Production line - Drilling / Plasma bevel cutting



The Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group climbs to the highest and most remote corners of the earth, transporting skiers, vacationers or daily commuters. For 17 years, the market leaders in cable car construction and MicroStep have maintained a close partnership. In the hunt for steady improvements, their reliable production line has been recently completely renewed. Thus, Doppelmayr increased its flexibility in cutting, its precision and the production speed. 


A turquoise shimmering sea, glittering sandy beaches, palm-covered islands - the sight that Vietnam vacationers have been enjoying for a few months on a ride on the longest cable way in the world is peerless. 7,899.9 meters connect the two holiday islands Phú Quốc and Hòn Thơm in the south of the country and, at the highest point, the cable car takes visitors to 164 meters. This is just one example of Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group's projects. The company's history is characterized by innovations, records and superlatives. Adjectives such as "longest", "greatest", "highest" and more adorn the headlines of richly illustrated articles in newspapers and magazines. Cable ways open up remote corners of the globe at lofty heights and connect people with cities and nature through innovative transport solutions. In 95 countries on six continents, several thousand cable car installations are in use every day. It is no coincidence that the company has been the market and technology leader for more than half a century. "Foresight, trend recognition, innovation. These are the strengths that Doppelmayr's customers can rely on. We have been working together well with many of them for decades. This enables us to set milestones again and again," says Walter Eberle, explaining the strengths of the group. He works as a deputy production manager in production planning at Doppelmayr's headquarters in Austrian Wolfurt on Bodensee Lake.  

Exciting projects can only be implemented with modern technologies

There are always new and exciting projects on Eberle's desk. The market demands ever shorter delivery times for increasingly individualized solutions. "As a market and technology leader, it is of course our goal to always maintain the highest technological level. To achieve this, it is necessary to keep relying on new technologies in production," says Mr. Eberle.

The Doppelmayr/Garaventa group has experienced another such success in the recent past. During the last two years, their entire cutting department has been fundamentally modernized. The global group  relied on MicroStep's solutions – as has been the case for more than 15 years now. At the turn of the millennium, Doppelmayr was looking for a suitable job cutting provider but was unable to find one that could make the up to 5,000 parts they needed daily. "So, we had to search for a supplier of cutting equipment and, fortunately, ended up at MicroStep," Mr. Eberle looks back. The decision was easy to make: Doppelmayr wanted a single supplier for software, controls, drilling and cutting machines. MicroStep was the only company to offer such complete solution. And so, the 60-meter-long production line did almost two decades of good work – until came the time to modernize it. The main requirement was to increase the precision of bevel cutting so that no problems would occur during subsequent automated robot welding. In addition, the new purchases should provide more flexibility, productivity and efficiency. "Our cutting process needs to be very accurate because we then weld about two thirds of the components with robots. That's why we need a tolerance of maximum ±0.5 mm here. This is a very, very high requirement for this thermal process," emphasizes Walter Eberle.

Leading technology, good experience and service proximity all speak for MicroStep

With that in mind, the decision-making group of Mr. Eberle and other production managers searched extensively on the market, visited trade fairs and took a close look at technology demonstrations. In the end, the decision fell again on the world's market leader in automated plasma cutting. "There were several criteria that were crucial. We have had good experience together for fifteen years, the service proximity of MicroStep in Bad Wörishofen was also an advantage and in terms of bevel cutting quality, MicroStep has a unique selling point when it comes to complying with the required tolerances."



In mid-2016, the production line was gradually renewed. Implemented were: a drilling unit with a gantry and automatic tool changer ❶ and two cutting machines with a total of four gantries. Three cutting gantries ❷ + ❸ are each equipped with a plasma rotator, a 2D plasma cutting head and two oxyfuel cutting heads. The fourth cutting gantry has four cutting heads for parallel oxyfuel cutting ❺. "It worked the way it was supposed to from day one," says Mr. Eberle. The three identical cutting gantries bring more flexibility. Doppelmayr has cut about 13,000 tons of sheet metal every year in the recent past. According to Mr. Eberles's estimate, 18,000 tonnes in a three-shift operation are now possible. "We will cut more in the future. When we build more products, we need the capacity in order to cover the ever increasing number of production peaks. This is the first step in production and we must not fall behind. So we still have a good reserve for the future," says Mr. Eberle. 



Special solution saves manipulation time and increases precision

Each of the two cutting machines was also equipped with a CCD camera ❹. This determines the exact position of holes already drilled into the plate, on which the nested cutting plan is then automatically aligned. As a result, the material can be precisely cut in exactly the correct relation to the already drilled holes. "Because all of these technologies are available to us on one production line, we save on a lot of time-consuming material handling that is without added value," explains Mr. Eberle.

The entire production line has been completed by commissioning of the last machine in December 2017. Ever since, it has been running in a multi-shift operation from day one. It was a worthwhile step for Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group. Walter Eberle is convinced of this – after more than 15 years of  cooperation. "It distinguishes the company, shows that it seeks progress and does not rest on the deserved success and continues to look for what can be improved."

For the company Doppelmayr MicroStep installed a powerful drilling machine of the DRM series ❶ and two plasma and oxyfuel cutting machines of the MG series with two gantries ❷ + ❸ each. The two MG machines are each equipped with a CCD camera ❹ for maximum precision when cutting pre-drilled parts.

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