Machines that inspire

Trend-setting Heckert Open House in Chemnitz

It has been seven years since Starrag GmbH held its last in-house exhibition in Chemnitz. A lot has changed in the meantime. The new compact machines in particular are causing a stir. It was about time to inform customers, employees and interested parties on site about the latest developments and plans.

For Martin Buyle, CEO of the Starrag Group since April 2023, events such as the Heckert Open House 2023 in Chemnitz are an important instrument for intensifying customer loyalty and inspiring employees and their families to pursue Starrag’s goals: “We can showcase stateof- the-art manufacturing solutions here and hold in-depth face-to-face conversations. This is invaluable, so in future we will be holding such events at every Starrag location.”

The Open House in Chemnitz took place over one week in July. Kai Bohle, Sales Manager of Starrag for the Transportation & Industrial segment, had invited customers to show the latest machine developments, and had called on experts who could answer all their questions. Starrag also used these days for employee training and temporarily opened the factory halls for family members and interested parties.

“After the long break, we have restarted with the current Open House,” says Kai Bohle. “We will certainly develop the concept further.” In future, Christian Kurtenbach will also be involved in them; as head of the new “High-Performance Machining Systems” business unit, he has been responsible for the Chemnitz site and the Heckert product range, among other things, since June. He attaches great importance not only to presenting new developments in the machine sector, but also to presenting approaches to solutions in which the broad Starrag know-how comes to bear. “The topics of automation and digitalization will also continue to gain significance,” Kurtenbach adds. “Our machines are prepared, and with the robot cell we are showing a new, innovative automation offering here.”

Impetus for innovation

The keynote speech by Professor Dr Gunter Dueck, which introduced the Open House, was about “The New and its Enemies”. The mathematician, innovator and economic philosopher used a number of examples to show that many innovations are first laugh at, then resisted, and only when they are the state of the art do they receive approval. His conclusion: If you want to be successful, you should not be afraid of new things and not declare every obstacle a No. Only the willingness to change will make the power shots possible in the future.

For Christian Kurtenbach, this means, “We have to go two ways: continue to improve our excellent machines and also venture into something completely new.” At the Chemnitz event, the focus was primarily on the former – in the form of the new Heckert compact series.

The Heckert H85 and H95 machining centers were presented to a select audience for the first time. “They will replace our four-axis Heckert HEC 630 and HEC 800 centers, which have been our core business up to now,” explains Jonny Lippmann, product manager for Heckert compact machines. “We have managed to make our success machines even better in many aspects.”

For example, the Heckert H85 and H95 are easier to automate than their predecessors. This is ensured by extended clamping hydraulics and simplified interfaces to pallet storage systems and robot cells. Improved integration into the customer’s infrastructure was also realised – with central connections for cold water, coolant and data exchange. Not to mention the reduced space requirement, higher payloads, extended spindle selection and much more.

“The Heckert developers showed great flexibility in meeting our requirements, which they ultimately succeeded in doing.”

Experience the machining of gearbox housings live

It was particularly interesting for the visitors to see machines such as the Heckert H85 and H95 in action with actual practical components such as gearbox and axis housings. Because precisely these machines, along with others, have already been sold to AGCO/Fendt in Marktoberdorf. The main site of the agricultural machinery manufacturer Fendt is located there. Dr Jan Cachay, plant manager of the gearbox plant in Marktoberdorf, explains: “We work with about 70 Heckert machines from the CWK, HEC and H series, covering pallet sizes from 400 to 1600. This year we are getting twelve new machines on which we will machine gearbox housings and frames for the tractors.” As the construction of a new production hall was delayed, a pragmatic agreement was reached with Starrag: Fendt employees are currently working on the new machines at the Starrag plant in Chemnitz and producing parts for Fendt. For this reason, the visit to the Heckert Days was a special highlight for Jan Cachay. “I am pleased about the teamwork between the Heckert and Fendt employees. I also saw some innovative approaches with real added value for practice,” says Cachay.

Other visitors, other interests

Friedrich Oberländer, Head of Production Technology at VoithTurbo in Heidenheim, has also maintained close contact with Starrag for a long time. He is particularly interested in the Heckert-T series, i.e. the 5-axis machining centers with turning function. “We bought one of the first Heckert T45 machines,” states Friedrich Oberländer. “The Heckert developers showed great flexibility in meeting our requirements, which they ultimately succeeded in doing. After a joint development period, the end result is outstanding.” At the Open House, he looked at the slightly larger Heckert T55, among others: “Before making a new investment, I have to watch the machines in action and discuss some details with the Heckert experts – which I am able to do here.”

Marcel Herzog, team leader of large-part machining at Gressel AG in Thurgau, Switzerland, came to Chemnitz to experience the Heckert H75 first-hand. In his area of responsibility there are currently four Heckert HEC 500s, which are connected to a pallet system and automated. “We want to replace one of them soon,” Herzog explains. “It’s interesting to see at first hand what changes have been made to the machine and what the improvements look like specifically, for example in the tool changer or in terms of automation.” He also praised the excellent organization, the fruitful discussions with Starrag employees and the professional exchange with production managers from other companies.