ContiTech Anoflex, a subsidiary of the Continental Group since 1988, is a development partner and OEM automotive supplier for hoses, hose assemblies and complete hose systems for fluid transfer, using materials including elastomers, steel, stainless steel and aluminium.
Historically a manufacturer of bicycle pump fittings in the 1960s, the French company has grown and developed over the years to become a leader in the design and manufacture of hoses for fluid transport.
The company’s Caluire site, near Lyon, is specialised for the automotive sector, focusing on the engine environment, cooling of turbo compressors and lubrication for trucks and buses. The largest automotive manufacturers and engine production consortiums are among their loyal customers.
ContiTech Anoflex was one of the first enthusiastic users of the first poly-articulated measuring arm, ROMER’s System 6, which they bought after the company was acquired by the Continental Group in 1988.
Installed in an air-conditioned environment, the first measuring arm was able to meet the needs of three-dimensional tube measurement for a long time, using G-Pad software for prototypes and G-Tube for production.
“The philosophy of our company is to acquire quality equipment that we use for as long as possible,” remembers Maurice Carrier, Industrial IT Manager at ContiTech Anoflex. “When our System 6 broke down, after many years of loyal service, Hexagon, then still ROMER, lent us a new arm within just 48 hours”.
Proximity and responsiveness are key words in our relationship with Hexagon. Their appreciation of the service offered, and the demonstrated knowledge of customer requirements, was what motivated ContiTech Anoflex to remain loyal to ROMER and subsequently Hexagon. The acquisition of a Sigma arm – still in use today – some ten years later, followed by the recent addition of two Absolute Arm systems are proof of this.
Bending robotisation and Industry 4.0
The arrival of robotic bending cells, offering both reliability and automation, especially for tube unloading, has changed measurement protocols and working conditions.
“The new electric bending machines are much more reliable and allow us to move away from the 100 percent control we have always relied on. Hexagon’s TubeShaper software communicates in both directions and allows us to retrieve previous settings from a machine. We can make a part, even a complex one, and it will be very good from the start. And even if a few corrections are needed, the second one immediately matches the new requirements. As the machine is more reliable, the controls adapt.”
Since 80 percent of tubes produced have components, inserts or formed end caps, an automated measuring solution such as TubeInspect was not ideal. A new Absolute Arm, located in the middle of the shop floor, close to the bending machines, presented the best solution. In addition, since hydroformed products also require probing measurements, the arm offered ideal flexibility, becoming a real adjustment tool in collaboration with the benders.
“Our projects have to go faster and faster and are more and more complex. The Absolute Arm allows us to switch seamlessly to touch probing,” says Hervé Matta, one of the five users of the measuring arm at the prototype level. “The combination of TubeShaper and probing is a great advantage and offers a totally multifunctional solution. Especially on complex tubes with spirals, for example, which cannot be measured with the non-contact tube probe.”
“The use of a secure network protocol offers a great advantage and makes connections to the bending machines very simple. The established procedures allow us to put a bending machine on the network, set it up and integrate it into TubeShaper in a very short time”.
Both the industrial IT manager and the user also appreciate Hexagon’s responsive service and support. “A spare arm is immediately provided when one of our own requires calibration. The Absolute Arm is truly autonomous. You plug in the replacement and it works immediately. Even the old Sigma arm still receives the best possible support, even after it becomes obsolete*”.
Over the years Contitech Anoflex and Hexagon have strengthened their partnership in order to improve the functionalities of Tubeshaper, allowing us to implement a high-performance solution that meets the increasingly high-quality requirements of our customers. In the production department, there are some ten adjusters who regularly use the arm, as well as one person from the quality department. Measurements are carried out all day long in two shifts. Mr Carrier particularly appreciates “the speed of the changeover – we easily save 15 minutes per set. If we do ten sets a day, we’ll save two-and-a-half hours. No more traffic jams on the equipment. We’re really going faster.”
Just switch from G-Tube to TubeShaper
When changing arms and software, ContiTech Anoflex was able to retrieve all the old G-Tube references very simply and import them directly into TubeShaper. This represented a very significant time saving on the amount of references the business offers. Today they are directly imported from the design office.
“Our product data management (PDM) system includes the generation of a file that automatically retrieves the tube coordinates and that is directly compatible with TubeShaper and integrated into the PDM system. The designers in the design office only generate a manufacturing drawing. There are no more data entry errors thanks to being able to work directly within the vehicle coordinate system. All equipment is networked via Ethernet and all software is compatible. No more floppy disks, USB sticks and other devices. This has already contributed to the Continental Group’s networked vision of Plant 4.0,” concludes Carrier.
*Hexagon guarantees the parts and services related to its measuring arms for ten years after the end of production.