly polished surfaces, Oechsler realised the limits of the conventional manufacturing process. They needed to come up with an alternative. There was also the time pressure of guaranteeing a supply of saleable parts to the customer in time for SOP (Start of Production). In toolcraft, Oechsler found a partner that was keen to experiment and able to get things done. Toolcraft was unable to draw on any previous experience in processing the ceramic ingots. This type of robotic processing is completely new territory. Even the processing tools had to be developed and built, as there was nothing suitable on the market. In order to achieve optimum results, 6-axle industrial Stäubli robots were used. Any exertion of pressure on the highly sensitive components - hard as glass but still fragile - represents a major challenge. Developing and testing the processing tools also took time. Throughout the process, Oechsler provided its partner with financial and personnel support. A tight schedule made the project more exciting as well.
The project was pushed forwards and completed in record time. Thanks to their motivated and dedicated team, Oechsler and toolcraft achieved a unique milestone in the field of ceramic processing. Under great pressure the Engineering-Team proved its competency once more. With ambition and the courage to innovate, we succeeded in cooperation with Oechsler in finding a solution for the challenges of tomorrow.