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Optimization of Production by Combined Metrology

SchmitterGroup GmbH manufactures innovative components for the latest generation engines and chassis. Based in Thüngen in southern Germany, the company’s high-quality products and rapid execution of new projects make it a trusted name for customers. The combinable measuring technology of ZEISS plays a key role in this, which has enabled, among other things, a time saving of two to three months in the process run-up.

Maximum Quality and Efficiency in Fully Automated Production

The shortest path from A to B is, famously, a straight line. But detours are sometimes necessary. This is not only the case with hiking and trekking but also in technology, too, the straight path is not always the one that brings us to our destination. A good example of this is fuel lines. They carry gasoline or diesel from the injection pump to the injection nozzles at the cylinders. Since the way is cramped and there are many obstacles, these lines take on complex geometries. SchmitterGroup GmbH is a specialist in fuel distribution systems based, Each day, roughly 12,000 fuel lines come off the manufacturer’s highly automated production line. “One out of every ten cars contains parts made by us,” says Patrick Riedmann, production facility manager at SchmitterGroup GmbH.

60 Percent Faster Process Approval

Before the lines are ready to be delivered to automobile manufacturers, they must first go through a number of production steps at Schmitter. The tubes are compressed, curved, soldered and more in an automated process. When the process is finished, the line must show no deviations greater than 0.5 mm from one end to the other. Since the deviations from multiple curves add up, each individual curve must be within one-tenth of a millimeter of the target. This challenge is being met by Steffen Sauer. A trained industrial mechanic and Coordinator for Measuring Technology and Testing Devices, Sauer has been with Schmitter since 2018. One of his first assignments with the company was to introduce the ZEISS T-SCAN handheld laser scanner.

Although quality was already very high, SchmitterGroup is, among other things, IATF 16949 certified in accordance with the automotive industry’s quality management system, demands on quality have risen in recent years, and time pressure has increased enormously. In particular, process approval for new projects needs to be performed faster in order for the company to stay competitive. “In particular, we’ve managed to reduce the time it takes to approve processes for new projects by roughly 60%,” explains Patrick Riedmann, production facility manager at SchmitterGroup GmbH, who headed up the implementation of the ZEISS T-SCAN into the company’s existing quality assurance solutions in the form of the ZEISS ACCURA coordinate measuring machine and the ZEISS CALYPSO and ZEISS PiWeb software solutions.

In the past, measurements were performed during the validation phase using a measuring arm or a 3D coordinate measuring machine. Creating the inspection program alone could take up to three days. “All in all, the ZEISS T-SCAN saves us two to three months in the process run-up,” says Sauer.

Reliable Measurements in Production Area

In the past, enormous amounts of time were spent troubleshooting defects in the tool area. If a defect was found after welding or soldering, for example, the tool in question needed to be removed from its workstation in production and sent to the manufacturer. An inspection such as this would normally take six to eight weeks, during which time the component could not be produced.

Thanks to the measuring technology from ZEISS, these measurements can now be performed on the fly in production and subsequently analyzed, thus reducing the time it takes to identify and analyze the causes of defects by 70% to 80%.

“I can transport the T-SCAN into production, set it up and perform high-quality measurements in under 10 minutes – with a measuring volume of 20 cubic meters, there’s nothing we can’t measure with the mobile laser scanner,” says Steffen Sauer with enthusiasm, referring to the company’s tools, which can reach lengths of up to 1.5 meters and are correspondingly heavy.

Efficiency in Quality Management

In addition to the ZEISS T-SCAN all-in-one laser scanner, which Schmitter uses for process approval and troubleshooting, Steffen Sauer’s quality team also uses the ZEISS ACCURA coordinate measuring machine to perform spot measurements to continuously monitor all production steps.

To perform uniform analysis of the data generated by both measuring solutions, the team uses high-performance universal measurement software in the form of ZEISS CALYPSO.

To manage its quality data, the company relies on the scalable reporting and statistics program ZEISS PiWeb, “which makes the data easy to view and understand, allowing us to reduce the time it takes to monitor processes by 20% to 30%.”

For measurement technology coordinator Steffen Sauer, one thing is certain: “Each component works hand in hand with the others—for me, it doesn’t get any easier than that.”

Getting Into Alternative Drive Technology

Recently, production facility manager Patrick Riedmann has been increasingly confronted with the question of what Schmitter will do if everyone starts driving electric cars. The mechanical engineer and business administration specialist sees no cause for panic. On the one hand, says Riedmann, fuel lines will continue to be in demand for the next 20 years because of their use in hybrid vehicles. On the other hand, Schmitter is already actively involved in the mobility revolution. The company has recently begun building cooling lines for electronics in electric cars and is also investing in ways to curve lines made of aluminum – until now, the Thüngen-based manufacturer has dealt exclusively with tubes made of steel.

Schmitter is also already making distribution systems and rails for hydrogen vehicles produced by a German automotive manufacturer. Riedmann sees demand and growth opportunities in other industries as well—distribution lines are used in cogeneration units with fuel cells, and cooling and hydraulic lines are also in demand. “We can apply our expertise anywhere media need to flow through tubes,” says Riedmann. “And with measuring technology from ZEISS, we are going to stand out in terms of quality and efficiency.”

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