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Interview


in Vol. 19 - May Issue - Year 2018
Finding A Better Way In Every Aspect



Mr. Rüdiger Böhm, global R & D manager mass finishing at Rösler


Glimpse into one of the 15 Rosler test centers around the world


The new Gamma turbines with curved blades increase shot blasting efficiency by 30% and reduce energy consumption


The surf-finisher with robotic work piece handling allows treating precisely defined surface areas on a work piece

As a supplier of complete surface treatment systems Rösler Oberflächentechnik GmbH is global market leader in the field of mass finishing and shot blast equipment, paint and preservation lines as well as consumables and process technologies for the optimum surface treatment (deburring, descaling, de-sanding, polishing, surface grinding, corrosion protection) of work pieces made from metal and other materials. MFN had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Rüdiger Böhm, global R & D manager mass finishing at Rösler, and to talk with him about his company and how he sees the future development of industrial surface finishing and surface preparation.

(?) MFN: Mr. Böhm, among many market experts, Rösler is often perceived as the 800-pound gorilla in the surface finishing industry, trying to squeeze competitors out of the market! What do you have to say to this?

(!) R. B.: I could take this as an insult but take it rather as a compliment! Our company has achieved its leading position in the surface finishing industry not by bullying our competitors but by offering better solutions to the surface treatment problems of our customers.

(?) MFN: Could you be a bit more specific?

(!) R. B.: It will be my pleasure. I believe that a key factor for our success is that we are a family-owned business with a keen focus by its owners on the long-term success of the company. This is reflected by the fact that our company is run by Mr. Stephan Rösler, the grandson of the founder.
And throughout our more than 60-year history, our owner’s motivation was always to provide the best possible products and services to our customers instead of maximizing short-term profits. Over time this paid off, and is now reflected in an exceptionally high customer loyalty and a large amount of repeat business.
Our customer satisfaction rate has been significantly above 75% and last year reached a new high of nearly 85%! This would be exceptional in any industry.

(?) MFN: But this can’t be the whole story….?

(!) R. B.: Of course not. Rösler has always focused on long-term investments, and I mean not only in facilities and equipment but also in people. I am proud to say that at its various manufacturing locations around the world our company always utilizes state-of-the-art production equipment. Thanks to our owner, our ROI horizon is not limited to just 1 or 2 years, but we plan and invest for periods of over 10 years. On average, our annual capital investments consistently exceed 10 million Euros; not bad for a company of our size!
But equally important for us are investments in the education and training of our employees. We employ nearly 100 young people in our apprenticeship program at any time and offer numerous college students the opportunity to spend the practical part of their "dual study" program at our company. This allows us to continuously add highly talented, well-trained young people to our staff as lab analysts, draftsmen, design engineers, business experts, IT specialists, product managers, etc. 

(?) MFN: Sounds great…but let’s change the subject……

(!) R. B.: If you don’t mind, let me add just one more point:
We see the need for education and training not only within our own staff but our customers’ as well. The surface treatment technologies are developing so rapidly that many customers simply do not find the time to follow all the technological trends. That is why we have created the Rösler Academy, where customers can bring themselves up-to-date on the latest technological developments in mass finishing, shot blasting and industrial washing technologies. At the Academy, qualified and certified trainers are teaching such diverse subjects as automation, blast media, equipment maintenance and trouble-shooting, mass finishing consumables, process water recycling with centrifuges, and many more.

(?) MFN: We understand that with regard to capital investment and qualified personnel, Rösler is well-positioned for the future. But what about your product strategy?

(!) R. B.: Believe it or not, we don’t pursue a product strategy in the classical sense of the word. The surface treatment markets are changing so rapidly that it is very hard to predict what kinds of products will be needed in 5 or 10 years. Our approach is entirely concentrated on process development. Our customers know best what materials and manufacturing technologies they want to use for their products. And we help them find the most suitable finishing processes for these materials and production methods.
That is why we are maintaining over 15 test centers around the world, where our finishing experts are constantly developing work-piece cleaning, mass finishing and shot blasting processes that are all tailor-made for our customers’ needs.
 
(?) MFN: This sounds a bit abstract! Can you give us some examples of industries where you developed specific finishing processes?

(!) R. B.: Of course!
For example, let’s take the area for orthopedic implants. Until around 8 years ago, the main finishing system for knee femorals, tibias and hip stems was robotic grinding and buffing. A few years ago, Rösler process engineers developed a completely new solution based on the so-called drag-finishing technology. Numerous processing trials in our test labs along with countless equipment improvements and the development of new pre-polish and polishing media yielded a process that produces perfectly polished implants with consistently high-quality finishing results. Dozens of Rösler drag-finishing systems are now operating at leading implant manufacturers around the world. Who would have thought that a mass finishing system would replace robotic grinding and buffing?

(?) MFN: Can you name any other examples for such breakthrough surface finishing developments?

(!) R. B.: I could give you several examples from the aerospace and automotive industry, where our process engineers developed innovative finishing solutions by combining such technologies as industrial washing, mass finishing and shot blasting into one process. Don’t forget that Rösler has comprehensive know-how in all three of these fields.
But let me talk a bit about additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing.

(?) MFN: Thanks for bringing this up. Additive manufacturing has become a hot topic for many industries!

(!) R. B.: This revolutionary new manufacturing technology has evolved from a purely prototyping method to a serious manufacturing system for low-volume production of customized standard products.
Is there a standard system for surface finishing of AM products? Absolutely not! This is a classical case where good old process development comes into play including the adaptation of existing mass finishing and shot blasting equipment and, possibly, the development of brand-new processing media.
But in our opinion, the most important aspect for post processing of AM parts is that we, as the surface finishing specialists, must have a dialogue with the customers already during their product design phase. This way we can assist them with design suggestions that will facilitate the surface finishing process. I can tell you that Rösler has been successfully partnering with key players in the AM industry and various research organizations.

(?) MFN: What about actual surface finishing applications for AM components?

(!) R. B.: Of course! We have developed solutions for AM components in the medical field, aerospace, equipment building, electronics, etc. For example, Rösler is successfully treating such diverse products as cranial plate implants, turbine blades, heat exchangers and sensor housings to a high-gloss polish from initial Ra-values of well over 1.5 micron.
But we also look at shot blasting solutions like shot peening, cleaning of internal passages and removal of support material from the external workpiece surface. In fact, our colleagues from the Rösler mass finishing and shot blast divisions are constantly communicating and exchanging ideas about post processing of AM components.

(?) MFN: We understand that support removal is also an issue with AM parts?

(!) R. B.: Absolutely! Supports are sort of a necessary evil to ensure that AM parts are not toppling over during the production process. But their efficient and economical removal is a major post-production challenge. That is why our post processing development activities focus not only on surface finishing but also support removal by chemical as well mechanical means, or even a combination of the two.

(?) MFN: Before concluding let’s talk a bit about the future: Where do you see mass finishing and shot blasting, let’s say, in 10 years?

(!) R. B.: Years ago, some industry experts considered mass finishing and shot blasting as "sunset" industries, which would be displaced by manufacturing technologies creating burr-free, perfectly polished work pieces. We never believed this and were proven right! We have seen significant growth in the past years. Yes, some customers vanished, like, for example, the suppliers of mechanical typewriters. But other opportunities in such diverse industries like aerospace, automotive, medical engineering, structural steel corrosion protection and, lately, additive manufacturing more than made up for these losses.
But the finishing tasks have become more demanding: Customers no longer ask for simple deburring but are looking for highly sophisticated, clearly defined surface finishing solutions.
Automation is another field. But above all, customers are looking for systems suppliers who are capable of handling the most complex surface treatment projects.

(?) MFN: So, how does Rösler cope with these customer demands?

(!) R. B.: Besides developing finishing solutions for our customers in our global network of sales branches and test centers, we also do a lot of basic product development. Let me name a few examples: The Gamma curved-blade blast turbines not only increase blasting efficiency by about 30% but also decrease energy consumption. Rösler preservation lines are setting new standards in the structural steel industry like, for example, ship building. Our new "surf-finisher" brings the smoothing and polishing of targeted surface areas of a work piece to a new level of precision. And we are constantly developing new processing media: Customers can now choose from a selection of around 15,000 types and sizes of ceramic and plastic media.
Rösler is also a leader in the automation of finishing processes: Most of our systems comply already with the requirements of "Industry 4.0"!

(!) MFN: Mr. Boehm, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today!



For Information:
Rösler Oberflächentechnik GmbH
Vorstadt 1, 96190 Untermerzbach
Germany
Tel. +49.9533.924-0
Fax +49.9533.924-300
E-mail: info@rosler.com
www.rosler.com
 
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