From one to another!
AUTOMATED PRECISION MILLING IN THE MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY SECTOR
Fetzer Medical GmbH & Co. KG employs tailored yet universally flexible Hermle machining centres in its role as an OEM partner manufacturing a wide range of surgical instruments and medical technology components to customer specifications.
"From the idea to the finished product, or: All in one inclusive labelling!" – that is the slogan of Fetzer Medical GmbH & CO. KG. The medium-sized business was established in Tuttlingen, south-west Germany, in 2008 by two brothers Berndt and Peter Fetzer and their sister Gloria Nieder. In order to build further on the family business's long-standing tradition in the development and manufacture of surgical instruments and medical devices, the management took the decision to expand, employing its ideal combination of mechanical skills in the production of surgical instruments with new technologies in the highly demanding medical technology sector to offer an industrial portfolio. With the stated aim of operating exclusively as an independent OEM, establishing all the necessary human and technical resources to that end, Fetzer Medical launched an extensive capital investment, qualification and certification programme, beginning its five-axis machining in 2008. Jürgen Stickel (Dipl.-Betriebswirt (DH)), managing director of Fetzer Medical GmbH & Co. KG, comments on the company's philosophy: "We see ourselves as a modern OEM, translating the ideas of our broad customer base from the development and design stage, through production and labelling, into high-quality products. We operate all mechanical machining technologies, in conjunction with a comprehensive quality assurance system, and are certified for all European and American markets. We are committed to executing orders flexibly and quickly, despite very wide product and volume variance."
Flexible production of surgical instruments and more to order
Fetzer Medical processes all relevant materials, including titanium, into a range of products from prototypes and single parts to mass-produced components and complete devices, all supplied to customers in ready-to-use form. Among the portfolio of machinery operated by the company's current workforce of 45 highly skilled staff are high-performance five-axis machining centres, nine-axis turning/milling centres, five-axis grinding centres and CNC lathes. Most of the work (accounting for 75% of turnover) is complex milling/drilling. From the very beginning the business has employed – and now more than ever relies on – a range of high-performance five-axis CNC machining centres from Maschinenfabrik Berthold Hermle AG in Gosheim. Fetzer Medical production manager Bernd Zepf comments on the choice of Hermle machining centres: "The Hermle machine concept featuring three axes in the tool and two in the workpiece is ideal for five-axis complete machining in one or two clamp fixings. Also, some of the staff – including I myself – had already had very good experience in the past with Hermle machines: their control and programming, their comparatively simple operator control, and not least Hermle's responsive and highly competent service backup. That experience helped us to immediately get started with five-axis technology, which we launched as early as 2008 by acquiring a Hermle C 40 U high-performance five-axis CNC machining centre." Over the years, as the business flourished, capacity had to be increased, and a number of Hermle machining centres – some of them highly automated – were added. Fetzer Medical today runs five machining centres assuring the prompt execution of its OEM production orders.
From manual single part fabrication to industrial production
The first C 40 U five-axis machining centre the company acquired initially enabled it to retain its in-house production expertise and build its know-how base. Today the machine is mainly used in pre-production, as well as for making prototypes, samples and small lots. Two C 22 U high-performance five-axis CNC machining centres are equipped with 11-pallet changers/magazines of type PW 150, and are used for the flexible production of a wide range of components in lots up to 300 pieces. Another high-performance five-axis CNC machining centre of type C 12 U is combined with an RS 05 robot cell for the manufacture of a modular-design scissors range. A C 800 V CNC machining centre was added to provide flexible operation in pre-production, including making reference surfaces and jigs and fixtures. Since all the installed Hermle machining centres are essentially based on the same concept and on the same control and operating philosophy, operators are quickly familiarised with running the various machines, and staff confidence and acceptance of the machinery is enhanced as a result. That is advantageous, firstly, in terms of the machines' productivity. They are run basically in single-shift mode under operator control, though the aforementioned machining centres with the pallets and robot system do of course run overnight and at weekends for automated machine loading. Secondly, upgrading from five-axis/five-side complete/simultaneous machining with the C 40 U machining centre to highly automated production based on the C 22 U machining centres featuring 11-pallet changer and the C 12 U in conjunction with the RS 05 robot cell proved very manageable, and the new machinery delivered a substantial boost to productivity and output.
Validated and certified: Production processes on Hermle machining centres
In detailing the benefits of high-end manufacturing on Hermle machining centres, Fetzer Medical sales manager Sascha Riesinger adds to those "hard facts" a number of "soft facts" which are key factors in the highly demanding production of simple surgical instruments through to complex medical devices: "All our production and quality assurance equipment has to be validated and certified in accordance with the requirements of the relevant EU and US regulatory bodies. With regard to US certification in particular, it is a major advantage that many American medical technology companies also use validated Hermle machining centres in their production. When a company such as ours is looking to set up and equip an entirely new 3600 m² production centre in a relatively short space of time, including the necessary qualification procedures for validation and certification, it is certainly very helpful to be able to call upon sector-specific experience. It makes the validation process much quicker and easier for us, and we are able to offer our customers a faster time to market.