Since 1922, Otto Martin Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG has been manufacturing best-in-class woodworking machinery at its production facility in Ottobeuren, located in the idyllic alpine Allgaeu region of southern Germany. This family-owned business knows a thing or two about precision tools. (The company’s U.S. subsidiary, Martin Woodworking Machines Corp., is based in Charlotte, N.C.)
“The performance of our woodworking machines today is simply incredible,” said Tobias Hauff, head of production at Martin in Germany. “With pinpoint accuracy, modern touch-screen controls and exceptional longevity, our sliding table saws, spindle molders, and planers are clearly positioned in the premium segment—at a corresponding price point, of course. Price notwithstanding, our customers are well aware of the value that such top-notch machines provide.
“Likewise, our own production facilities require only the finest, most reliable machining equipment,” Hauff continued. “Without them, we could not produce the more than 1,100 machines that we sell every year at this premium level of quality.”
Some time ago, Martin noticed that its tools for spindle fittings were no longer keeping up with technological requirements. “Our management is always open to finding and implementing technical improvements, so to resolve this issue, I was given the go-ahead to test the various tool systems available on the market. Very quickly, my colleagues and I were convinced that when it comes to BIG Kaiser, everything simply works. Once set up, the tools are stable and everything fits and aligns perfectly,” Hauff said. BIG Kaiser Precision Tooling’s headquarters are in Rümlang, Switzerland, with U.S. headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
Martin wanted to build a clamping tower. It would have 18F7 fittings with concentric M12 threads for rear clamping, numbering 987 in total. “This, of course, places extreme demands on radial stiffness—it’s quite a challenge, but as long as everything is properly adjusted to our parameters, it works seamlessly,” said Alexander Hartl, application engineer at BIG Kaiser. “A second hurdle was that the tower was a large rectangular cuboid comprised of welded plates and, due to the design, we had to make several fittings and threads directly through the weld seams.”
Machine Operator Andreas Schindler admitted being skeptical at first, “but now I’m impressed; the performance is more than convincing. You simply set it all up and the program runs like clockwork.”
“These tools don’t just last ‘a little’ longer,” said Hauff. “We’re talking about substantial differences here, by almost a factor of two. This is particularly noticeable on our clamping towers, where the CNC program runs smoothly without any time-consuming manual tool readjustments. We can produce an entire clamping tower without adjusting the fine boring head or even changing the indexable insert. This is a real game changer.”
Reliable thread tapping is a key production process on our clamping towers, according to Hartl. “In this case, the MEGA Synchro tap holder was the obvious choice,” he said. “When threads are tapped by a machine, the rotation speed of the tap must match the feed rate precisely. The high forces present in the tapping process mean that systems without length compensation often face issues with taps breaking off. The result is that the operator then has to search for the broken piece—not an easy task when inspecting almost 1,000 threaded holes. This, logically, causes considerable disruption to the production process.”
Automatic length compensation on BIG Kaiser’s MEGA Synchro tap holder effectively reduces tapping forces caused by synchronization errors by up to 90 percent, according to the company.
“When producing something like the clamping tower, machine operators must be able to fully rely on the tool,” said Schindler. Reliability is just as important in standard production processes, Hauff added. “We often produce small series runs, typically comprised of less than 80 per batch,” he said. “The operator can concentrate on the next part and doesn’t have to worry about whether the current one is passing through correctly. We rely on the strategy of reliably and repeatedly producing identical diameters. With the tools from BIG Kaiser, the operator has confidence to leave the fine boring head in the machine for the next part.”
Martin has one special part that has always been critically important. “It has a large fitting that we had never really managed to get perfectly circular, only within tolerance range,” said Hauff. “But we wanted to make this better and, honestly, tried almost everything. Now, with BIG Kaiser, despite our initial skepticism, everything fits like a glove. Importantly, it’s not just me who’s convinced; the people on the factory floor who work on the machine every day now have full confidence in it. No matter how good a tool may be, if the machine operator doesn’t accept it, it’s essentially useless.”
Martin works with three different types of inserts. During the production process, the tools are highly reliable and exhibit outstanding precision, according to the company. Mounting and configuration are also simple, where, for example, extensions are fixed laterally using a simple screw.
“BIG Kaiser tools are easy to mount and configure,” said Lukas Ertl from the tool dispensary at Martin. “With other tools, you often have to awkwardly reach in from the back, and in case of a replacement, it is not uncommon to have to disassemble everything first. That’s not necessary with systems from BIG Kaiser.”
Service is also a key factor. “BIG Kaiser always delivers on time and Alexander Hartl looks after us well,” said Hauff.
From the production manager to the tool inventory manager to the operator, all are impressed by the level of quality and service. Instead of laboriously tinkering with tool adjustments, Martin can concentrate on its core business—the manufacture of top-class woodworking machines.
“We’ve received many valuable ideas and suggestions over the years,” said Hauff. “And thanks to Alexander’s help, our processes are now quite a bit safer and we are able to deliver even better quality than before. We have never regretted putting our trust into BIG Kaiser’s premium tool systems. They are not the cheapest tool manufacturer on the market, but the inherent quality quickly pays for itself due to a much longer tool life and superior production results. Their philosophy is very similar to that which Martin applies to its top-of-the-line products.”
High-quality tools are always a good investment, he added. “These tools serve us for decades,” said Hauff. “Diligent care, maintenance and oiling will maintain their precision until I retire. As a manufacturer of premium tools, we inherently understand that choosing superior quality is always the better investment decision—quality breeds quality.”