Poppe + Potthoff receives an overhaul: modern technologies, combined with traditional methods.

Sustainable modernization of systems and processes thanks to retrofitting

Initial situation and project objective

Poppe + Potthoff Präzisionsstahlrohre manufactures seamless and welded cold drawn precision steel tubes which are used in the automotive industry, materials handling, toolmaking and mechanical engineering. The quality standards defined for these complex products are rising steadily − and the requirements placed on the machines and their operators are therefore becoming stricter as well. Retrofitting, i.e. upgrading current systems and processes by installing modern technologies, is an effective way of rising to this challenge.

Solution and customer benefits

Poppe + Potthoff’s production machinery includes systems of varying ages: Besides modern, robot-assisted machines, the company still uses more traditional equipment to manufacture its sophisticated products. The company perceives the rising expectations of its customers in regard to product quality and accompanying data as particularly challenging, as the demands placed on the machinery and its operators become stricter as a result. Machines must deliver the required product quality, while also having to provide process and quality data.

Poppe + Potthoff uses retrofit processes to bring established manufacturing processes in line with more demanding product requirements, namely by modernizing (retrofitting) current systems and processes through the installation of new technologies. Precision tubes by Poppe + Potthoff are manufactured using shells, a semi-finished product that is then processed by cold drawing. Frequently performed in several stages, this cold drawing process was optimized in a project conducted with Fraunhofer IEM. Needs-based sensors were used to create an innovative process monitoring system which provides data on temperature, vibration and system loads; this data was then processed and analyzed online by means of a newly integrated controller. Proceeding this way enables the early detection and avoidance of rattling, which led to a significant reduction in rejects. After cold drawing, the steel tubes undergo a thermal treatment, followed by a final alignment process. Poppe + Potthoff and Fraunhofer IEM were also able to optimize this process: Integration of a new sensor allows continuous collection and linking of process, quality and business data throughout the entire process chain. This facilitates the traceability of process factors and factors that have an effect on the product as well as sustainable process optimization and quality assurance.