The modern manufacturing industry relies on reliable, innovative, cost-effective solutions to produce quality products. The demands can be challenging, with economic and environmental pressures to contend with. We talked with Wilhelm Sturm, CEO of Sturm-Gruppe, and take a look at the systems and solutions being developed and engineered by the company in sectors including painting, material handling, automation and industrial cleaning systems.
Wilhelm Sturm, CEO of Sturm- Gruppe discusses the company’s automotive activities AMS: With regard to your automotive manufacturing customers, what are the key strengths that Sturm offers?
Wilhelm Sturm: We are able to deliver a complete paintshop for body-in-white (without pretreatment and EC). We also cover the core competences in all segments (conveying technology, dryer, booth, application technology, air makeup and the total system controls) delivering high levels of added value. Outsourcing the robot and atomization equipment allows Sturm to offer the customer a choice of products. The customer can decide which products will best suit their needs.
AMS: Where do you feel Sturm has been particularly innovative (in automotive manufacturing sector)?
WS: In the drying sector we are very innovative. We have a lot of experience in UV-curing. 18 years ago we delivered the first UV-coating plant for 3-D-workpieces. We have also developed and produced a paint booth for truck-axes with UV-curing in a nitrogen atmosphere. AMS: What are the biggest (technical) challenges facing the automotive manufacturing industry?
WS: The increasing number of vehicle variants means the manufacturing plants have to be more flexible. Also the production process has to be environmentally friendly. Saving energy is an important issue not only in the use of cars, but also in production process.
AMS: What technologies are Sturm developing to help meet these challenges?
WS: We think that there is a lot of potential for energy savings in the drying and paint separation processes. We are currently developing these technologies.
AMS: Do you see Sturm expanding its services to automotive manufacturers, if so how and in what areas?
WS: We are in the process of establishing additional subsidiaries abroad, especially in countries where OEMs are located. For example we recently opened subsidiaries in the USA and in Poland. The next locations (including France) are currently being prepared.
Sturm can produce items ranging from simple laser cutout blanks up to complex module assemblies. The sheet metal processing section employs 250 people and covers approx. 11,000 m² of floor area, with 300 machines.
Manufacturing capabilities cover:
• Laser cutting
• Combined punching-laser cutting
• Sliding grinding/trowelling
• Mechanical processing
• Surface treatment
• Installation of complete modules
As a material handling system specialist with international experience, we plan, construct and supply fl oor-mounted and overhead material handling systems. These include conveyor systems for the automotive industry, the airport sector (baggage handling systems), for general industry and parcel transport. The focus of our service is on workpieceholder- based transport systems and chain based equipment. Sturm develops the systems according to the customer’s requirements, however, we also supply low-cost standard solutions. Floor-mounted systems – Sturm offers:
• Roller conveyors
• Skid material handling systems
• Multi-strand chain conveyor/accumulating chain conveyor
• Flat top/plastic link conveyors
• Belt/strand conveyors
• Shuttle car/turn tables/right angle transfers
Overhead systems – We can provide:
• Electrified monorail system (EMS)
• Pallet circulation conveyors (PUB)
• Power and Free
Understanding that throughout the vehicle production process continuous productivity, flexibility and ergonomic operability, have priority, we develop, construct and realize material handling solutions for the following areas of automotive production:
• Press works
• Car body construction
• Surface technology
• Final assembly
Continuously increasing demands on the quality and cleanliness of products and components requires ever more complex industrial-part cleaning solutions. Our individually adapted processes are designed to meet these requirements. In our technical laboratory we carry out cleaning experiments with subsequent residual dirt analyses in the testing laboratory and clean room. Employing high-quality components and well-designed concepts, our systems set high standards.
Sturm offers the following cleaning systems:
• Charge cleaning equipment
• Line cleaning equipment
• Revolving-cycle cleaning equipment
• Immersion cleaning equipment (modular)
• Combined systems
• Specialist cleaning systems
Ralf Völlinger, COO of Sturm- Gruppe and managing director offers an insight into Sturm- Gruppe’s technical competencies.
AMS: Can you provide an overview of Sturm-Gruppe’s activities.
Ralf Völlinger: Sturm has recently undergone a re-organisation.
We now consist of five product divisions: Paint Systems, Material Handling Systems, Automation, Industrial Cleaning Systems and Sheet Metal Processing.
AMS: Regarding automotive paint applications, what the currently important markets for Sturm?
RV: Perhaps our most dynamic market is for UV coatings. We’re doing a lot for plastics finishing especially for vehicle interiors; preventing fading and chipping, improving colour matching. We are currently developing a UV, chrome effect coating for plastics.
AMS: What are the main services that Sturm are offering automotive manufacturers?
RV: We are offering ‘turnkey’ solutions. Everything from design and engineering services, to equipment and processes. We cover materials handling, paintshop and assembly line.
AMS: What are the company’s strengths?
RV: I think our engineering expertise is a key strength, designing and producing robust, efficient and reliable systems. We are also strong in project management. For example much of our work has been retrofitting existing plants requiring high levels of organisation to meet the schedule and reduce disruption to production to a minimum.
AMS: What are the main requirements from your automotive clients and how are you meeting these?
RV: Our clients expect high levels of technical support and service on a global level. Therefore we will establish new sites near our customers to ensure a complete service. Since 2010 we have had a site in Kunshan near Shanghai and at present we openning new sites in USA, Poland, Turkey and France.
We develop technical specifications for automatic paint systems in accordance with our customer’s requirements. Sturm is also the market leader in the area of UV paint systems for three-dimensional parts. UV paints are especially efficient, environmentally friendly and offer a number of advantages for surface finishes, such as high scratch resistance, high gloss and a pleasant tactile feeling. The UV system technology can also save time, space, energy and money:
• Short drying/hardening times for high production speed
• No dryers or cooling zones required
• Up to 98% of the paint is used since the overspray can be reused
• High mechanical strength with viscous-elastic characteristics
Our systems allow you to coat a wide spectrum of products and surfaces, such as wood, glass, plastic, metal etc. There are almost no limits, regarding geometry, size or weight, to the complexity of the objects that can be coated. With our own engineering and state-of-theart manufacturing facilities we are able to produce paint systems that offer environmental protection and energy efficiency for use with almost all materials and coating media.
Paint booth and Air make-up
We build coating booths using a variety of materials, such as stainless steel or aluminium. These provide compact, flexible systems and we also integrate large plants into existing manufacturing sequences.
Our paint booths include:
• Different door and gate systems
• Individual lighting systems
• Image-supported identification systems, which determine size and type
The air make-up:
• Supply, feedback and circulating air
• Filtering of the air
• Heating/cooling, as well as humidifying and dehumidifying
• Environmentally related exhaust-air feedback and cleaning process
There are different drying and hardening options, depending on the coating media and workpieces. These are:
• Circulating air-drying
• Drying with dehydrated air
• Inductive drying
• IR drying
• NIR drying
• UV curing in air atmosphere
• UV curing in inert gas
Using ultraviolet light, UV paints harden in seconds, offering energy savings and a blister burst-proof finish. The spectrum of use extends from small component parts, up to large, undercut and complex component parts, such as ready-assembled truck axles. Sturm has been constructing and developing UV systems to the highest technical standard since 1995.
As manufacturers of automation systems, Sturm-Gruppe will analyse the customer’s requirements and prepare individual concepts, such as stand-alone solutions or integrated systems. With our own development departments, we carry out the entire mechanical engineering, as well as the electric hardware and software engineering. Our highly qualifi ed specialist departments manufacture, assemble and install the systems and machines in state-of-the-art assembly shops. All products leave our premises only after a careful operational startup, test run and joint acceptance run with the customer.
We produce automated special handling systems for automotive manufacturing applications:
• Cockpit assembly installation
• Motor vehicle wheel assembly
• Convertible folding top assembly