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Schuler has revealed that its Loadmaster technology is relied on by Voith Turbo for the production of railcar transmissions.

Three machining centres from different manufacturers at the company’s facility in Mergelstetten/Heidenheim, Germany, have been equipped with Schuler Automation’s Loadmaster.

The storage and loading system for machine tools has enabled shorter set-up times, faster part flow and more flexible production.

With a total of 45 machine tools, the Voith Turbo plant produces axle drives for railcars and helical gears for high-speed trains.

Wolfgang Huetter, production manager at Voith Turbo, said: ‘We produce around 40 different parts in several variants.

‘Each of them has to be delivered “just in time” to the assembly line.

‘Obviously, the equipping and setting up of these machines can be very time-consuming.

‘Our aim is therefore to make our production processes increasingly flexible and generally to produce more,’ he added.

Schuler Automation’s Loadmaster has been in use at the facility since the beginning of 2010.

Three machining centres are equipped with the device and automated.

For the production of helical gears, for example, a Loadmaster is used with 12 machine pellets on which different wheel blanks can be stored.

Different options can be set for each pallet, such as the processing sequence.

The work queue in the system can be displayed at any time and the processing sequence manually altered.

‘The wheel enters the machine as a blank and leaves it as a finished part – after milling, drilling and deburring,’ said Huetter.

The benefits of the Loadmaster are apparent, according to the company: the line is unmanned and offers short lead times, day and night.

The spindle running time is considerably higher.

At the same time, set-up time is kept to a minimum as the Loadmaster can seamlessly drive production during the set-up and clamping processes.

Daniel Kost, head of machine tool automation at Schuler in Gemmingen, Germany, said: ‘We clearly defined the interfaces between the machining centres and the Loadmaster in advance.

‘This meant there were no difficulties during the launch phase.

‘The Loadmaster is a freely configurable system offering numerous variation possibilities and can be used to link different machine tools,’ he added.

The subsequent training needs for Voith Turbo were also limited.

One reason is the machine’s control system: the visualisation for the operator interface and various customisation possibilities in the software ensure intuitive and fast operation, according to Schuler.

Voith Turbo is already planning to retrofit a further machining centre and there are plans to buy a new line, which will also be equipped with the Loadmaster.

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