During last month’s JEC World exhibition in Paris, Mike Richardson met with Roth Composite Machinery’s sales director, Bernd Fischer to hear about the latest developments in the world of filament winding.
With more than 500 filament winding machines in use around the world, Roth Composite Machinery builds machines suitable for the manufacture of products for lightweight applications made of high quality plastic materials that use exceptionally durable fibre reinforcements.
In particular, these are used in the automotive and sports industries, in aerospace and in wind turbines. Synthetic resin or thermoplastic materials are processed on these machines and systems using reinforcing fibres, usually made from glass or carbon.
Roth Composite Machinery can look back on 50 years of experience in the development of filament winding machines. Plants of 100 tons in component weight and 30m component length are tested in serial operation. The portfolio ranges up to winding machines with twelve CNC axes.
As regards fully-automated production lines, the company has almost three decades of experience, including pressure tanks for water, LPG, CNG and hydrogen, parts for the Ariane space rocket and aerospace industries, camshafts and bearings, high voltage isolators and wind power plants. The handling of all kinds of fibres - from simple glass fibres to sensitive, highly rigid fibres - is also part of the company’s know-how.
“Our design engineers who are acknowledged to be leaders in the industry and skilled in dimensioning, design and detailing, develop exactly the machines for the manufacturing tasks required by our customers,” begins company sales director, Bernd Fischer. “The result is high-performance, reliable and durable machines.
“Our main strength is the higher quality of the composite material produced, due to improved fibre impregnation, higher speed of the CNC axis and fully-automated production process.”
With increasing demands for faster and more efficient production rates, plus the reduction of the more manual layup processes, how much consideration does companies like Roth Machinery give to the implementation and use of automation?
“We started 25 years ago with our first automated machines and we’re now supplying fully-automated production lines to the market. The automated systems are based on a patented automatic fibre placement system and process control.”
At the recent JEC World show, the company showcased its new €1 million laboratory plant for prepreg. In collaboration with Roth Composite Machinery, customers and raw material producers can experiment with new matrix systems, fibres and materials without interrupting their own production.
In terms of the main focus areas of Roth’s current R&D efforts, Fischer says the company is looking closely at reducing its total part manufacturing costs, whilst with regard to the kinds of machine tool developments we might see in the future, higher spindle speeds appear to be the goal.
Asked whether he has any thoughts on 3D printing/additive manufacturing and if the company feels threatened by this disruptive technology, Fischer sees no threat: “3D printing can only use short fibres and not long fibres like filament winding.”
In terms of what sets Roth Machinery apart from the competition, its Fischer’s view that the company’s success can be attributed to the experience of its employees, the 500 machines it has installed in the market and 50 years of experience.
“With Roth Composite Machinery, customers can expect high levels of support during production start-up to enjoy faster time to market,” he concludes. “We are proud of being trusted by market-dominating customers from all industries. With more than 500 machines on the market, we underpin our technological leadership and rank among the world market leaders.”