Source: Link Magazine / 17-02-2023

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Three customer needs, one machine

A ‘directionless’ metal finish is what it increasingly needs to be for the customer. So, the machine manufacturer Q-Fin Quality Finishing Machines in Bergeijk responded to this growing demand with the SER1200 Multibrush as a result. The machine combines all possible processes for metal sheet parts, such as deburring, grinding, rounding, 2 mm radius, removing oxide skin, and in-line and directionless grinding. And all of this is highly automated: the five stations are software-controlled, making the machine almost independent of the operator.

By Jan Broeks – Link Magazine

First and foremost, there is, of course, demand for other finishes of sheet material, says Director Anton Bax. But when it comes to the sheet parts on the outside of a high-end machine or, for example, the finishing of a building, the customer often requests a non-directional or swirl finish. Bax holds his hands flat next to each other and uses them to represent two sheet parts. ‘If you finish both in line, they appear as two separate parts due to the different direction of the streaks. But if you provide a finish without direction, the sheet parts appear as a single whole. And that is exactly what the end customer increasingly wants.’

Three Needs

Q-Fin focuses on the development, production, and supply of machines for deburring, rounding, and finishing metal sheet parts. The company, which now serves customers worldwide, also has dust extraction machines in its portfolio. It’s a robust offering, as Bax knows. But does that mean they stop there? Not at all. Innovation is an essential pillar, he indicates, and continuous renewal is what the customer expects from him and his team. So, in Bergeijk, they set to work on the increasing need for a directionless finish and the growing demand for a 2 mm radius machine for plates up to 1,200 mm wide (up to 600 mm wide, this was already possible with the SER600). They also addressed the increasing desire to further automate the finishing process. It was these needs that Q-Fin consciously incorporated into the development of an all-in-one machine, the first units of which are now being assembled and tested.

Five Stations, Twenty Motors

In the SER1200 Multibrush, as the machine is formally called, twenty motors control five stations. This enables an automated process for every possible finish, Bax explains. Think of deburring, grinding, and rounding. It also includes removing oxide skin, rounding with a two-millimeter radius, and both in-line and directionless finishing. This makes the SER1200 a complete machine, with very little work required from the operator, according to Bax. “The operator can receive a production sheet from the ERP system, scan the corresponding QR code, and set the program. Then, almost everything is automated: all finishes are preprogrammed with their own parameters, and the machine calibrates itself.”

Reproducible Operations

Furthermore, as Bax explains, the software and all those pre-programmed settings ensure a highly reproducible process. “The operator only needs to re-enter the code for a subsequent series, and the machine performs the exact same operations. This reduces the margin of error and increases efficiency.” But what should the customer keep in mind? “That, of course, depends on the production. Looking at other rotary machines on the market, the SER1200 Multibrush offers 20 percent more abrasive surface – with fewer brushes. If a company has an average production, this machine pays for itself in two to three years. If the company operates continuously, the payback period drops to one year.”

A machine like the SER1200 Multibrush: surely there was an extensive exploration before its development, right? Bax can laugh when he hears that assumption. “We certainly didn’t conduct separate research. However, we continuously kept an eye on the market and based our development on the questions customers asked us. That provided enough motivation to develop this machine.” And the latter happened relatively quickly: Q-Fin started the development in February of this year, and about 9 months later, the machine was introduced. According to the director, this success is largely attributed to the 8 engineers within the company, which has a total of 35 employees. “The machine was developed mostly in-house.”

Input from Customer Arbèl

Q-Fin received significant input from Arbèl Las- en plaatwerkindustrie in the nearby Valkenswaard during the process. The company already offered directionless finishing but, according to Director Barry Noordman, it involved a lot of manual work. “It was time-consuming and no longer sufficient given the increasing demand.”

So, it was high time for an automated alternative, thought Noordman, who had done his own research before approaching Q-Fin at the end of last year. At the time, Q-Fin couldn’t provide him with a concrete solution, but the company started working on it, partly because of such a specific request. Noordman looks back on the process with satisfaction. “Q-Fin has a lot of knowledge about finishing and actively involved us in the machine’s development. We brainstormed and communicated our desires during the design process.”

The fact that these were incorporated into the final machine is evident from Arbèl’s investment in the first SER1200 unit. It is expected to be operational on the shop floor in Valkenswaard at the end of October. Noordman says, “I expect it to save the work of two employees, allowing me to allocate those same individuals to achieve the desired growth.” The extensive automation makes operating the machine relatively simple, as Noordman indicates. And if the situation does require it, support from Q-Fin is literally close by. “And that is an important reason for us to buy regionally.”

Half the Power

Q-Fin presented the SER1200 at the end of October during EuroBLECH in Hannover, Germany, an event focused on sheet metal processing technology. The company won an Innovation Award during the previous edition of EuroBLECH, and they have once again competed for the same award, this time with the SER1200, which Bax has a clear vision of regarding market interest. “We should be able to reach about 15 to 20 units in annual sales.” The SER1200 weighs about 6,000 kilograms and measures 4.1 meters in length, 2.2 meters in width, and 2.3 meters in height. That’s relatively large, Bax states. “But, on the other hand, a company with this machine gets all the operations it would otherwise need three or four separate machines for. Moreover, this machine consumes half the power of machines from other suppliers.”

Following the demand for both directionless finishing and a Radius 2 mm capability, the SER1200 Multibrush has ultimately been developed into a machine that, according to Bax, has most, if not all, on board. “In our opinion, it’s the most complete machine on the market. As for potential expansions, it mainly revolves around the handling around the machine, such as an extension with reversing units. But the perfect machine itself? We believe we have it now.”