As a manufacturer of premium fittings that have won numerous awards, it is nothing unusual for Dornbracht when the international trade press directs its attention to the Iserlohn-based company. In spring 2010, however, it was not an innovative new product that was attracting such great interest in the industry, but a new and globally unique development in electroplating technology.
The central solution commonly found in the industry - a large, rack-based electroplating system - has been replaced by four modular production lines: two Gavarolines and two Variolines. This has competitive advantages: because the individual units can be readily exchanged, Dornbracht can respond more quickly to customer requests and promptly integrate technical innovations into the process.
Production technology must take second place to design
Electroplating is the most important added-value process in the production of high-quality Dornbracht fittings. So for Managing Director Matthias Dornbracht, the supreme principle - that all technical units are secondary to the standard of design - was also applied to the development of the new lines. "Not a single radius, nor a single edge is changed for the sake of increasing the number of items manufactured per minute." And it is precisely the more complex, geometric shapes of many of the fittings series, such as LULU or MEM, that require special technological solutions to plate them with chrome or precious metals such as platinum or gold. The Gavaroline has been specifically developed to meet this challenge. It consists of three modular units, with two robots working in each. Each robot has six axes, which allow it to move accurately in three dimensions and to move the frame-mounted items through the electrolytic solutions. Blind holes, pockets or edges are usually highly problematic, but here, virtually all the residual liquid can escape as the frames are rotated. Spillage is reduced to virtually zero. "We are thus able to achieve a clear improvement in quality closer to the process, as well as minimizing pollutants." Gavarolines allow Dornbracht to manufacture very small batch sizes. Variolines are designed with a moving frame system, for larger quantities with correspondingly lower complexity.
Progress through flexibility
The new electroplating system follows the modular principle that Dornbracht applies to all areas of the company. The modular structure of the Gavarolines and Variolines allows the company to respond very quickly to the requirements of environmental legislation, technological developments and changes in the market. As Matthias Dornbracht says, "We are pushing ahead with progress far more quickly. Which also ensures sustainability." The production lines have been set up in a new multifunctional hall, some 36,500 square feet in size, which was built on the company premises after the devastating fire in 2009. The basic logic of a modular approach can also be found in this new building. The hall is 30 feet high and is, for example, free of any pillars or supports that might hinder its future use for something totally unrelated to its current function. No process-specific elements have been connected to the building either.