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PI Substantially Increases Hexapod Production Capacities

Based on a comprehensive analysis of the production processes for hexapods, Physik Instrumente (PI) has adapted its production capacities to the sharp increase in demand and is prepared to expand them even further if required. The focus of the restructuring was the optimization and relocation of the entire ‘Hexapods’ production area to newly designed premises, as well as the expansion of the workforce. The measures are an integral part of the company-wide investment program with a volume of more than sixty-three million euros. The aim is to capitalize on PI’s above-average growth opportunities in the markets Industrial Automation, Semiconductor and Photonics, as well as Microscopy and Life Sciences.

Hexapod automates metrology processes in DYMACO Dimensional Measuring Machine (Image Dymaco)

“The demand for hexapods has been increasing significantly for a number of years,” says Markus Spanner, CEO of PI, describing the market situation. “Expanding capacity in this product division at the Karlsruhe site was therefore a logical step as part of our investment program based on which we are preparing all PI product divisions for a further increase in demand.”

The factory layout for the new hexapod production was developed by PI experts, with the support of specialists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA. It takes the latest findings in the fields of ergonomics, digitalization, and automation, as well as lean approaches into account. “We have analyzed all process steps and optimized and reorganized assembly in the form of matrix production,” explains Dr. Axel Widenhorn, Director Operations for the PI development and production sites in Karlsruhe, Eschbach, and Rosenheim (Germany). “In addition to an overall increase in production capacities, our goal was to significantly reduce lead times. This has been fully achieved. We have already reduced lead times to less than half of what they were at the beginning of the year and will be down to a few weeks for standard products by the end of the year. Additionally, we now have the potential of increasing the output by more than 100 %, which will allow us to respond flexibly to further increases in demand,” adds Dr. Widenhorn.

Hexapods are compact, parallel kinematic motion systems with six degrees of freedom that are being used in an increasing number of applications: whether in production lines, for example as a component of pick-and-place machines, for aligning glass fibers in assembly and connection technology for silicon photonics, or as a subsystem in large systems such as space telescopes.

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