From a trading company to an own manufacturing: Rodriguez GmbH has experienced a significant change over the last 35 years. The factory in Eschweiler (Germany) boats a comprehensive machine shop for linear technology and precision bearings. Currently the share of in-house production is about 45 %. Due to the in-house production and the short decision-making processes between sales, design and development, Rodriguez is able to respond with much greater flexibility than their competitors. This is mainly because of the fact that all process steps can be done in-house – from the design via manufacturing and assembling up to quality assurance.
Since the company was founded in 1984, Rodriguez has operated as a trading company selling and buying American and European bearings – including Kaydon thin section bearings, stainless steel polymer housing units, RTB bearings, turntable bearings and many other products.
In the early 1990s Rodriguez began offering linear technology products as part of its product portfolio. The decision to commence in-house production was taken at about the same time and was necessary in order to be more flexible and act more efficiently when it came to customer-specific solutions. At first, the company concentrated on the assembly of hardened and ground shafts. However, soon linear housings, shaft support blocks, shaft support rails and linear roundrails were also manufactured in-house. Today Rodriguez uses modern CNC turning machines that enable machining of shafts with an outer diameter of up to 100 mm. The machine park, including all tools and measuring instruments as well as employee expertise, is concentrated on hard turning.
About 10 years ago, the company installed its own machining centres and also expanded its machine park so that the production and manufacturing of bearings could start. Nowadays it is possible to manufacture turntable bearings with outer diameters up to 1,400 mm or to meet the increasing demand for rotary units with a smaller diameter. Innovative equipment and advanced tools ensure that the production facilities are always state-of-the-art. For example, a clean room system of clean room class 4 according to ISO 14644-1, which is necessary for the assembling and production of semiconductor components.
The in-house production for precision bearings and linear technology is also used for the construction and manufacturing of complete customized solutions, which Rodriguez has specialised in over the years: Rodriguez develops and manufactures such Value Added Products (VAP) on the basis of entire technology- and system know-how as well as many years of experience. The solutions are based on the thin section bearings and linear technology products, together with a comprehensive all-round service.
Rodriguez also takes on end machining of linear technical products as part of the customer-specific adaptation of standard parts: this means that shafts, ball screws and trapezoidal screws can be modified in accordance with customer requests. The highest quality is guaranteed because Rodriguez owns 5-axis CNC machines especially designed for hard machining.
Structural changes over the years
Due to the development of the in-house production there need to be some structural changes over the years. So Rodriguez rented a second plant across the road in 2008, which initially housed only the automotive products. First of all this area of approx. 1,200 sqm was used for offices and warehouse as well as the quality assurance and assembly of the automotive components. But as time passed, the space in the warehouse in plant 1 became too small. This is why the scanner assembly for precision bearings and Value Added Products moved to plant 2 with a special area for long-term testing. Additional storage space was also created.
The spatial distribution in plant 1 is currently the following: Hall 1 accommodates the small-parts shelf store and the incoming and outgoing goods area, as well as the new measuring room of approx. 65 sqm, which was created in 2017. The assembly of linear technology components takes place in Hall 2.1, where you can also find a separate room for the assembly of precision bearings included the clean room station. The CNC production of precision and turntable bearings takes place in Hall 2.2. Hall 3 is entirely dedicated to linear production. CNC turning and milling machines, polishing machines as well as cut-off machines for raw and shaft material can be found here. Hall 4 was originally a logistics hall, but it is increasingly being turned into a production hall since the middle of 2018.
By the end of 2019 a new machine for linear technology arrived at Rodriguez. This Biglia B446T2Y2 with a loading and unloading system, can also work without an operator and thereby advanced the automation process at Rodriguez.
Measuring room: More precision for proofed quality
The measuring room in Hall 1 is an example of the continuous improvement of equipment for the benefit of the customer. To check the required tolerances of precision bearings and linear technology in the µ-range, Rodriguez relocated the storage racks from Hall 1 to Plant 2 in 2017 and created a separate measuring room. Therefore Rodriguez has invested in a new 3D measuring machine that can analyse bearings with large outer diameters of up to 1.500 mm. Furthermore a tactile system for the measurement of contour and roughness of ball races is in use. Last but not least, a test stand and mobile devices for hardness testing are also in use, as well as a high-resolution length measuring bench and a roundness testing devices for μ precision.
These devices allow the Eschweiler specialist to check the dimensional accuracy of machined shafts and ball screws, for example, and of milled parts such as bearing housings and shaft supports. Besides complex parts, also individual components, can be inspected: Among other things, this is important for the value added products/customized solutions that Rodriguez designs and manufactures for their customers.
New machines for the production of linear technology and precision bearings
Throughout the years Rodriguez has invested in a variety of state-of-the-art technology. The 3-axis machining centre of the Hedelius C80 Magnum type, which has been added to the Rodriguez in-house production of linear technology since 2018, is a prime example of this. Rodriguez uses the machine for the production of hardened shafts, including radial bores and milling surfaces. The machining centre features a semi-automatic in shuttle operation, i.e. it can operate on both sides.
A new Citizen Miyano ABX-64SYY2 turning machine has been added to the machine park since June 2019. This not only increases production capacity for existing products, but also further expands the product range. This machine enables Rodriguez to manufacture very small rotary high-precision bearings with high accuracy.
The vision of Rodriguez is to further expand the in-house manufacturing and thus respond even better and more flexibly to customer requests. To achieve this the company wants to optimize production processes and material flow.
Author: Nicole Dahlen, Managing Director Sales, Marketing and Organisation, Rodriguez GmbH, visit www.rodriguez.de for more information.