Holz Automation wins the German Innovation Award with a unique assembly system for the Willi Elbe Group

The German Innovation Award, presented by the German Design Council, honours cross-industry products and solutions that differ from those previously available, primarily when it comes to user centricity and added value.  Our partner Holz Automation succeeded in convincing the jury of this distinction using our fully automatic, innovative universal joint mounting system, which was successfully commissioned in 2016 at the Pfedelbach plant and subsequently in Rippershausen. This was not only a major success for our automation partner, but also for the Willi Elbe Group’s competitiveness and innovation when it comes to economic sustainability and resource conservation.

Innovations that design the future and improve lives can be found in all sectors. Sometimes this may be clear at first glance, but this is often not the case. The German Innovation Award aims to change all this. It makes outstanding achievements visible to the broader public, enabling successful positioning on the market.

The German Innovation Award is made up of independent, interdisciplinary experts from industry, science, institutions and the financial sector. Submissions were evaluated according to the criteria of innovation, benefit to the user and economic efficiency. The innovation strategy has been designed to take into account factors such as social, ecological, and economic sustainability along with the use of energy and resources. Issues such as location and employment potential, durability, market maturity, technical quality and function, materiality and synergy effects also played a decisive role in the judging process.

The first universal joint assembly system has been proving its worth for three years during rigorous everyday production and has now become indispensable - but until this unique production system was commissioned, it was a difficult and above all lengthy process. The saga began in 2010, when the Willi Elbe Group tasked its automation partner Holz with completely redesigning the existing universal joint assembly with the core processes of spreading and pressing. Market analysis demonstrated that there were very few universal joint assembly facilities on the market. Most of the equipment is assembled purely by hand, where the pressing and holding forces are applied using hydraulics or, as in the case of the universal joint assemblies previously in use at Elbe, by means of toggle lever technology. The following goals of a new development were defined together: the spreading pressing process must be fully automatic, the pressing processes must be able to be tested by force-displacement pressing during the process, and the use of hydraulics must be dispensed with entirely. After each assembly process, a quality inspection by means of a bending moment test is carried out directly downstream, meaning a complete universal joint does not have to be thrown away in the event of faulty pre-assembly. To do so, the existing linear lever test at Elbe had to be revised and automated.

The breakthrough for creating facilities of this type was achieved in May 2012 during a lengthy presentation in Tamm, in which Holz was able to convince us of the benefits of each individual process within a rotary transfer solution.

In addition to the purely economic success, the jury was especially enthusiastic regarding the point that the new production facilities contribute to the conservation of resources:

Space requirements:

If not for the new universal joint assembly system, four systems currently available on the market would have to be purchased in order to achieve the same production volume. This would have required at least twice the floor space.

Reducing waste:

A pressing device is used for the process stations, in which six servo motors take over the pressing and spreading tasks - the standard market hydraulics (waste from filter devices, oil exchange or refilling, leaks, etc.) can be completely dispensed with.

Saving energy:

The energy consumption could be reduced by one-third using the latest controls and motor components.

We would like to thank Holz Automation at this point for their sustainability during the implementation process and sincerely congratulate them on the award.

Willi Elbe News - Dipl. Ing. (FH) Maschinenbau und Geschäftsführer Jürgen Holz mit Tochter bei der Preisverleihung in Berlin

The compact production cell in Rippershausen

Fully automatic production in rotary transfer process

Willi Elbe News - Dipl. Ing. (FH) Maschinenbau und Geschäftsführer Jürgen Holz mit Tochter bei der Preisverleihung in Berlin

The compact production cell in Rippershausen

Fully automatic production in rotary transfer process