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All about the latest developments in our company as well as our products and services can be read here.

Higher productivity, easier handling: Sheet metal cutting modernized with new portal cutting system

Grünig GmbH has been using a new portal cutting system from ERL Automation for the production of various flame-cut parts since spring 2021. The erlcut now enables the company to cut thicker sheets with the fast plasma process and to mark them automatically. At the same time, non-productive times have been reduced thanks to a large belt conveyor table.

With the new erlcut e540, Grünig has created extra cutting capacities and improved the cutting quality.

Grünig GmbH is a multi-faceted metalworking company based in Belp, Switzerland. With various CNC machining centres for metal-cutting production, plasma and oxyfuel cutting systems as well as a smith's shop, the company is able to offer needs-based and customized solutions from a single source - whether individual pieces, series parts or complete assemblies. The company, now in its third generation, employs around 15 people and supplies customers from a wide range of sectors - both within Switzerland and beyond its borders. For example, Grünig components and assemblies are used in structural and civil engineering, mechanical engineering and overhead line construction.


Largest single investment in the company's history

The company has been offering flame cutting services since the mid-90s. Up to now, an oxyfuel cutting machine and a plasma cutting machine, each designed for sheet metal formats up to 2 x 6 m, were used for this purpose. The machines have been heavily used over the years. In addition, as demand increased, a number of starting points for optimization emerged, which is why the management finally decided to gradually modernise the sheet metal cutting at the end of 2020. Central requirements were a larger cutting width, a more powerful power source to be able to process thicker sheets with the fast plasma process, as well as a less maintenance-intensive table system.

ERL Automation GmbH has proposed a system layout in which two cutting portals are located on one raceway and share a wider but also longer cutting table. In this way, a larger cutting surface is created that allows up to three sheets to be placed one behind the other and enables loading and unloading parallel to the running process. At the same time, the design as a belt conveyor table virtually eliminates the need for maintenance. The concept also includes replacing the plasma cutting system with a new cutting system with a modern cutting technology and a more powerful power source as well as an additional needle marking unit. The existing oxyfuel system will be integrated into the new system and, with the appropriate preparations, can be easily replaced at a later date and work with the plasma system on one runway, resulting in even more space and time advantages.

"The modernization was an important step for us to secure our competitiveness and at the same time the largest single investment since our company was founded. Our expectations were correspondingly high," reports Andreas Grünig, CEO of Grünig GmbH. It was quickly clear that ERL was the right partner for this task. After all, the company has already looked after the Grünig systems for many years, from the conversion of the old plasma system, to the move into a new hall, to the implementation of a new programming system and the renewal of the extraction system. "ERL knows our plants and needs in detail. We knew we were in good hands, which is why we didn't look around much on the market," says Grünig.


Processing possibilities expanded

The new cutting system is an erlcut e540. Unlike its predecessor, it has a track width of 4 m, enabling it to cut sheets up to 2.5 m wide. But not only larger sheet formats can be processed, also greater sheet thicknesses are possible. With the latest plasma torch technology and a HiFocus 360i neo power source, high-quality cuts of up to 40 mm can be realized. This means that Grünig can now produce components that previously had to be cut with the oxyfuel system by using a faster plasma process. In this way, the company not only saves time, but also creates capacities on the oxyfuel system.

The cutting quality has also improved with the new system. The intelligent Z-axis used, an ERL in-house development, has played a not insignificant role in this. In combination with the plasma process, it guarantees the highest repeat accuracy in the automatic control of ignition, piercing and cutting height. In addition, the intelligent Z-axis allows full countersinking speed depending on the material thickness up to the sheet surface.

The cutting quality has also improved with the new system. The intelligent Z-axis used, an ERL in-house development, has played a not insignificant role in this. In combination with the plasma process, it guarantees the highest repeat accuracy in the automatic control of ignition, piercing and cutting height. In addition, the intelligent Z-axis allows full countersinking speed depending on the material thickness up to the sheet surface.

For programming, the universal programming system act/cut is used, which Grünig had already had implemented by ERL a few years earlier. Since the software is compatible with systems from a wide range of manufacturers, the erlcut could be connected without any problems. Existing cutting programs could simply be reused. Reprogramming, as is often the case when changing manufacturers, was not necessary and enabled Grünig to make a smooth transition.


Low-maintenance table system increases productivity

Previously, Grünig GmbH had two standard cutting tables for a sheet format of 2 x 6 m each. In the course of the modernisation, these were replaced by an approximately 23 m long belt conveyor table with integrated extraction, which is shared by both cutting portals. This has created a large working area with space for supporting a total of three 2.5 x 6 m sheet metal panels. This allows the plasma system to work in shuttle mode. While the system is cutting a sheet, a finished job can be removed and a new sheet placed at the same time. In addition to the space advantage, the table scores above all with its simple and time-saving handling.


"The table concept quickly convinced us. Previously, each machine had to be serviced at great expense about once a month. In concrete terms, this meant that the individual slag trays had to be removed, emptied, small parts sorted and the slag trays reinserted. For each system, two employees were busy for about half a day. All in all, about 15 to 20 hours of maintenance per month, which are almost completely eliminated by the belt conveyor system," says the company boss happily.

How does this work? It's quite simple: With the belt conveyor table, there is a water tank under the cutting area, through which a belt conveyor is guided. Cutting slag and small parts fall barrier-free through the water onto the conveyor belt and are automatically transported to one end of the table, where they are transported into containers. The containers are covered with a grid so that small parts and cutting slag are separated: Coarse-grained slag falls through the grate, small parts remain on top. This makes handling very easy for the system operators: the slag collected in the container can be disposed of quickly and the small parts can be removed effortlessly from the grid - and all this while the system is producing.

For an efficient fume extraction, the cutting table is divided into several suction segments. Depending on the position of the cutting machine lengthwise, the extraction flaps of the individual segments are opened and closed. This ensures that the pollutants are captured at their source of origin, the cutting position. A large part of the dust is already bound by the water bed, which means that a relatively low fan output of the filter system is sufficient for the removal of the cutting dust and fumes. In addition, the inside of the table remains free of slag build-up and the air can always flow evenly, ensuring a permanently good extraction performance.


Prepared for the future

As soon as the oxyfuel system has also been replaced and both systems are on the same runway, the advantages of shuttle operation can come into effect even better. Because then both the plasma system and the oxyfuel system can operate in shuttle mode. For this case, the system is already pre-equipped with the erlcut-team function, which uses a distance sensor to monitor that the systems do not collide. The cooperating systems are configured in such a way that the process, which is easier to restart (e.g. plasma easier than oxyfuel), is interrupted in the event of an imminent collision, the system independently leaves the danger zone and moves into the parking position. After the parked system receives the release of the cooperating erlcut again, the cut is resumed at exactly the interrupted position. But nothing stands in the way of further capacity increases in plasma cutting either, because the plasma cutting system is already prepared for a possible retrofitting of a second station with its own drive at a later date.

The erlcut has been in operation since March and the verdict throughout is very positive. The system has turned out exactly as imagined and expected from ERL. "The modernization was a bit of a challenge for us logistically, because we were only able to cut with restrictions for a while due to the replacement. Accordingly, it was important for us to keep to the schedule. Of course, it was all the more pleasing that ERL completed the machine even earlier than planned. Everything worked out perfectly," Grünig sums up.

The system is also well received by the operators. Despite the change to a new system, settling in was easy, not only because of the user training by experienced technicians from ERL, but also thanks to the intuitive handling of the system. "Our employees also appreciate the new table very much, especially the elimination of maintenance work, but also the fact that they can already prepare alongside the next orders," says the managing director.


About us

We are a manufacturer of gantry and robot cutting machines as well as special systems.

ERL Automation GmbH
Siemensstraße 12, 94405 Landau a.d. Isar

+49 9951 - 60 34 66 0

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