Source: Link Magazine / 19-06-2023

Increasing Impact in R&D and Production Propels Q-Fin to the Top of the Deburring Machine Market

When sheet metal is cut, sharp edges are inevitable. Often, these parts have burrs after cutting. To achieve high quality, these sharp edges need to be removed. In the past, deburring was a manual process, but due to the high output of laser cutting machines, the quantities have become so high that it is no longer feasible to do it by hand. Q-Fin, based in Bergeijk, addresses this challenge by manufacturing super-fast deburring machines. ‘It may seem simple, but if you want to automate the process, there are many parameters that you need to control.’

  • ‘It is too expensive to manually deburr all your sheet metal with an angle grinder.’
  • ‘Q-Fin is new to me; it’s our own product, and we’re trying to establish a global market presence, build customer relationships, and convince them of the concept of our machines.’
  • ‘You need to secure the products properly because we apply a lot of pressure with the brush for rounding and achieving high production speed.’
  • ‘We are seeing more and more developments towards powered input and output tables.’
  • ‘If you have some volume, you can quickly recoup your investment.

Deburring on the Cutting Edge

“It wasn’t and isn’t a glamorous field, but that perception is changing,” says Anton Bax. “Because it’s just too expensive to manually deburr all your sheet metal with an angle grinder.” Moreover, the demands in the industry and among end customers continue to rise. They are not only concerned with removing all burrs, but sheet metal parts need to be finished in a hand-friendly manner. “For thin sheet metal parts, such as stainless steel, a small rounding is often sufficient, while for thicker steel parts, a larger edge rounding is increasingly required because it improves paint coverage. Paint adheres less well to sharp corners.”

“The logical next step is the automation of the loading and unloading process with robots.”

Bax is a born entrepreneur. Over thirty years ago, he joined his father’s own sheet metal production company, Bax Metaal. By now, the industrial area on the west side of Bergeijk is filled with offshoots: Laserparts, RVS Finish, and the youngest member: machine builder Q-Fin, an abbreviation for Quality Finishing Machines. Before summer, a second facility needs to be built because business is thriving, and Q-Fin wants to continue growing.

New Course

With the establishment of Q-Fin in 2013, Bax took a step in a different direction. He had never before been actively involved in the development and construction of his own machines. He is glad that he split his organization into multiple companies, allowing him to focus on the development of Q-Fin. “For me, Q-Fin is something new; it’s our own product, establishing a global market presence, building customer relationships, and convincing them of the concept of our machines. I find that a wonderful challenge.”

Bax is ambitious but also very down-to-earth: “We shouldn’t grow too fast because our factory is already full. We’ve built a good reputation in the Netherlands in recent years. Our market focus is now on Germany, where there is still a lot for us to gain. Particularly due to the emphasis on handling around deburring machines, projects are becoming larger. Hence, the planned new construction that provides us with space to expand further.”

Firm Grip

Q-Fin is well on its way to making a name for itself in the sheet metal industry. “Despite being in existence for just ten years, we are still a relative newcomer in the market for deburring solutions,” says Joost Kouwenbergh, Business Officer at Q-Fin. “From the outset, we said it could be done differently, better. The perfect deburring machine didn’t exist yet. With that approach, we started designing and building machines.”

The first machine that Q-Fin introduced to the market was specially built for finishing small sheet metal parts. “Many companies struggle with precisely that,” Kouwenbergh knows. “And the existing continuous flow machines are mainly suitable for larger sheet metal parts. They often can’t process those small products effectively.”

Q-Fin devised a clever system to securely hold products as small as fifteen by fifteen centimeters. This is done using a vacuum system for materials like stainless steel and aluminum, and a magnetic conveyor belt for steel. “You need to secure the products properly because we apply a lot of pressure with the brush for rounding, allowing us to achieve a high production speed,” explains Kouwenbergh.

Play of Forces

When Bax starts up the latest SER1200 Multibrush machine in the demonstration room in Bergeijk, it’s immediately clear that significant forces can come into play. The products are placed on a conveyor belt and move, with the burr facing up, under a grinding belt. The grinding belt removes the burr from the product. Bax explains, “The belt barely touches the surface of the product and makes the top flat. However, the edges are still sharp.”

The grinding pattern left on the product is not an issue, especially for steel parts, as they are often galvanized or powder-coated afterward. “You won’t see any of it,” assures Kouwenbergh.

After the grinding belt, the real test of strength follows. Four comb brushes spin and move like a fairground attraction over the products to round off all corners and recesses. Then, the Multibrush with six rotating brushes takes over. These brushes can provide a directionless finish to the product and help achieve a large radius.

“By combining comb brushes and round brushes, we can easily achieve a radius of three millimeters on steel products,” explains Kouwenbergh. “The choice of grinding material, along with the set speed of the different components, ultimately determines what the machine will do: a small rounding or a large one, a linear finish or a directionless finish, low roughness value, or a slightly larger one.”

Top of the Market

Bax asserts that Q-Fin is at the top of the market with its deburring machines. “This is due to the variety of products we can handle, the programmability of the machine, and power consumption; we score highly in all these aspects.” Especially in terms of speed, competitors cannot match their systems. “We are much faster. Others operate at half to two meters per minute, while in the deburring process, we easily achieve three to five meters per minute.”

These advantages make the return on investment for Q-Fin’s full-option machines extremely favorable, according to Bax. The price tag can sometimes be a challenge in the sales process, but he sees the sheet metal industry shifting. “There are more and more parties that understand what it’s about. They often have experience with another system, and now they only want the best of the best. High-end companies like that see the benefits of how we do it.”

Last autumn at EuroBLECH in Hannover, the introduction of Q-Fin’s newest and largest deburring machine drew a lot of attention. “We launched the SER1200 XL Multibrush machine there, and since then, we’ve already sold five, two of which went to a German customer, with a reversing unit in between. That company wants to progress, invest, and automate to be able to run as much production as possible,” says Bax. “You can do the math, right? So if you have some volume, you can quickly recoup your investment. That was the deciding factor for this customer.”

Robust Growth

Q-Fin naturally benefits from the production at its sister companies, but in the span of ten years, it has also accumulated a lot of expertise in machine development. “We are reasonably self-sufficient,” says Bax. Q-Fin handles its own engineering, electrical work, and software development. “We even build the control cabinets ourselves.”

Is Q-Fin affected by labor market shortages? “We can’t complain,” says Bax. “But if four good mechanics show up at our doorstep, we’ll hire all four of them. Because we want to grow.”

Kouwenbergh adds, “We build machines in stock, in series of three to ten units. Previously, we could have a set ready for the customer in two weeks. Nowadays, they are already sold before we have assembled them. Lead times have become slightly longer, but compared to the competition, we can still deliver quickly.”

Handling Solutions

The strength within the organization and the R&D department give Q-Fin an edge in the new direction that the Bergeijk-based company has embarked on: the automation of the process around deburring machines. “So far, machines are often manually loaded,” says Kouwenbergh. “Usually through a roller table, but we are seeing more and more developments towards powered input and output tables. The logical next step is the automation of the loading and unloading process with robots.”

Bax says, “For many companies, loading the machines is already the bottleneck. Our systems are much faster, so we want to assist customers with that as well. There are already many tools available. In the new facility, we are going to set up a showroom specifically focused on handling solutions.”

Q-Fin is also working on its own robot and vision solutions and has recently entered into a partnership with Affix Engineering from Best in the field of vision. “The technology is there, such as the laser vision cameras from the German company Mech-Mind, but the challenge lies in the interaction with the machines and defining real-world problems,” says Bax. That’s why he is delighted that Q-Fin can undertake this development with two launching partners: INNO-metaal in Eindhoven and VDL Technics in Boxtel. “Others choose to build an environment in which they have to prove everything. We take the opposite approach and tell customers, ‘Bring your products, and together, we will find a solution for your situation.’ We like to develop together with customers in practice; that’s where you encounter the real problems. We will be the first to solve the automation of the deburring process and everything around it.”