STM Waterjet GmbH Germany
Background: One family joined forces to become a manufacturing think tank for the metal industry.
At the westernmost tip of the Netherlands, surrounded by water and endless horizons, an entire family devoted itself completely to the vision of breaking through conventional horizons of experience with a startup of a special kind in the field of special mechanical engineering and automation. The father, Ido Matthijsse, was firmly established as an art blacksmith and producer of custom-made automatic door systems. His son Richard was successful in vehicle and prototype construction with his company Artics Engineering, and the second son Johnny had made a name for himself as the owner of JMT Techniek with truck customisations and applications for the food industry. In their own way, they all stood for a high level of problem-solving competence based on the principle “Nothing is impossible” and top-class custom fit design. They were all successful in their niches and were following the growing demand for innovative manufacturing solutions in the metalworking industry with interest. They decided to merge the three companies to open up a broader market with combined services. The result was the MST Zeeland consortium, which was launched in early 2018. The common basis of the three companies initially was the demand for components and parts for existing customers, but also for new markets. They were therefore looking for a separation process as flexible and as automatic as possible, with which complicated metal components could be produced quickly and easily. A versatile technology that can be used for many applications, is suitable for individual production as well as for series production, and can be used by MST to operate across industries. The goal: Using unique capabilities in a highly specialized market environment and using a technology that makes the whole thing economical. After a detailed analysis of the requirements and intensive discussions with colleagues, it was clear: Water is the future key tool for MST.
The problem: The startup had to get up to full speed in record time in terms of expertise, performance range and credibility.
The idea was as visionary as the implementation. In fact, three highly talented pioneers founded a company based on a technology with which they had no experience. And they wanted to use this technology in a way that was different from conventional practise. They wanted to be able to produce highly complex 2D and 3D geometries and further refine standard components. In short, they needed the purpose tool among waterjet systems. And as users, they had to achieve expert status as quickly as possible in order to be able to carry out feasibility studies that would convince customers and stimulate their creativity. After all, they did not intend to position themselves as suppliers but as manufacturing sparring partners and innovators right from the start. All in all, a Herculean task that could not be accomplished with talent and passion alone. The triumvirate therefore proceeded with a catalogue of requirements for a waterjet cutting system whose 100 criteria included far more than just technical requests. In addition to an efficient system and a fair price, the manufacturer of choice should leave nothing to be desired in terms of service, support, innovation competence, interdisciplinary thinking and industry know-how. Ambitious expectations, which MST planned to justify by a collaborative partnership according to the principle “know-how for know-how”. “StM was the most obvious choice after the analysis already” according to Richard Matthijsse, it was “foreseeable that not only the technology, but also the mindset and culture of this owner-managed, Austrian-German company would suit us best. In the end, this proved to be the case in every respect.” A first live demonstration at the exhibition stand in Brussels is enough for the passionate technology freaks to lose their hearts to the waterjet technology – and the engineers of STM.
The solution: On a “Nothing is impossible” course with the 3D waterjet cutting system
In July 2018, MST became the proud owner of a Premium Cut with 3D cutting head and 3 x 1.5 m cutting table. Assembly and commissioning were done in no time – training was different through. Because normal is not enough for the guys from MST. Equipped with beginners' knowledge, MST started a phase of tinkering and experimenting while repeatedly requesting input and technical changes from STM. Inspired by the new “manufacturing freedom”, the MST team soon crossed the boundaries of what is supposedly possible and ventured into new territories. The company produced multimedia showcases of the most striking work studies, which have since provided insight into completely new wonders of waterjet technology on the homepage
www.mst-zeeland.nl. “We love automation and are very close to the subject of erosion and water here on the coast. These are good prerequisites for declaring waterjet cutting to be our professional joy,” Richard was pleased to say. “For us it is a revelation that the most complex geometries can be formed almost fully automatically to an accuracy of just a fraction of a millimeter using erosion as a separation technique at 100 mm thick metal.” After many inspiring discussions and workshops, manufacturers and users grew together to form a very special partnership. Both parties recognized a common interest in making the possibilities of waterjet technology accessible to a larger market by joining forces. They not only partnered in marketing. After a very short time, MST became a test customer and creative think tank for STM. It tested beta versions of software updates, provided feedback, forged ahead into new production dimensions in addition to ongoing cutting tasks and documented the most remarkable successes with a camera. “In everyday use, we see scope for new functions that simplify work and, for example, improve cutting time or produce very special parts,” Richard Matthijsse said. “StM transforms our passes or returns the balls. Nothing better could have happened to us. As a newcomer in the waterjet world we are already a step ahead thanks to STM's expertise, innovative spirit and support. Of course, STM also benefits from this.”
The result: MST is at the top of the A-Team of the international waterjet league.
No question about it, it cost a lot of money, machine time and even more effort. But just one year after the company was founded, MST had already achieved its goal: Today, the consortium is a leading provider in the field of specialized 3D waterjet cutting. The list of customers is as varied as it is illustrious – and so are the orders. Clients include mechanical engineering companies, engineering offices, metalworkers, but also flight case designers, premium stonemasons, artists and architects. A healthy mix of prestige projects and contract cutting orders led to a dynamic company development: sometimes a futuristic outdoor lift, which could also have come from the laboratories of Q, produced turnkey for a wealthy “Dr. No”, sometimes the terminal boxes of standard HMI displays with cable guides and mounting holes. “The 3D cutting head from StM has one of the largest cutting angles on the market. The head is also compact. This makes it very suitable for machining existing parts with complex geometries such as metal or plastic castings, whether rotation or vacuum formed,” Richard Matthijsse enthused. “Since many castings have to be machined further on some surfaces, the milling cutter has so far been regarded as the preferred choice, but waterjet cutting is an economical alternative with many advantages. We want to build on this potential. In addition, we now have a fast and accurate method for prototyping and making our own designs.” Demand still fluctuates at times, but the news is spreading fast and existing customers are increasingly coming in with new projects. MST feels on the right track with its uncompromising specialization. The company has evolved from a mere order recipient to a production consultant.
The bottom line: Waterjet cutting still has a steep career ahead of it.
MST now knows that the potential of waterjet technology is far from exhausted – not in people's minds and not even in order books. The experts describe the status quo as follows:
1. 70 % of users are satisfied with simple 2D cuts from metal plates.
2. Another 25 % can also make 3D cuts from metal plates and mitre cuts. However, they use this capability for the production of more complex geometries, most of which have been milled so far. We can present classic milling and production orders that can be produced 25 % cheaper with water jet – with comparable surface quality and tolerance. With water jet, we can meet requirements up to ISO 2768-1/2 (mK), the standard is ISO 2768-1/2 (cL). These are the classic criteria for many milled parts. Each individual workpiece must be clamped during milling but not during waterjet cutting. On the contrary: We cut various parts out of one plate without any radial forces, that means we can also significantly reduce throughput times for larger series.
3. No more than 5 % experience the gigantic value creation potential that lies in the refinement of prefabricated serial products using 3D cutting processes. Only very few develop approaches for new projects. Here we have already implemented projects that entail 60 % cost savings for our customers just because we use water jets in new areas. With a little creativity and imagination, you can venture into completely new production dimensions.
For MST, it was a strategic decision to belong to the 5 %. Because inquiries are becoming increasingly complex in terms of production technology and companies are dependent on new input from industry. On the other hand, MST is open for new cooperations and increasingly cooperates with CNC procurement platforms. Above all, however, the company has an even greater mission: “We want to make the world aware of what waterjet can do in the 3D field and inspire customers to introduce more waterjet creativity into their projects. This reduces production costs, delivery times and increases competitiveness. And that's where Europe needs to get better.”
Anyone who sees this in the same way will be able to get a glimpse of new ideas – or rather technologies – at the Marmomac trade fair in Verona, September 25–28, 2019. At the StM booth A3 – A9 in hall 3, you can experience the StM waterjet cutting system in action with an ideal configuration for stone processing: The 1020 PremiumCut 3D68 and the 6030 PremiumCut IFC. At the same time, visitors can schedule an individual consultation appointment to determine their possibilities in waterjet production. StM's non-binding offer ranges from a personal cost-benefit analysis to used systems and financing models.
As an alternative, Richard Matthijsse will be happy to pass on his experience as a water jet user for the metal industry to colleagues in person.
Dipl.-Ing.(FH) Sven Anders