In fan development, the design engineers at Ziehl-Abegg are becoming increasingly successful in putting bionic approaches into practice in order to improve aerodynamics. However, implementing these optimized forms in series production poses a major challenge. “We are using such complex injection moulding technology that the cost for one single tool alone is half a million euros," explains Peter Fenkl, CEO of Ziehl-Abegg SE. Ten years’ experience gained from suppliers manufacturing fans made from plastic on behalf of Ziehl-Abegg have been incorporated into the new plants. The key feature is that the injection moulding machines already monitor important process parameters during production, ruling out the possibility of faulty products.
“The move into the field of plastics technology will benefit our customers in particular” says Fenkl. This is because Ziehl-Abegg will now be manufacturing its own fans made of aluminium as well as steel and plastic. “We have brought added value in-house”, says the company boss, commenting on the new era ahead. This will allow each engineer to determine which material is best suited to the customer's application, based on objective criteria. Fenkl: "We now have all three technologies at our disposal in-house. That sets us apart from our competitors.”
In the market, Ziehl-Abegg has replaced many fans that were previously made of steel or aluminium, with plastic ones. The thermoplastic fibre composite material ZAmid was developed by Ziehl-Abegg. The material is much lighter than steel but allows fans to rotate at a speed of 250 kilometres per hour in continuous operation; the plastic fans are tested at speeds of up to 500 kilometres per hour. “We will continue to expand the potential of plastics for lightweight construction to the benefit of our customers,” promises Fenkl. The reason for this is that many geometries which are aerodynamically ideal can simply not be realised in steel or aluminium.
With a total investment of five million euros for machines and tools, six new jobs have so far been created in the field of plastics production. Overall, the number of employees at Ziehl-Abegg in the Hohenlohe Industrial Park has risen from 480 to 770.
The major increase in the workforce resulted from the production of energy-saving fans: this was relocated from the plant on Würzburger Strasse in Künzelsau to the new building in the Industrial Park where the area for the manufacture of these so-called EC products has been increased to 5,000m2. EC fan production output has been doubled. Although the degree of automation has been significantly increased, more people are employed in production as a result of the increase in sales.
The new building is rounded off by a modern, open-plan office. This wing of the building houses several departments which have relocated from Künzelsau to Kupferzell. The space in Künzelsau is needed to allow for the expansion of PCB production for electric motors.
Key data / Ziehl-Abegg in the Hohenlohe Industrial Park
Cost of construction: 28 million euros (building and machinery)
Additional production area: 9,000 square metres
Total production area in the Industrial Park: 44,240 square metres
Total number of employees in the Industrial Park: 770 (total of 2,200 in Hohenlohe, 3,900 worldwide)
Ziehl-Abegg (Kuenzelsau, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany) is one of the leading global companies in the field of ventilation, control and drive technology. Back in the Fifties, Ziehl-Abegg established the basis for modern fan drives: external rotor motors which even today are still seen as state-of-the-art worldwide. Another area of business is electric motors which provide the power, for example, for elevators, medical applications (computer tomography equipment) or deep-sea underwater vehicles. The theme of electro-mobility for motor vehicles was established as part of the Ziehl-Abegg Automotive Team in 2012.
The high-tech company has an impressive innovative capability. Ziehl-Abegg employs 2,200 personnel in its production plants in Southern Germany. The company has a global workforce of 3,900 spread between 16 production plants, 28 companies and 108 sales locations. The products, approx. 30,000 in all, are sold in more than 100 countries. Turnover in 2017 totalled 540 million euros, with exports accounting for three quarters of the figure.
Emil Ziehl founded the company in Berlin in 1910 as a manufacturer of electric motors. After the Second World War the company’s headquarters were relocated to Southern Germany. Ziehl-Abegg SE is not a listed company but instead is family-owned. For more information go to www.ziehl-abegg.com.