For more than 40 years, the facility in Hochdorf has been producing quality bath furnishings, which have been marketed under the talsee brand since 2011. Here, around 80 employees are engaged in the manufacture of customer-specific furnishings, with each product one of a kind. These furnishings are produced using modern CNC machines. In order to attain reliably excellent quality in each custom fabrication, the production processes are laid out for single-item batches and tightly scheduled.
One of the materials that talsee uses for its bath furnishings is Corian®. This mineral-organic compound material can be used to produce durable, smooth, homogeneous surfaces. Since it can be milled, cut, and joined seamlessly, it is sought-after in the area of sanitary furnishings. However, working with it is not easy, since its extreme hardness demands great cutting forces. Problems were arising during production of custom countertops and small parts made of Corian®. The clamping technology used previously required workpieces to be reground using a CNC machine after miter cutting. Vibrations were leading to undesirable chatter marks that had to be removed at considerable expense of time. Those responsible were searching for an alternative that would eliminate the need for this extra step.
Important results from testing phase
Having already put clamping equipment from Schmalz to use in other applications with good results, talsee didn’t have to look far in order to find a competent partner for clamping technology. Guido Bertschy, systems consultant in the field staff at Schmalz Switzerland, took on the challenge. “Once I had been on location and seen the application, I recommended aluminum vacuum blocks,” he said. Schmalz offered a two-week testing phase for fine-tuning purposes. During this time, the partners in the project collected useful information and worked out the details of the customized suction cups. For example, the dimensions of the clamps were adjusted to match the workpieces, and a particular type of friction pad was selected to prevent damaging the workpiece surface. “This testing phase was very enlightening for us and favorably influenced our decision,” recalled Pirmin Meier, chief of machinery at talsee.
The vacuum blocks in question were developed by Schmalz’s experts in Glatten, Germany, and consist of a solid-aluminum main body. A special sealing gasket provides a steady, high level of vacuum. Friction pads of sandpaper or rubber bring an enormous boost to the lateral forces that can be withstood. The combination of sealing gaskets and friction pads permits reliable clamping, even of workpieces with surface structure.
Components produced in a single operation cycle
Use of the aluminum vacuum blocks brings a whole slew of benefits for talsee. “Of primary concern for us is the time savings. Now we’re producing bath components entirely using the CNC machine. No further finishing work is necessary,” said Pirmin Meier. “This allowed us to shorten cycle times and optimize our manufacturing.” “Besides process reliability, the safety of employees is also an important consideration,” added Patrick Huwiler, a machinist and a trained joiner at talsee. Not only are the workpieces fixed using just the right suction force, but now the operators are at no risk from parts tearing loose.”
The aluminum vacuum blocks bring benefits in another area as well: Talsee also uses the CNC machines to produce very small parts out of Corian® that are costly to process. “Here we achieved time savings of 30 percent because we were able to increase the feed rate and feed depth. At the end of the day, that’s worth it,” Pirmin Meier said, pleased. The service by Schmalz employees did the rest to convince the Swiss furniture specialists. They’re thrilled with the complete solution of consultation, engineering, and reliability. Says Pirmin Meier in summary, “From the very first contact to the completed solution, Schmalz did an exemplary job of overseeing this project.”