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50 Years Strong: Paul Horn GmbH Honors Past, Looks to Future at 2019 Technology Days

Chris Mahar
By Chris Mahar Associate Editor, SME Media

The World’s Fair is a celebration of the achievements of nations, first held in 1851. Started in 2009, Horn Technology Days, hosted by Paul Horn GmbH every two years, is a celebration of manufacturing and what is possible with modern cutting tool technology. Held at the company’s headquarters in Tübingen, Germany, this year’s event saw more than 4,700 international manufacturing professionals from 35 countries spend three days attending technical sessions, touring Horn’s three factories and experiencing practical demonstrations of the company’s manufacturing products.

What started as a way to show the world that manufacturing, while bruised, still had life after the Great Recession, has grown to incorporate 56 partners. Although the event highlights Horn’s products and capabilities, it’s clear that the company is focused on telling the larger story of manufacturing’s impact and uses the event to connect with the customers and users of their products for the benefit of all.

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Horn held its Technology Days 2019 at its headquarters in Tübingen, Germany

Attendees at the event had near free range to tour Horn’s Tübingen facilities, spread out over three buildings and 30,000 m2 (including Horn Hartstoffe GmbH, which supplies Horn with its own carbide grades and blanks). Throughout, partnering organizations highlighted products made using the company’s cutting tools and accessories, and the machines in which they’re produced. Guided tours gave an up-close-and-personal look at the company’s R&D, production, coating and carbide manufacturing operations. The tours showcased how Horn makes, processes, treats and distributes the more than 25,000 standard tool and 150,000 special solution products in its production portfolio. Special tools make up nearly 50 percent of the company’s sales.

50 Years of Progress

This year’s Technology Days had an extra level of energy over past years as the company celebrates 50 years since being founded by Paul Horn on October 27, 1969—originally headquartered out of the family home in Waiblingen, Germany. The company is still family owned, led by Paul Horn’s son Lothar Horn and grandson Markus Horn, who serve as managing directors, along with Matthias Rommel, who was appointed technical managing director in November 2018.

Fifty years in, the company serves 70 countries with customers in the automotive, chemical, aviation and aerospace, medical technology, and tool- and mold-making industries. Horn employs 1,500 workers worldwide, 1,000 of whom are in Germany, and had worldwide sales of approximately €300 million in 2018. Beyond Tübingen, where Horn is the city’s largest industrial employer, the company has production sites in England, Italy, the Czech Republic and U.S. Its new Czech Republic facility was just completed in March and the company is making a $25 million investment in a new facility in Franklin, Tenn., which is expected to be completed in July 2020.

New machine investments by the company include 55 new DMU 40 machines from DMG Mori, seven Zoller titan machines and a Lizzini external cylindrical grinding machine. Additionally, the company has added Hauzer coating equipment and the Rollomatic LaserSmart 501 and DMG Mori Lasertec 20 for machining. The company is also ordering four Chiron FZ08 FX Magnum High Speed VMCs and expanding its additive capabilities with a DMG Mori Lasertec 20 SLM 2nd Gen.

Planning for another 50 years, the company has taken steps to protect itself in today’s uncertain geopolitical climate. Not worried about Brexit, the company has built up a three to four-month security and safety stock in the U.K. on the chance of a hard, no-deal exit from the E.U. Meanwhile, trade agreements between Mexico and the E.U. protect the company from any political uncertainty in U.S./Mexico relations—allowing the company to shift Mexican order fulfillment from the U.S. to its E.U. operations. Horn has also been growing its presence in Russia among aerospace, oil and gas, and general machining customers.

New Products

Each year Horn invests 6-7 percent of revenue into R&D. This year’s event offered a look at some new products coming out of that investment.

Attendees got the very first look at Horn’s latest geometry for parting off titanium. The WT geometry was designed for titanium using extensive simulations, proving its value in parting off bone screws made of the material. The adapted geometry ensures a soft cut and reliable chip breaking, enabling higher feed rates and faster machining times, according to Horn. The company claims tests have shown service life increases of up to 60 percent. Type 224 inserts designed for type H224 holders are available in increments of 2, 2.5 and 3 mm in grade IG35.

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Horn's Piezo Tool System consists of a Kistler Group force sensor inserted into the turning tool and provides information on its condition during machining (Provided by Paul Horn GmbH)

Alongside the new Type 224 inserts, Horn showcased its Piezo Tool System (PTS), developed in collaboration with the Kistler Group. Enabling real-time monitoring of tools used in micro turning applications, PTS consists of a force sensor which is inserted into the turning tool and provides information on its condition during machining. Horn claims the extremely small piezo sensor can measure even the tiniest cutting forces to a high resolution. The new solution is compatible with selected standard turning toolholders offered by Horn and does not require any adjustment to be made at the control, enabling its use on any machine.

Horn also showed off its expanded N117 internally cooled broaching system. Coolant is now able to flow through both the insert seat as well as to the side. Geometries have been adapted to enable the use of the N117 in broaching machines and turret broaching. The company stated the improvements ensure cooling in the contact zone even when taking deep cuts and that the stronger flushing action improves chip removal, reducing the risk of chip build-up. Users are able to leverage the N117 on a CNC lathe, allowing machining to be carried out in a single clamping. The solution allows a variety of geometries, including gears, keyways, helical and curved cuts, and offers a cost-effective alternative to conventional broaching as it can be used on virtually any CNC lathe, according to the company.

For sintered carbides and ceramics with a hardness up to 3,000 HV, Horn launched its DDHM system of CVD diamond-tipped tools for drilling and milling. The company claims the system allows machining to take place on conventional milling or turning centers, eliminating costly and time-consuming grinding and eroding processes. Primarily aimed at the tool and die making sector, Horn also sees opportunity for the tool system to offer advantages to the medical and aerospace sectors, the automotive industry, and in punching, forging and forming technology.

The CVD-D-tipped drills within the DDHM system can produce holes at a maximum depth of 10xD and have a two-edged design. Diameters range from 2 mm (0.079") to 10 mm (0.394") and all versions feature an internal coolant supply. CVD-D end mills for chamfering and countersinking come in diameters of 3 mm (0.118") and 6 mm (0.236") and with flank angles of 15, 30 and 45°. The 3-mm version has five teeth while the 6-mm version has six.

A Focus on Education

Beyond featuring the latest in machines, tools and innovative products, Horn’s Technology Days showcased eight technical sessions presented in four different languages—covering additive manufacturing, coating development, trends and perspectives for the precision tool industry, machining sintered carbide, gear machining, new products, milling and grooving and parting off.

This commitment to education is evident in Horn’s apprenticeship program, which averages 75 apprentices at any given time. Twenty new apprentices start their training each year in Horn’s 1,200 m2 specialized training area. Meanwhile, the company’s Horn Academy provides training, advanced training and qualification services for customers and employees. Courses include advanced training to the level of industrial specialist for cutting tools (accredited by the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry) as well as retraining as machine and systems operators.

While attending Horn’s Technology Days—walking through its advanced production facilities, viewing the latest products and machines enabled by their tools, participating in the week’s technical presentations—it’s impossible not to smile and see a bright future ahead for the metalworking industry as a whole.

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