Eiche forges ahead with breakthrough diamond technologyPublished 15/4, 2015
Despite being in the diamond tooling business since 1981, the company Klaus Eiche has kept a low profile. There was a good reason for that: private label manufacturing that accounted for the lions share of its turnover. But if you have a real know-how in your possession, sooner or later you would want the world to know about it. Andrei Bushmarin visited Eiches plant in Denzlingen, Germany.
Manufacturing of diamond tools is a technology-intensive process, which requires in-depth knowledge of industrial diamonds behaviour. That said, knowledge is a prerequisite, but not sufficient by itself. Usually it takes months of trial and error to become a run-of-the-mill manufacturer with a competitive product. However, if you really want to be ahead of the pack, you need a breakthrough technology that it would take years for others to copy.
A born innovator, Klaus Eiche learnt the secrets of the trade while working as a production manager for another German manufacturer of diamond consumables. Passionate about technology and, particularly, about the conception of a fully automated manufacturing facility, he wanted to see his ideas implemented. In 1981, he quit his employment and established his company Klaus Eiche. Invention and innovation were always at the core of his philosophy. Almost every machine at the original factory in Denzlingen was developed by Eiche. The company was also among the first few to pioneer the production of laser-welded diamond blades in Germany.
Winoa Group moving in
After two decades, Klaus Eiche built up a reputation of a reliable OEM partner. In the early 2000s, its manufacturing expertise and capabilities attracted the attention of Grenoble-based Winoa group. One of the worlds leading suppliers of gang saws for stone cutting, Winoa was interested in strengthening its position in construction. Having already bought French manufacturer Samedia in the 1990s, the group all but cornered the domestic market. By taking over Klaus Eiche in 2003, Winoa gained access to Europes biggest market and to Klaus Eiches vast database of OEM customers while simultaneously acquiring a highly automated and streamlined production plant. Four years later, it added Belgium-based Carbodiam and Ultradia to its list construction assets. With these four units onboard, the group could effectively target every strata of the diamond consumables market, from private label customers to retail buyers to professional sawing and drilling contractors.
Ark Capital buys out Winoas construction assets
Within the group, each manufacturing unit had its specialisation. While Klaus Eiche focused on production of laser-welded blades, ranging from 115mm to 1.2m in diameter and small-sized grinding wheels, Samedia specialised in making core bits, silver-brazed blades for wet cutting and big grinding wheels. Belgian Carbodiam targeted professional contractors with up to 2.5m silver-brazed blades, core bits and special products like calibrating tools for refractory bricks. When the 2008 recession struck, Winoa was affected by it as much as anybody else in the industry. It was during that time that Nicolas Vermeulen was appointed as the groups managing director. His task was to navigate the company through the downturn and to mitigate its consequences. Having successfully risen to the challenge, he later became instrumental in preparing the buyout of Winoas construction assets by Dublin-based Ark Capital group in April 2013.
EFT: Eiche Forging Technology
The idea of using the forging process to manufacture diamond tools was originally conceived by Samedia engineers in France back in the early 2000s. However, it was not until Dr. Uwe Neidhardt and his team at Klaus Eiche took over the project that the idea really started to shape out. It took them about five years of research and development to adopt the forging process for serial production of diamond tools at Denzlingen plant. Called Eiche Forging Technology, it boasted a number of advantages over the conventional sintering process used by most manufacturers.
Due to the extremely high pressure during forging, the segment bond gets very dense and almost free of pores, particularly in the welding area. This results in higher resistance of the segments to possible rupture, which means a higher level of operational safety. When tested against the standard sintering process, EFT showed a 50% to 100% increase in lifespan of the tool and a 20% to 50% increase in cutting speed, depending on the type of concrete or asphalt being cut.
Another benefit of EFT is the possibility to make segments with different geometry, for instance, trapeze-shaped segments. This geometry helps to cut down on hand-arm vibration in the hand-held cutting mode, significantly reducing operator fatigue. Having protected the EFT by the global patent, the German manufacturer is certain that it would take competitors at least ten years to come up with a similar process. Eiche diamond tools made by EFT are marketed worldwide under the registered brand name of SHOXX.
Made in Germany
Eiches Denzlingen facility is the epitome of what a modern factory should look like. Sprawled across the area of 3,500m2, the ISO 9001 certified plant is spotlessly clean, environmentally friendly and fully automated. With the daily output of 70,000 segments and 4,000 diamond blades, it only takes about 20 people to control the manufacturing process. Apart from the trademark laser welded forged diamond blades, the factory also produces conventional sintered segments, grinding wheels and core bits. Its total portfolio of diamond consumables currently accounts for 6,000 specifications. With 53 employees, the company supplies its products to 64 countries and the list keeps growing. An active member of the Federation of European Producers of Abrasives, Association for the Safety of Abrasives and the German Abrasives Association, Klaus Eiche aims to stay at the forefront of innovation in the diamond tooling industry.