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issue: November 2004 APPLIANCE Magazine

Outdoor Appliances - Production
Manufacturing Control

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Outdoor appliance maker Stihl, Inc. depends on controls from Siemens Machine Tool Business for information monitoring and data exchange within its assembly and machining operations.

Stihl Inc. of Virginia Beach, VA, U.S. produces a broad line of chain saws for professional, commercial, farm, and consumer use. The company also manufactures other outdoor power equipment such as gas and electric grass/weed trimmers, hedge trimmers, edgers, pole pruners, brush cutters, leaf blowers, sprayers, earth augers, and driveway sweepers.

Siemens SIMATIC PLCs are said to provide immediate status information to operators in a fast, accessible mode, on an automated test cell line for outdoor power equipment at Stihl. Six SIMODRIVE 611 drive packages and a Win CC data collection system are also onboard this cell.

Part of Germany-based Stihl Group, Stihl Inc. employs more than 1,300 workers at its Virginia Beach manufacturing plant, the largest producer within the Stihl Group. At the heart of the 700,000-sq-ft manufacturing facility are multiple semi-automatic assembly lines, where dozens of metal-cutting machine tools of various types produce the component parts for the equipment. The materials used for production of mechanical metal parts include 4140 stainless steel hardened to 40 RC, 4180 stainless, and high-silicon-based aluminum.

The machine tool department at Stihl features top-line milling, drilling, reaming, boring, and finishing machines from world-class builders, as well as proprietary Stihl piston machines and large multi-function rotary transfer machines. In these latter machines, a forging enters one chamber and literally exits another as a finished part, needing only secondary finishing and/or heat treatment operations before assembly.

In its machining operations, Stihl produces its own crankshafts and pistons. In addition, various engine parts are manufactured and/or assembled at the facility.

Stihl also operates complete design loading automation cells. From the rotary transfer machine, a finished soft machined part is produced, with a total of 10 separate machining operations performed on the workpiece, including roughing turn, semi-finish turn, finish turn, facing, grooving, center drilling, through drilling, thread rolling, reaming, and deburring.

Other multi-function machining centers at Stihl include the Gildemeister Twin 42, Emag VSC250, Pittler Petra SL, and others for hard boring and facing operations. The company also operates Weiler C30 and E35 controlled-cycle lathes, where CNC technology is utilized to monitor cutting operations, even in short-run or one-off batches.

Controlling its machines are various CNCs and PLCs from Siemens Machine Tool Business (Elk Grove Village, IL, U.S.). Stihl has been using Siemens PLCs since 1985 and the CNCs since 1986 and plans to continue using the products well into the future. “Any new machinery that Stihl purchases or that we build in-house has a Siemens PLC,” Paul Bruggeman, Stihl’s director of Manufacturing, tells APPLIANCE.

Stihl Inc., a manufacturer of chain saws and other outdoor power equipment, uses Siemens PLCs and CNCs to control its production operations.

The controllers range from the SINUMERIK 840D, a complete onboard controller of all machine motions, to SIMATIC S7 and S5 PLCs, which include hybrid HMI modules for basic information monitoring and data exchange on assembly and machining center. “Siemens S7 PLCs are the standard for the worldwide Stihl organization,” notes Mr. Bruggeman. “Historical performance of the product and good service are key reasons we standardized on the Siemens units.”

Features of the Siemens product family include the user-friendly, easy-to-learn nature of the onboard controls—both CNC and PLC—as well as the built-in modem on the machines with SINUMERIK 840D CNCs for access to immediate tech support. “The use of all of these products has minimized maintenance and down time,” Mr. Bruggeman says. “The units are easy to install and operate in a ‘user-friendly’ manner and, therefore, are easy to implement.”


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