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Metallurgical engineering

High performance

Companies from Southern Brazil produce tooling machinery for North American industry

Since January of this year, the Boeing 777, one of the most modern commercial aviation jets, has been fitted with technology developed in Brazil. In that month, Wotan, a manufacturer of operative machinery with its headquarters in the town of Gravataí (RS), sent off to the United States two high performance tooling machines designed to reduce the time for the manufacture of the aircraft’s turbine protection ring. Using this equipment, the period for the production of these parts falls from sixty seven hours to only twenty hours without any loss of quality. The tooling machinery was sold to GKN Aerospace Chemtronics, of San Diego, in the State of California, who supply the turbines for Rolls-Royce. The value of the deal was US$ 2.5 million.

“We competed with companies who provide machinery from the United States, Germany and Japan”, says Nelson Batista, a director with Wotan. He explained that with 2.8 meters of diameter, the turbine protection ring prevents, for any mechanical problem, loosened components from flying out. The motor of an aircraft rotates at 10,000 revolutions per minute (rpm) and at this velocity, if there was to be a problem with a part escaping, it could hit and enter the body of the aircraft just like a bullet.

The tooling machinery provided by Wotan is unique in its category. With eight moving axles – the standard in the industry is at the maximum five -, it has the capacity to tool 2.5 meters per minute, starting from multiple angles. And it is huge: some 6 meters in length and 3.5 meters in height, which demanded six containers for its embarkation. However, it is in its intelligence that the difference lies. “The heart of the system is in its control software”, comments Batista. “This is what produces the process”. The program was adapted to the needs of Wotan by the company SKA, from São Leopoldo (RS).

International market
The development of the company Wotan here in Brazil is unique. Founded in Leipzig, Germany, in 1882, it established a branch here in 1975, which three years later became the first manufacturer of computerized machinery in Latin America. The Brazilian subsidiary ended up conquering a level of success in business higher than that at its head office, and today it is the only productive unit of the company throughout the world. In 1999, Wotan became a company with American capital and its head offices were transferred to Indianapolis, Indiana. “Our base installed in the country consists of 1,400 machines”, says Batista. In the United States the number is approximately 1,300 and in Germany 800. In Brazil, Wotan supplies machinery for Embraer, car manufacturers, Petrobras and the steel making sector.

Batista, who does not reveal Wotan’s revenues, explains that exports account for 30% of the company’s gross income. “Our goal is to increase this participation to at least 40% by the end of this year”, he announces. In his opinion, supplying machinery to GKN Aerospace Chemtronics is opening up market doors, particularly in the United States. “We’ve received more than fifteen quotations requests, including some from the US navy and the North American aerospace sector.”

The project involved more than twenty engineers and technicians for close to ten months. The Brazilian subsidiary of Wotan employs two hundred and fifty people. Of those, two hundred and thirty work in the technical or production areas. A good part of these professionals that were involved in manufacturing the equipment for GKN, followed up the software development, working with SKA which distribute standardized tools of Computer Assisted Design (CAD, a design project assisted through computing) andComputer Assisted Manufacturing (CAM, manufacturing assisted through computing) and develop applications for engineering and manufacture projects based on them. “Without good software we wouldn’t have been able to offer such a high gain in productivity in the process, which was, along with the price offered, the determining factor for our winning the bid”, says Batista.

Personalized projects
Highly specialized, SKA is accustomed to developing programs in collaboration with its clients. Hardly ever one project is similar to the next, and to have two identical is almost impossible”, says company director Siegfried Koelln, who founded the company in 1989. The work for Wotan made use of the software named EdgeCAM, from the British company Pathtrace, one of the world leaders in the segment of computer assisted manufacturing.

The major difficulty was to develop a programming system which, as well as taking care of the very high number of variables, would accelerate the movements of the machinery in order to guarantee a reduction of more than 60% in tooling time, explains Koelln. The increase in the variables was due to the fact that the tooling machinery of Wotan has eight axles, which signifies that it can rotate starting from eight basic positions in order to work on multiple faces of the Boeing turbine protection ring. The result was so good that Wotan is now planning to implant a CAM training and follow up program, with a series of courses administered by SKA.

Among the clients of the software house are, for example, Marcopolo, a manufacturer of chassis for buses; Siemens, the huge German company that works in telecommunications, energy, industrial automation and medical equipment; and Aracruz Celulose, for which SKA developed a special program for the digitalization in the tabulation of technical documentation.

SKA grossed R$ 6.5 million during 2001. The company, which was born through the drive of only one man, today has forty three employees of whom twenty two work in the technical area, supplying, besides the development of special projects, consulting, specification and implementation of services and training. Koelln is a member of the commission for the implantation of the Information Technology Hub (Center) of São Leopoldo, which is linked to the Center of Exact Sciences and Technology of the University of the Vale do Rio dos Sinos (Unitec/Unisinos), which turned itself into a reality in 1999. The SKA, which for two years operated in the Technology Park of Unitec/Unisinos, moved to its own headquarters in 2001.

The São Leopoldo Hub, which also has an incubator of technologically based enterprises, is creating a center of excellence in engineering software, the ESICenter Unisinos, so as to qualify professionals in programs development. The initiative is an agreement between Unisinos and the European Software Institute (ESI), from Bilbao in Spain. Certainly new flights are on the horizon.