A power plant somewhere in Europe, in operation for many years or even decades. A component, such as a burner bend, is damaged and needs to be replaced as soon as possible. A spare part is needed immediately, since downtime causes high costs. Schmehmann Rohrverformungstechnik GmbH has the solution.
The field of power plant engineering is one of the core concerns of Schmehmann Rohrverformungstechnik GmbH in Bad Marienberg, Germany. There are numerous power plants built with parts for which there are no longer any drawings or CAD data. If damage occurs and such a component has to be replaced, speed and dimensional accuracy are the be-all and end-all.
The business receives preliminary information from the power plant operator or service provider with the first key data and is thus able to prepare the raw material and the machine. The customer removes the defective part and brings it to Schmehmann where it is measured within seconds in their TubeInspect. The geometry data for the bending programme is determined using the BendingStudio software and a complete component data sheet is created.
The spare part is then immediately manufactured, measured once again with the TubeInspect and compared to the nominal data. Since the whole process takes only about two hours, the truck driver can wait and drive from the yard back to the power plant with the new spare part as soon as it is ready. This fast turnaround is vital because downtime in power plant operation is expensive and is kept to a minimum if operations can be quickly resumed.
Communicating Machines - Industry 4.0 in Practice
The process at the factory in Bad Marienberg presents a fine example of how measuring technology can be directly integrated into the production process and how machines can be networked for greater efficiency. The company belongs to the Menk-Schmehmann Group, which operates seven plants across four countries. The group of companies manufactures, for example, cooling radiators, large-scale boilers and welded constructions, and offers all the possibilities of tube forming and welding technology from a single source.
The plant has around 60 employees and specialises in pipe bends, flat coils and power plant technology. The components have a diameter of between 6 and 219 millimetres, and the batch sizes vary between 1 and 5000 pieces. Since the plant does its own toolmaking, it can react flexibly to individual customer requirements. Customers come from a variety of industries, such as power generation, shipbuilding, mechanical engineering, petrochemicals, boiler production, chemical apparatus construction, heating and cooling technology and the food and leisure industries.
With this ground-breaking technology, we now have access to orders that we would not have been able to handle in the past.
Communication between man, machine and product – the connected factory – is a core idea of Industry 4.0. At Schmehmann, the TubeInspect is directly integrated into production processes and networked with its tube bending machines from various manufacturers. The BendingStudio software platform controls the measurements and passes bending and correction data directly to the bending machines.
BendingStudio also links work preparation and production workstations all the way through to quality assurance. All data is stored on a central server and can be edited from different workstations. When they receive an order for the production of a new component, the work preparation in BendingStudio creates the new component and generates the data that is needed for the bending programme on the basis of mostly analogue drawings. Thanks to the server solution, once the bending programme has been approved, the production staff can access it directly and start production, enabling a smooth and hassle-free process.
“Insert part, press button, done”
TubeInspect has been used at Bad Marienberg since the end of 2014. The optical tube and wire measuring system has three main tasks in production: measurement of prototype parts for spare part production (reverse engineering); testing of serial components (100 percent testing); and the set-up and correction of bending machines.
The system was specially developed for the efficient quality control of bent tubes and wires. Using high-resolution digital cameras, the measurement object can be captured within seconds. Benjamin Schmidt, Head of Process Planning at Schmehmann, summarises the measurement process with “Insert part, press button, done”. Thanks to its speed and compatibility with the bending machines, TubeInspect saves a lot of time in everyday working life.
Before purchasing TubeInspect, the components were manually measured using templates. “The introduction of TubeInspect was a big step for us,” says Schmidt. “We suddenly had a lot of new information about our process steps, which we had to evaluate and process. The production department had to understand and accept the new procedures.”
By introducing the new measuring system, it became possible to implement special customer requirements. Today, the company receives orders for the production of tube-bending components with a maximum permissible geometrical deviation of 0.2 millimetres that should be 100 percent tested. Each component is then given a QR code, through which the customer receives access to all measurement data and can view the production data at any time.
Since having introduced TubeInspect, it has also become possible to measure freeform components or bend-in-bend geometries. The automatic transmission of correction values to the bending machines, as well as reverse engineering, are also valuable innovations the investment in TubeInspect has enabled. And the detailed documentation the system makes possible for the customer gives both sides extra security. Meanwhile, the work processes are almost completely designed for the optical 3D measurement process.
“It can no longer be done without TubeInspect!”
Rüdiger Siefert, head of the pipe bending and power plant technology division, is happy about having opted for TubeInspect. “Things can no longer be done without it. With this ground-breaking technology, we now have access to orders that we would not have been able to handle in the past.”