Partnership on equal footing: Droop+Rein FOGS NEO and HD (Heavy Duty): Double premiere enables a premium job shop to enter new markets

How does a premium job shop conquer new industries? The recipe of CONCAD GmbH from Walldürn is impressive: The successful prototype and tool manufacturer from Odenwald introduced new production and control technology, built an air-conditioned production hall and hired new employees. The courageous innovation process was achieved thanks to the partnership with the Bielefeld-based Starrag team, which guided and continues to support long-standing regular customers from new machine development to commissioning to individual programming.

The magazine GEO regards Walldürn as being one of the most beautiful places along the “Deutsche Fachwerkstrasse” (German Half-Timbered House Road): This destination attracts tourists and pilgrims year after year with its medieval city center, open-air museum, early Roman excavations and the imposing pilgrimage basilica of St. George. 
A new attraction for manufacturing experts is located a few miles outside the industrial area on the edge of the forest: A large, grey cube with a gigantic air-conditioning system on the roof, inside of which CONCAD has been blazing new paths in high-precision machining with a Starrag machine duo since the beginning of 2020.

CONCAD has been blazing new, air-conditioned paths in high-precision machining with a Starrag machine duo since the beginning of 2020.

The Baden Württemberg-based company, which already owns a Droop+Rein FOGS M30 high-speed machining center and a Droop+Rein TF portal machining center, has been looking for a machine that can rough very large workpieces with a high machining capacity and also finishes them highly dynamically to meet the utmost demands for surface quality, precision and dimensional accuracy. That’s why managing director Klaus Schwab went on a benchmark tour of the European machine tool industry in 2016 with a harmless-looking test part in which the Baden-Württemberg workers had incorporated a number of common features. Schwab is constantly amazed by the fact that the “old lady” at the factory, the Droop+Rein-FOG machining center, which is almost two decades old, was able to mill the surfaces just as well as the modern standard machines. The high-gantry machine was also in the benchmark midfield in terms of machining times. This is why it is still in use.

CONCAD is not only pleased with the new dynamics: The FOGS HD is about 20 to 30% faster and more economical than a portal machine.

Thanks to the swivel fork head, even complex contours can be machined quickly and precisely.

“We actually needed two types of machines – a portal machine with a movable table for very large components and a dynamic gantry machine that can be set up during operation for night, slim manned shifts, among other things,” explains the managing director. “An automotive company would simply use two types of machines, but we cannot afford that.” Since Bielefeld has always been “ready to listen” in the past 20 years, Schwab once again drove to the Starrag plant. There, the experts for large-scale machines suggested combining the two machine types Droop+Rein FOGS and TF into a completely new machine concept. This led to the creation of the Droop+Rein FOGS HD, a powerful, precision-cutting high-gantry machine (X-axis: 591 in. (15,000 mm); Y-axis: 197 in. (5,000 mm); Z-axis: 79 in. (2,000 mm)) with extremely high torque (1,770 ft-lb to 5,532 ft-lb (2,400 to 7,500 Nm)) and fast, dynamic axes. CONCAD is not only pleased with the new dynamics: The FOGS HD is about 20 to 30% faster and more economical than a portal machine. In addition to the possibility of unmanned production, the option of parallel set-up in the machine at peak times is also a plus for the newcomer. CONCAD already uses them intensively, as an on-site visit showed: The job shop used the entire length of 49 ft (15 m) to simultaneously process an aluminum housing, a workpiece from the marine area and a deep drawing tool. This is made possible by the safety zones with a partition wall.

The new, fully air-conditioned cube is premiering a new machine besides the FOGS HD – one which is significantly smaller (X-axis: 315 in. (8,000 mm); Y-axis: 197 in. (5,000 mm); Z-axis: 59 in. (1,500 mm)): It is the high-speed Droop+Rein FOGS NEO 50 80 N40 C machining center with a milling capacity in S6 operation of up to 80 hp (60 kW) (1,328 ft-lb (1,800 Nm)), a new milling unit and a modified C-axis (± 400°), which can be used for the efficient production of very precise machine parts thanks to its incredible flexibility. The term “all-in-one” fits both machines, with the basic idea according to Schwab being “the purchase of a machine for heavy machining and milling of the standard geometry and a lighter second machine for finishing the surfaces”. However, both five-axis machines are suitable not only for fine finishing but also for rough machining due to their extremely highly rigid drives and machine components and thanks to their largely identical equipment and the same control system (Sinumerik 840D sl). At a speed of 131 ft/min (40 m/min), the FOGS NEO operates more dynamically in the linear axes than the FOGS HD, but it does not have the high cutting volume of the FOGS HD.

Mirror-smooth: Despite high measuring technology, using skilled fingers is still the best way to check the quality of ground and polished surfaces.

CONCAD places high demands on the basic accuracy and robustness of the volumetrically dimensioned and calibrated machines, which can perform precise finishing to 15 to 20 µm, thereby implementing the production know-how of CONCAD with extreme accuracy. CONCAD also owes these values to its high investments in machine bases that are several meters deep and the elaborately air-conditioned new building. “When it came to calibration, we realized after a year that it was the right decision”, explains the managing director with pleasure. “The calibration specialists measured twice because they could not believe that the measured values in this small µm range had remained constant for a year.” However, CONCAD also owes these excellent results to the Siemens 840D sl control system and the Volumetric Compensation System (VCS) that automatically compensates for geometry errors in the new machine duo. For example, one important task is pressing tools for the automotive industry, which Schwab says is constantly “in search of the µm” when it comes to surface quality and dimensional accuracy. Equally important to the job shop from Odenwald is entering into new industries and new materials with the machine duo.

Partnership on equal footing: When problems arise, CONCAD’s managing director, Klaus Schwab, often resolves them with the help of Starrag experts such as Dennis Hamm (Application Engineering).

The company received more than just two completely new machines with a completely new control system and programmes operated by a new team. “There’s a lot going on for us”, claims the managing director, adding, “Someone from Starrag was always there. And the commissioning was just the beginning – it’s only now really starting to pick up speed.”

Thanks to the investment in new technology, CONCAD is now very diversified, enabling the company to serve a wide range of industries with comparably high requirements, such as prototype and tool construction.
The company dares not reveal too much, but it can report that is it now also working for manufacturers of electronics, optics, offshore technology and aircraft components. Recently, CONCAD was even awarded a contract from a research institute for a space project. This context makes it clear that the key word is “multifunctional”: The Droop+Rein duo in the fully air-conditioned cube is intended to handle challenging orders from very diverse industries as quickly as possible, cost-effectively and with high precision and process reliability. This is another area where Starrag specialists such as Dietmar Wallenstein (Head of the E-Design and Commissioning departments) and Dennis Hamm (Application Engineering) come into play.

“The calibration specialists measured twice because they could not believe that the measured values in this small µm range had remained constant for a year.” Klaus Schwab, Managing director CONCAD

One of the few exceptions to the understandable secrecy rule in this sector is a pool cover of around nine meters by four meters in size, which CONCAD was asked to mill for a South Korean customer. The starting material consisted of multiple stainless-steel castings welded together in the shape of a figure eight. “Another call was made to Dennis Hamm to collaboratively come up with clever ideas, such as during programming, in order 
to receive at a special solution of this magnitude”, says Schwab. Yet for Starrag, this is not a one-way street. “I once heard from Mr. Schwab that CONCAD is working on problems of tomorrow that others don’t even know about,” explains Dennis Hamm. “This will also help us to learn and later on we will use the things we are investing in now for future projects.”

At the end of many success stories, we are left with the question of what effect the Starrag claim “Engineering precisely what you value” brings: Where did CONCAD come up with exactly what the company especially values 
with this duo – such as in terms of precision, speed of work and performance? While Schwab agrees with all of this, the relationship with the machine supplier is even more important to him: “What I appreciate about Starrag is Dietmar Wallenstein and his squad, who are always up-to-date and have visions and ideas that we talk about as partners and equals”.  With such a partnership, it is no wonder that half of the eight total CNC milling machines come from Starrag. 


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