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03/25/2022|WALDEMAR LINK GMBH & CO. KG

Competitive with integrated system solutions

Since it was established in 1948, Waldemar Link GmbH & Co. KG from Norderstedt near Hamburg has gone from being a specialist company for hospital supplies to an international manufacturer of implants and instruments.

Waldemar Link GmbH specializes in the production of endoprosthesis components, such as these acetabular cups made from Ti6Al4V.

The developers and designers at LINK constantly collaborate with surgeons to develop products of increasingly high quality. With about 1,300 employees worldwide, the company is represented on five continents. As far as production is concerned, the company relies on innovative manufacturing solutions that meet medical engineering requirements at all times. More than 50 CNC machine tools from DMG MORI alone are in three-shift use in the factory buildings at the company headquarters – and the amount of automation has been increasing for several years. The latest installations include two NTX 1000 turning and milling centers with  Robo2Go for machining acetabular cups and an NTX 1000 for manufacturing femoral stems.

Demographic development and surgical advancements are two major factors promoting the continuous growth in medical engineering. Endoprostheses alleviate shoulder, hip and knee pain. At the same time, modifications are becoming ever more frequent due to increasing life expectancy, among other things. With an almost complete range of products, LINK differentiates itself from similarly sized competitors and is setting standards in endoprosthetics – particularly for patients: “Every medical case gives someone hope for a mobile, pain-free life”, emphasizes Thomas Kuhlmann, production manager at LINK. It is about improving the quality of life of patients all over the world. “Never stand still – that motivates our employees anew every day.” 

We must always guarantee that our products have consistently high quality. This has been very successfully implemented with manufacturing solutions from DMG MORI, such as the NTX 1000 with Robo2Go.

Thomas Kuhlmann (right) Production Manager and Carsten Schöttler Manufacturing Manager at LINK

Production target: automatic manufacturing for at least 48 hours

This passion is paired with creativity in the production department, where increasingly modern manufacturing solutions have been used for many years – the majority of which are from DMG MORI. “We have seen all the milestones first hand, from the first CNC machines to 5-axis HSC machining and 6-sided turning and milling and we continue to rely on innovations,” says Thomas Kuhlmann. Automated production, for example, has become standard. “In this way, we want to manufacture for at least 48 hours unattended, for at least with little operator attendance, to give our specialists additional freedom to organize other work.” Teamwork is also encouraged: “In the past, everyone was responsible for their own machine, but now there are only a few people looking after a large number of machines, which requires a considerable amount of coordination.”

Experience from production influences every new investment – especially as LINK no longer focuses on purchasing a standard machine tool but on the process around manufacturing a component, as the latest acquisitions from DMG MORI show. “With our MobileLink we use additively manufactured acetabular cups,” explains Carsten Schöttler, production manager at LINK. The big challenge was the handling of the 3D-printed raw parts with their rough surfaces. “After all, we have to guarantee consistently high quality in an automated process.” DMG MORI reliably implemented this task with two production solutions, each consisting of an NTX 1000 and a Robo2Go. The ease of operation of the systems was also a decisive factor, as Carsten Schöttler adds: “No programming knowledge is required to teach the Robo2Go.” The software conveniently guides the operator through the process. A total of six NTX 1000s are responsible for processing the acetabular cups in all their variants at LINK. Each machine produces 6,000 parts per year. “It means that despite all the automation, we still have to remain flexible to be able to handle this mix of production,” says Carsten Schöttler.

NTX 1000: 6-sided turn & mill complete machining

NTX 1000

HIGHLIGHTS

  • compactMASTER turning / milling spindle with 12,000 rpm (20,000 rpm optional) and 36-month warranty with unlimited number of operating hours as standard
  • 5-axis simultaneous machining thanks to Direct Drive B-axis with 120° swivel range
  • Four-axis machining thanks to lower turret as second tool carrier
LINK's latest investments include two NTX 1000 systems with Robo2Go for the automated manufacture of acetabular cups.

Robo2Go: Flexible workpiece handling for small and medium size batches

Robo2Go 2nd Generation with chuck parts tray; Programming interface for teaching-in workpieces in less than 15 min
  • Rapid changeover from chuck to shaft parts tray
  • Shafts ø 25 – 150 mm, chuck parts ø 25 – 170 mm
  • Stacking magazine
  • Pressure reduction for thin-walled workpieces
  • Fast programming thanks to predefined program blocks

Hip stem production with bar feeder and parts accumulator

An NTX 1000 produces 6,000 acetabular cups per annum.

DMG MORI has designed another NTX 1000 at LINK for the automated production of femoral stems. The complex workpieces are machined straight from the bar, while a removal unit places the finished stems onto an accumulator that holds up to 160 parts before they have to be removed. “Here, too,  e achieve autonomous production over many hours,” says a delighted Carsten Schöttler. In addition, the NTX 1000 uses oil rather than conventional coolants: “We only machine materials that are difficult to cut, such as titanium and cobalt-chrome. We can significantly extend tool life with oil – which is another important factor in automated production.”

In both cases, 6-sided turning and milling makes a major contribution to LINK's ability to ensure productive manufacture of the acetabular cups and femoral stems – not least thanks to the high manufacturing quality, as Carsten Schöttler explains: “The more precisely we turn and mill the demanding components, the less effort is required during finishing, which is often performed manually.”

Innovative into the future

The finished workpieces are transported outside the machine via a parts accumulator.

For Thomas Kuhlmann, continuous process optimization also includes a move towards digitization: “The fact that DMG MORI equips its machines with the IoTconnector as standard gives us a good basis for future digitization projects.” LINK also uses DMG MORI Messenger for monitoring production. “This is because consistent monitoring and analysis of the large quantity of data that we receive from production also helps us to plan our processes in an even better way and, above all, safeguard the quality of our products.” Innovative hardware and consistent digitization are regarded as an important basis for further growth.

WALDEMAR LINK

FACTS

  • Established in 1948, headquarters in Norderstedt near Hamburg
  • 1,300 employees worldwide 
  • Development and manufacture of high quality implants such as endoprosth

Waldemar LINK GmbH & Co. KG
Barkhausenweg 10
22339 Hamburg, Germany
www.linkorthopaedics.com


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