Many variants, cost pressures and just-in-sequence delivery: The continuously increasing demands in the automotive sector can only be met with sophisticated technology and lean production. Ahmet Ağaoğlu, Managing director at A-Plas is convinced of this—and he is a man who likes to do the job right. This is why he had the third a-plas plant built in only 18 months and it is the first to be completely designed for the production of bumpers for its main clients, Ford and Fiat. It has been in operation since 2016.
In the lower level of the state-of-the-art plant, three MX machines from KraussMaffei are currently working with clamping forces between 16,000 and 32,000 kN and producing materials made from PP / ABS / EPDM. A six-axis robot detaches the sprue automatically and flame-treats the bumper to activate the surface, because right next to it is the painting system, in which the components are coated with the color of the car.
Then onto the elevator to the first floor, where final assembly takes place. At this point, it is important to pay attention, because if a Fiat customer ordered a red vehicle with fog lights and parking sensors, these must be mounted accordingly. Subsequently, a gray bumper can come without extras, then another one could come with LED headlights. The A-Plas team delivers in the exact sequence that the OEM has planned for its production program. After inspection, the ready-to-install bumpers are packed and loaded. Even the truck ramp with its own access road is positioned exactly where the components are finished in the plant, for short, time-saving runs.
Predictive maintenance and fast supply of spare parts
One cannot allow any interruption to upset this fine-tuned rhythm. Therefore, what is needed is a combination of reliable machines that are suitable for continuous operation and technical service available around the clock. In the opinion of A-Plas, KraussMaffei and its Turkish sales and service partner, Tepro Makine, make the perfect team. With its technical office in Nilüfer / Bursa, Tepro is located near A-Plas. This makes predictive maintenance and a fast supply of spare parts simple. Ağaoğlu makes it clear how important this is, saying, "Together, KraussMaffei as the manufacturer and Tepro as the agent provide us with a machine pool that meets our expectations for the highest quality and service entirely. We absolutely have to avoid any breakdowns in production because we generally keep our buffer stock to a minimum. High availability of all components is a fundamental requirement."
The active partnership of development, production and service (from the left):Cem Saygın (General Manager, TEPRO), Peter Ils (Sales Manager Turkey, KraussMaffei), Hasan Ağaoğlu (Assistant General Manager, A-Plas) Murat İşgöz (Factory Manager, A-Plas)
Nine MX lines at three different A-Plas plants
The collaboration between the three partners goes back to 2004, when family-owned company A-Plas purchased a KraussMaffei machine for the first time. Today, a total of nine MX systems with clamping forces between 16,000 and 32,000 kN run at the three a-plas locations and, in addition to bumpers, also manufacture ornaments for the car body. The 800 employees supply customers in Turkey and the United States. As early as 1993, only five years after the founding of the company, A-Plas was able to establish itself as a Tier 1 supplier. The fact that nine employees focus on research and development alone shows how forward-thinking the team in Bursa is. They see themselves as partners with their customers and help to develop new trends together. For example, A-Plas was the first manufacturer of bumpers in Turkey to use electronically controlled needle shut-off nozzles. Unlike hydraulic and pneumatic systems, in which the shut-off needle can only occupy the start or end position (open or closed), they offer the option to carry out steps in fractions of millimeters. As a result, joint lines or flow lines are avoided during cascade injection molding. These are mistakes that only actually emerge during the subsequent painting and then incur double the costs—especially when large amounts of plastic are used, which is the case with bumpers.
"Using APC, our process reliability is extremely high and we can further decrease the scrap rates."
Upt ot 100 % good parts with APC
The APC (Adaptive Process Control) machine function from KraussMaffei also plays a part in bringing a-plas' yield of good parts up to the coveted 100%. Factors such as ambient temperature, humidity or batch fluctuations in the material influence the injection molding process and lead to slight changes in the melt viscosity and in turn, the component weight.
APC offsets this and regulates the changeover point from injection pressure to holding pressure from shot to shot. This results in parts that are extremely consistent in terms of weight. Ağaoğlu expresses his satisfaction, saying, "Using APC, our process reliability is extremely high and we can further decrease the scrap rates. Flashing during batch fluctuations is now completely preventable and with that, splitter problems in some molds."
The MX 3200-24500 with APC is now the new machine standard at A-PLAS and its smooth 24/7 operation and repeatability is appreciated. And it wants to make more technological developments. The future is in lightweight construction processes such as FiberForm, in which the organo sheets are encapsulated or in surface technologies such as ColorForm. Here, the components come out of the mold finished with a PUR coating, which saves additional process steps.
Vision of an online factory by 2020
Article design is part of the A-Plas business so that new technologies can be integrated into a pending project very easily. Industry 4.0 also opens up opportunities of which the Bursa-based company is determined to take advantage of. Through the networking of machines and peripherals, in the medium-term it will be possible to operate production autonomously, without manual intervention. Ağaoğlu has the vision to operate an online factory by 2020, one that works at night without the need for lighting. Currently, A-Plas is working with service providers to get logistics reports on mobile end devices.