Ruthmann ascends to new heights with laser processing
How do you repair wind power-generation facilities? How do you maintain antennas located on radio towers? How do you get aerial-view television coverage of stadiums? The Ruthmann Company (Gescher-Hochmoor, Germany) has been asking such questions for more than 100 years. To make working at such heights possible without involving helicopters, blimps or scaffolding, Ruthmann builds its Ascender with a work platform that can be raised to dizzying heights. A process that began with models that reached a working height of eight meters was continuously developed over the years, and now, on the occasion of this year's 100th anniversary of the family-operated company, the old records have been broken with the new TTS 1000 model. The working platform, with space for up to five people, can be raised to a height of 100 meters and has a lateral reach of up to 40 meters. It is also strong enough to be operated in a moderate gale.
Over the years Ruthmann has become accustomed to setting height records. The company owes its success to its significant investments in research and development, advanced calculation methods, its own electronic controls and the very considerable improvements in the processing of thin-walled structural tubing made of high-strength, fine-grain steels. The Ruthmann Company also relies on its many years of cooperation with Schuler Held Lasertechnik (Heusenstamm, Germany) when using and developing the latest manufacturing techniques. Production at Ruthmann is now unthinkable without the laser, and the laser equipment from Schuler Held Lasertechnik is unmatched in terms of flexibility, precision and cost-effectiveness.
The ability to manufacture a wide variety of high-quality parts in small quantities and in the shortest possible time is the challenge that Ruthmann makes to its production department. The laser, over the years, has become the optimal tool used to meet this challenge. In a little less than two years in operation the laser system can call up and produce about 7,000 shapes, such as various individual parts and contours. Added to this number are about 600 other shapes for jigs and fixtures. Currently the plant is processing fine-grain steels up to 12-mm thick.
The laser equipment, a 5-axis Pedilas gantry line with a working range of 13 X 5 m, is supplied with traveling 6kW laser source and can also be operated in working ranges of 3 X 4 m or 2 X 8 m. Downtimes are thereby significantly reduced. The line achieves its flexibility from its independence from fixed table processing and sheet metal supports. Processing in the smaller size ranges is done with two shuttle tables that permit short changeover and reaction times. In the larger size range, universal clamping tables anchored on rails are used for 3-D processing. Recurring clamping situations ensure fast changeovers and repeat accuracy even for processing of unusual sizes.
The advantages of the laser line are indispensable for cost-effectively manufacturing the TTS 1000 crane, a product produced only in small quantities. By the simple removal of intermediate panels, quarter or half sections of up to 13 m can be processed. Thus, the line permits the complete processing of parts, for example, by lateral side cutting and chamfering for weld seam preparation in one pass. Time-consuming milling, grinding or flex work is eliminated altogether. In the process, the laser achieves the highest level of precision, which is especially important for the telescoping sections of the TTS 1000 that are nested inside one another. The use of flexible clamping tables is a requirement for the processing of especially large components. Thus, the tower inner ring, a component critical to the stability of the TTS 1000, can be easily processed despite its outside diameter of 3 m and height of 800 mm thanks to the laser line's 900 mm Z-axis stroke.
High quality is the principle that the Ruthmann Company has adhered to for 100 years. To a large extent, the economic success of the company depends on its willingness to innovate in the manufacturing area. Today, the use of the laser makes lofty goals attainable—goals that just a few years ago seemed unimaginable. The 100th anniversary motto of "100 years—100 meters" is meant to leave room for new visions and new goals.