Safe design worldwide with PTC Windchill
Company: TOX® PRESSOTECHNIK GmbH
Topics: Design & Development, Product data management (PDM/PLM), 3D rendering
Industry: mechanical engineering
It is no longer a rarity that even medium-sized companies are globally positioned. However, the distribution of product development around the world is less common. Tox Pressotechnik has created a development environment based on PTC Windchill that enables designers around the world to access CAD data. INNEO Solutions was the central partner in setting up the PLM network.
Tox Pressotechnik was founded in 1978 and employs more than 1,000 people, about 600 of them abroad. In 1985 the company expanded into the USA and over 20 years ago an important site was also established in China. The company's core technology is Clinching, a joining technology for sheet metal, which is now used millions of times in automotive engineering and other areas. The clinching tool consists of a simple round punch and a die; when two sheets are pressed into the die with the punch, the material flows downwards and outwards in the die and an undercut is formed which connects the two sheets inseparably. The process is extremely gentle on the material and coatings on the sheets are not damaged. Clinching - often also called clinching or "toxing" - is used in body construction, for example, as the sole joining method or for fixing adhesive bonds. The importance of this process can be appreciated when one knows that screws, rivets and other joining parts of a car body weigh 70 to 90 kilograms - and this in times when cars are being optimised very strongly for low weight. Clinching is also used in the production of "white goods", such as washing machines, where it offers the advantage that the galvanisation of the sheets is not damaged, thus preventing rust buildup.
Not screws, not rivets, but clinching
Today, a whole range of other joining techniques have been added to the original process, so that Tox Pressotechnik can offer a wide range of solutions for the most diverse requirements. Another major product is the Tox power pack, a pneumohydraulic drive that combines the high speed of pneumatically operated cylinders with the high power of hydraulic drives. In the meantime, electromechanical servo drives and the associated process monitoring and control systems have been added to this product.
The Swabian engineers combine the above-mentioned standard products to create complete solutions from manual workstations to interlinked production; another product is robot-guided clinching pliers, for example for body construction. In many cases, one of the standard solutions covers the requirements, otherwise of course special solutions are developed.
Engineering is not only located at the Weingarten headquarters, but also the locations in the USA, China, Korea, Japan, India and Brazil have their own design capacities. The core know-how is concentrated in Weingarten and is taken over at the international locations, especially for the adaptation of machines to local requirements or for special machines. "Our customers inquire from all over the world, so we too must be globally positioned," says Martin Knörle, authorised signatory. The IT philosophy at Tox Pressotechnik means that all locations work completely decentralised, but use a common range of tools. This means that all branches work with the same software and the same machines. In the CAD and PLM area, Tox Pressotechnik decided back in 2001 to use Creo (then still Pro/Engineer) and Windchill.
From the very beginning, the ERP system - SAP has been used at Tox Pressotechnik and has been connected via the Innoface interface to ensure a seamless flow of information and data.
The master windchill server currently serves three replication servers in the USA, India and China, and a fourth in Brazil is planned to be added in the near future. The servers in the branch offices do not have the complete Weingartener database, but obtain the models that are needed and for which access authorization exists. "The more the IT systems merge with each other, the more important it becomes to secure the systems," explains Knörle. "For example, we keep the know-how-rich models here in Weingarten, the branches contain envelope models, for example of the drive technology, which they can install in their assemblies. But our customers also have justified security interests, for example when we receive models from them to adapt our systems to them. It must be ensured that they do not fall into the wrong hands, which is why this external data is generally excluded from replication".
India in one week
Tox Pressotechnik had already worked with INNEO before the Creo/Windchill introduction and had had good experiences with INNEO when purchasing a highly available server and storage solution. "For us, PTC equals INNEO," says Jochen Baur, who is responsible for the CAD and PLM installation at Tox Pressotechnik. "We have been working with INNEO from the very beginning, which has the advantage that even then the Windchill database was built with an eye to the future. INNEO has a lot of experience in this area and has designed the structures of the database in such a way that we were able to implement the expansion to the sites in Windchill without any far-reaching changes". The integration of the site in India into The PDM network required only two weeks of preparation and a one-week trip to India. Tox Pressotechnik is already gaining experience with the new CAD system from PTC, and NC programming has been running with Creo CAM since 2012, "This changeover was a big step," recalls Baur. "We not only had to get the software up and running but also change the entire philosophy of how the process from CAD model to CNC machine works.
In the past, NC programs were created by the workers themselves at the machine, but now an integrated solution has been created in which the NC programs are created directly on the basis of the CAD data. The NC programmers - mainly the same people who used to program at the machine - can load the corresponding data from Windchill directly into Creo CAM. Baur recalls: "We looked at various CAM systems, but in the end Creo CAM offered us the best integration and the feature set we needed here".
The advantages of tight integration are obvious: "We have a huge time advantage when making changes," continues Baur, "then it is not necessary to do the entire programming from scratch, only the underlying model is replaced and Creo CAM recalculates the changed area. In addition, the machines now work longer because they are not occupied by programming. And interestingly, the designers get more feedback from the NC programming since both are working in one system". "Our contact person at INNEO knows our processes exactly," says Knörle, "and can show us specifically where we still have potential for optimisation in the PLM process chain. INNEO's status is changing more and more from software support to a consultant who brings in his own ideas".
A good example is the installation of Luxion KeyShot, which designers use to create photorealistic product images for marketing, documentation and other purposes. In the past, a photographer was booked for this, which took longer and was more expensive than rendering. Animations are also generated in KeyShot, for example to illustrate a new technology. Tox Pressotechnik has developed a sales app that enables the sales representatives to present the solutions to their customers - KeyShot-rendered images are also used here".
INNEO is responsible for the update trainings in the CAD area, in the PDM area the change from Windchill versions is hardly noticeable for the users, the main changeover effort is done in the background. People are satisfied with INNEO: "We are partners on an equal footing", concludes Martin Knörle, "this would not be the case if we were working directly with the system manufacturers. With INNEO, we can talk from medium-sized company to medium-sized company and have a good reputation. Together with INNEO, we have created an integrated environment that extends from design to the worldwide locations and all the way to production. We experience the advantages of this solution every day".