Plant tour: Behind the scenes at Bosch Rexroth


motors, machine, controllers

Advantageous worldwide presence complements Bosch Rexroth's product offerings. "Global support is lacking in some competitors," says Manfred Grundke, chairman of the executive board.

Ulm, Germany —Plant tours, business prospects, and R&D spending were highlights of Bosch Rexroth 's recent 2nd Global Technology Summit, which catered to some 80 technical editors and analysts from around the world, including seven from North America. Topics included industrial and mobile hydraulics, electric drives and controls, pneumatics, linear motion systems, and semiconductor manufacturing. Speakers advised: Seek complete systems, robust controls, and energy efficiency; use standards; strive for innovations; and invest in R&D. Plant tours demonstrated the concepts.

Optimizing work flow and manufacturing space has been a focus of a recent€18-million modernization program at Bosch Rexroth's mobile hydraulics plant for manufacturing axial pumps in Elchingen (close to Ulm). Due to various "heavy manufacturing" processes involved, such as casting in its own foundry and heat treatment of parts, the plant is only partially automated. Transition to a "pull system" (or kanban) for the flow of parts is now being implemented. A SAP system has overall control of plant activities.

A large number of assembly robots are part of a highly automated Robert Bosch Waiblingen facility near Stuttgart, which produces a variety of multiple-part, precision injection-molded assemblies for automotive controls. The plant specializes in plastic molding methods and associated assembly and testing techniques. Thirty, 18-ton (metric) injection molding presses are said to run three-shifts per day.

An example of products made at that plant is a high-pin-count main connector for automobile control computers. Precise, simultaneous bending of many fine contact pins arranged in multiple layers is a complex step in the production. A linear bending machine handles that task. Bending 120 pins without external support is the current capability-going to 250-pin capability later.

MES, software

"Controls for mobile hydraulics need to be especially rugged and reliable. A mobile energy source is needed-mainly the diesel engine," says Bruno Hartmann, vice president of international sales for Bosch Rexroth.

"Desk-top factory" technology at Waiblingen demonstrated automated techniques to optimize manufacturing spaces and production costs for automotive control products. Space reduction of 30% is not unusual. Intelligent desk-top factory design also promises to cut time to develop, install, and make production line changes. The prototype version currently handles assembly and testing processes, but may be extended to machining and other functions in the future.

Systematic development of innovations , need for delivering complete systems, and importance of applying global standards were themes from Manfred Grundke, chairman of the executive board of Bosch Rexroth AG, at the Global Technology Summit. Grundke was upbeat about business prospects, hinting at growth figures for 2006 orders that will be officially announced later in March 2007. He also mentioned that 80% of Bosch Rexroth revenues come from customers representing medium- and small-sized companies.

R&D , raising component and system energy-efficiency, improving product power density, and lowering noise/particle emissions via electrohydraulic diagnostic condition monitoring are among technology trends receiving full attention at Bosch Rexroth, says Reiner Leipold-Büttner, member of the executive board responsible for engineering and manufacturing. He referred to the company as a "partner throughout the complete lifecycle of customer projects." Moreover, the company makes substantial R&D investments, which in 2005 amounted to €193 million (4.2% ofrevenue), he said.

Electrohydraulic flow matching (EFM) enables faster pump/control valve response time, more robust flow control, and energy-efficiency, according to Bruno Hartmann, vice president of sales International Mobile Hydraulics. It's one of the market drivers for the off-road sector of hydraulics, which he clearly differentiated the off-road sector of hydraulics from industrial hydraulics typically associated with factory automation. Mobile hydraulics must work in remote outdoor environments, often under dirty and otherwise rugged conditions, for example, in large ore dump trucks working in Siberia.

Electric drives and controls were the focus of Bosch Rexroth's 1st Global Technology Summit held in Jan. 2005: " Bosch Rexroth: Electrohydraulic motion update ."

Also read 4 tips for motion control .

—Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Frank J. Bartos , P.E., Consulting editor

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