Inventiveness drives e-cars forward

The automotive industry is changing, and machine manufacturer SK hydroautomation is at the forefront of this change. The latest milestone in the company's history is a 15-meter assembly line for the production of joints for electric cars. These joints, known in the trade as cgfix joints, transmit power from the drive shafts to the wheels. This sounds simple, but it is not in the hard everyday life of a car. On one side of the joint, the engine power pulls, on the other side the wheel rattles on uneven road surfaces.

That's why care is needed during assembly to ensure a long service life. After all, a joint is made up of 13 parts, from the hub in the middle, to the balls, to the kafig that holds it together. It's amazing how the assembly line puts everything together to fit.

In simple terms, balls and kafig fragments are shoveled into the machine at the front and finished joints come out at the back. In between, the joints that grow from step to step are passed on automatically. One employee is enough to keep the process running. "This is five times faster than if it was produced in the factory", developer roland gebauer describes the benefits of the technology. For the machines and systems with "made in thulba" technology car manufacturers invest up to several million euros. The construction effort for the assembly line is enormous. Six robots, five cameras and two digital scanners, together with controlled pressing, ensure a smooth production process. Even when the parts are delivered, their position is checked for proper installation, then the assembly is monitored and afterwards the correct fit is checked according to the manufacturer's requirements. VW's specifications, which set out the requirements to be met by the equipment, took up an entire file folder.

Taking on a job like this requires experience and self-confidence. And a healthy operating balance, because the machine builder takes over a part of the pre-financing. In the meantime, the machine has passed its test run under the critical eyes of VW engineers and has moved to wolfsburg.

Twelve million in annual sales

Eleven design engineers work hand in hand at SK hydroautomation on the development work. The number of employees has risen again to 64, including eight apprentices. Annual sales in 2018 amounted to twelve million euros.

A washing machine for steering rods is also currently awaiting delivery to mercedes. According to the developer, it also boasts a number of new features to meet increasing environmental requirements. In addition to the absolute cleanliness of the components, special emphasis was placed on energy efficiency, on the treatment of washing water and on the fact that the treated exhaust air is used in the air circulation process for drying the components. Thus no pollutants are released into the environment. "The advanced know-how in such machines favors the service life of engines, gearboxes and chassis parts and ensures that they no longer need to be run in", says roland gebauer. Screwing and tufting is also carried out on a machine for asia. Later, the valves are tested for compliance with the required quality standards for the production of stob steamers. Even though SK hydroautomation is currently doing very well, roland gebauer, as head of development and managing partner, is not under any illusions. "We are already tracking the change", he refers to the car manufacturers' shift towards electromobility. There are far fewer parts in electric cars. Accordingly, there are signs of falling demand for production equipment from thulba in europe, asia and north and south america.

Roland gebauer does not believe that the internal combustion engine will disappear completely from now on. Instead, it assumes a prolonged transition phase in which different technologies are needed in parallel. And then there is the challenge of recruiting new talent. Companies in the region are finding it difficult to recruit trainees. "We want to become better known, therefore gives gebauer as a motto.

With such a wealth of ideas, this should not be too difficult for his company. SK-hydroautomation already has the next order from VW for an assembly line for coarser cgfix joints in prospect.