Company specializing in filing room equipment and saw production unlocks new potential by automating a manual reworking process
Kohlbacher’s fully automatic HAMMERHEAD 3000 straightening center is now equipped with Bosch Rexroth’s ctrlX AUTOMATION solution. (Image: Bosch Rexroth AG)
Kohlbacher GmbH, a market leader in filing room equipment and saw production, has revolutionized an essential process for its fully automatic HAMMERHEAD 3000 straightening center: a task traditionally performed by a saw doctor is now carried out with the help of artificial intelligence. Bosch Rexroth’s ctrlX AUTOMATION platform provides the basis for the AI solution. End customers now benefit, for example, from greater precision and efficiency and reduced use of resources.
Kohlbacher GmbH’s HAMMERHEAD 3000 machine automatically tensions and straightens band saw blades which become deformed during use in sawmills. However, even new saw blades must be adapted to the particular saw. Despite the fact that the process is automated, the error rate is usually inherently around 10% – 15%. As such, manual reworking by so-called saw doctors previously needed to be carried out.
However, saw doctors are a dying breed. Siegfried Kohlbacher, Managing Director of Kohlbacher GmbH, explained: “These experts are very scarce and people are no longer entering the profession. The manual reworking of saw blades is also a very time-consuming process and costs a great deal of money. However, sawmills still require a specialist who is able to repair saw blades. An employee who has not been given specific training is unable to do this. We were therefore on the lookout for a technical solution which would carry out this task.”
Use of AI app significantly reduces straightening times
Kohlbacher therefore opted to use Bosch Rexroth’s open automation platform known as ctrlX AUTOMATION. It involves the use of the components ctrlX MOTION (motion, robotics and CNC software), ctrlX DRIVE (compact drive system) and ctrlX CORE (ultra-compact control system) as well as an AI app.
Kohlbacher uses the ctrlX AUTOMATION toolkit. “The heart of the system is the ctrlX CORE control platform. The drive-integrated control system saves space in the control cabinet. Together with the drive system, it is one of the most compact solutions of its type available on the market. The open ctrlX AUTOMATION architecture gives Kohlbacher direct access to all data in the control system. This is possible thanks to the ctrlX Data Layer, the central data backbone for all process and machine data, which also makes it easier to integrate AI functions which can be written in Python for example,” explained Volker Schlotz, Head of Business Development Business Unit Automation & Electrification Solutions Bosch Rexroth.
Bosch Rexroth and Kohlbacher developed the AI solution together. The automation platform serves as the technological basis for the AI app. The AI “learns” during the process and thus minimizes leveling times and the resulting downtimes in sawmills. The AI app which can be combined with the HAMMERHEAD 3000 quickly proved successful. Siegfried Kohlbacher explained: “During the first learning phase, the straightening time could be significantly reduced. The longer the learning phases last, the better the AI can positively influence the straightening time by manipulating or putting pressure on the saw blade in a certain way.”
Innovative development for a stalling market segment
Kohlbacher has therefore managed to set new standards in a market which was at risk in the past of stalling due to a lack of innovative developments. Siegfried Kohlbacher explained: “Our AI solution is changing the market. For the first time ever, the experience of a saw doctor can be transferred to a machine and the machine can then continue learning independently. Not only can saw blades be reused but there are also no more waiting times.”
There is already increasing global demand for the machine with these features. Kohlbacher is currently checking what other machine types could be combined with ctrlX AUTOMATION and suitable apps.
“Not every machine needs artificial intelligence but the openness, connectivity and functionalities of Bosch Rexroth’s automation platform provide us, as mechanical engineers, and users with flexibility – and a huge opportunity to add value”, Siegfried Kohlbacher concluded.