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To meet specific customer requests, you need flexible machines that can adapt to individual requirements. For new machines with built-in intelligence and connectivity, that's no problem at all. But most shop floors are full of legacy equipment that is not equipped to participate in a smart factory solution. In these cases, one approach would be to replace it all with new equipment – a complex and costly solution. A more economical approach to modernization is retrofitting. Twenty years ago, Dieter Burri went into business retrofitting machine tools. To automate his machines, he relies on B&R's portfolio of scalable hardware and software.

Twenty years ago, you made a decision to automate your first machine with B&R technology. Why?

Dieter Burri: When I was first getting started twenty years ago, I found that many of the controllers on the market were too bulky to fit in the control cabinet of the grinder that I was retrofitting. The compact design of B&R's control system was exactly what I needed. And to this day, working with B&R has proven a perfect fit in every way.

Your company does retrofitting. What does that entail exactly?

Burri: We're specialized in the retrofitting of gear grinding machines. That involves replacing mechanical change gears with CNC axes. What that does is give the user a huge productivity boost, while also extending the life of a good machine. Even back then, B&R already offered electronic gears, which allowed me to synchronize the electronic CNC axis with the axis of the grinding wheel.

Once the machines have been modernized, they get integrated into an existing company network. How do you ensure that communication works without problems?

Burri: B&R's automation systems are so thoroughly integrated and open, it's easy to provide our customers with helpful information about the machines and their processes. And since OPC UA is deeply anchored in the B&R automation system, the task of integrating the data into IT systems is really straightforward. Any B&R controller can be operated as an OPC UA server or client. That means they can communicate both vertically with SCADA, MES and ERP systems and horizontally from PLC to PLC, even in multi-vendor systems. With all the different communication interfaces B&R products support, we can make the machine can talk to any other system we need it to.

So you also use B&R software in all your machines?

Burri: That's right. Since the B&R software is decoupled from the hardware, we can use the same basic software on very different machines. Despite all the differences in the machines we work on, we only need two software projects: one for gear grinding machines and one for profiling machines. And that's regardless of whether it's a retrofit or a new machine. When it comes to maintaining and updating our software, that makes things a whole lot easier. We've now also begun using B&R's integrated safety technology, which also greatly simplifies our work.

So you're building your own machines now too?

Burri: That's right. Since 2015, we've been applying our knowledge – and B&R technology – to construct new machines as well. For example, we've created the world's first hydraulics-free horizontal grinder for micro gears.

Over the past twenty years, has there ever been a time when you considered a different supplier?

Burri: B&R has always seen itself as a partner to machine builders, rather than simply a component supplier. Early on, they handled development of both the machine control and HMI applications. That saved me a considerable amount of development overhead and business risk. B&R technology has always done well by our customers, and by us. Our periodic supplier evaluations have only strengthened that conviction. We use B&R technology wherever possible – and by now that includes nearly the every product in their portfolio. That's not to say there haven't been B&R skeptics amongst our customers.

How did you manage to convince them?

Burri: One that comes to mind is a large German automotive manufacturer who had decided to retrofit a machine, in spite of some dissenting opinions internally. One day, I received a call with what they thought was a crisis: they needed an additional emergency switch-off integrated into the machine controller. When I told them our employees could take care of it via remote access in five minutes – faster than a technician could even walk through the hall – they finally changed their tune about the B&R control solution.

Very impressive, thanks for your time!

The BZ70H from Burri is the world's first hydraulics-free horizontal grinder for micro gears.

World's first hydraulics-free grinder from Burri

Dieter Burri's company developed the world's first hydraulics-free horizontal grinder for micro gears using B&R technology. The BZ70H is specially designed for very small workpieces. Mini grinding wheels allow highly efficient grinding of parts with interfering contours and short run-out paths. Instead of a conventional hydraulic solution, workpieces are held in place using an integrated motor-drive unit from B&R. The workpiece and counter spindle are controlled synchronously and work together with high precision.

The all-electric BZ70H is considerably faster than hydraulic machines in terms of clamping sequences and tool changes. It is also substantially more energy efficient. During production, the BZ70H reaches a full-load output of 8 kVA.

Dieter Burri

CEO, Burri Werkzeugmaschinen

"At B&R, I have found not only a supplier, but rather a reliable partner for many years."

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