Over the past few years, the TCG UNITECH Group, an Austrian high-pressure die casting and injection molding manufacturer, has become an industry leader. To ensure its manufacturing processes remain competitive in the future, a decision was made at company headquarters in Kirchdorf, Austria, to invest in a ZEISS computed tomograph.
"We see ourselves as the automotive industry's partner, and consistently driving innovation and offering highly complex products is what grows our company," says Walter Mayer, Managing Director responsible for technology. In addition to developing and manufacturing oil and coolant pumps, the Group also supplies a wide array of plastic components to companies like Audi, BMW, Daimler, Bosch and VW. TCG focuses primarily on the 320 different aluminum and magnesium high-pressure cast parts it offers, including steering gear housings, camshaft carriers, cover plates and thin-wall interior parts. The Austrian company processes these with highly precise, CNC-controlled machines so that the components are ready to install. In order to optimize their entire die casting processes, they began using a ZEISS METROTOM 1500 over a year ago. This was a bold step. "Inspecting cast blanks with a computer tomograph is still the exception rather than the rule in our industry," says David Demmelmair, Head of Quality Management at the TCG UNITECH Group (TCG).
A ZEISS METROTOM 1500 CT scanner has been in use right next to the production line at the Kirchdorf site since 2016. "A CT scanner is an innovative technology," explains Rene Klaffenböck, Leader of the Lab Team and Environmental Officer at TCG. "Thus it was and is challenging to develop measurement strategies that ensure our CT results are comparable to those we would get with our other measuring systems and methods." This is one job that he and his colleagues spent months working on. For example: to adequately assess visible defects in the volume model, Klaffenböck had the conspicuous areas on the test object ground down layer by layer and inspected with a light microscope. The engineer files the results and what his team has learned in innumerable folders. "By being an early adopter of this new technology, we have a two to three-year lead in our industry," says Klaffenböck.
"Instead of four quality-assurance inspections, we just measure once with the ZEISS METROTOM"Rene Klaffenböck, Head of the Lab Team and Environmental Officer at the TCG UNITECH Group
What is the big advantage of using this system according to Demmelmair and Klaffenböck? "We can now determine whether the porosities detected are air pockets or shrinkage very quickly and, most importantly, reliably. This insight enables our die casting team to make the right adjustments to the machines," says Klaffenböck. The initial results have confirmed that the engineer's calculations predicting increased productivity were correct. And that is not all: with new orders, another benefit of the CT scanner has come into play. "For new parts or sampling, we now receive a complete, detailed image, and tool correction is fast and efficient with ZEISS Reverse Engineering software," says Demmelmair. Moreover, customers have corroborated the promising first results at TCG. "This system has sped up approval for batch production," he says. "I see computed tomography as a key part of ensuring TCG and its manufacturing sites in central Europe continue to set the pace."
At the end of 2017, the Austrian newspaper OÖNachrichten called the development of the TCG UNITECH Group "one of the most impressive economic success stories of the past several years." This achievement was particularly surprising because, in the wake of the economic crisis in 2009, the company – the largest employer in the Kremstal region of Austria – was on the verge of collapse. Today, the TCG UNITECH Group has over 1,000 employees, and the Group generated revenue totaling 220 million euros in 2017. In addition to developing and manufacturing oil and coolant pumps, the company also supplies a wide range of plastic components to companies like Audi, BMW and VW. TCG focuses primarily on the approximately 320 different aluminum and magnesium high-pressure cast parts it manufactures. These include ready-to-install steering gear housings.