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Solid relationship expanded to include air

Welding company and machine builder Leenstra has had itsme as a regular partner for the supply of electrical materials for more than twenty years. A recent machine building project broadened the relationship to mechanical products, in particular Festo pneumatics. The project involved a machine for the manufacture of concrete elements and it only made the cooperation between Leenstra and itsme more solid.

Leenstra in Drachten (65 employees) specializes in assembling and welding steel products for sectors such as construction, automotive, offshore and recycling. Owner since 1990 is VBI (Verenigde Bouwproducten Industrie), part of Consolis, a large European company specialized in making concrete products. Leenstra also carries its own products for the construction industry, namely clamps for safely lifting concrete slabs and fall protection for employees working at height. Finally, from its history with VBI and other customers, the company is still active as a builder of machinery for the manufacture of reinforced concrete elements. 

Electrical and pneumatic engineering

The Leenstra casters make concrete elements, with or without reinforcement, of up to 5.25 meters long by 1.25 meters wide and with a maximum product weight of 2,500 kilograms. The machines are based on the method of direct demoulding. They have a high degree of automation for filling the molds, compacting the concrete by vibration, finishing, letting it dry in the air and finally disposing of the hardened elements. They are machines as large as 41 by 15 meters. "As a result, it pays to perform a rebuild after ten or twenty years," says chief structural engineer Ronald Terpstra. With proper maintenance, the structural work remains good for a long time, while the production part, including controls and drive technology, can be brought back up to date with new construction. "That makes a huge difference in costs compared to complete new construction, which is what we do," he says. To supply the materials for such projects, Leenstra always worked with itsme for the electrical engineering and with Festo for the pneumatics, including the switch boxes.

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"In a few years, the ratio of electrical engineering to pneumatics will be 50/50."

When another conversion was on the cards last year with the 'Master Caster' project, it also immediately looked at the new possibilities offered by the gradual shift from pneumatic to electric drive. "This shift is presenting itself widely in industrial automation," Terpstra explains. Account manager Arthur Cooke of itsme agrees. "We are Festo dealers and see that our customers are increasingly using electric drives to control the movements of cylinders, for example. After all, air is an expensive medium. I expect that in a few years the ratio will be 50/50."

Complete unburdening

"For the time being, however, Leenstra also still needs pneumatics," Terpstra reports. "For the heavy work, electric drive is used; hydraulics are not applied, to prevent contamination on the products in case of possible leakage. However, our machines have the necessary lifting, lifting, clamping and sliding movements, of valves, among other things. And these movements can still very well be performed pneumatically with the reliable solutions from Festo. This offers many advantages, such as low cost, high reliability, cleanliness and simple control. " That pneumatic solution requires separate cabinets, which move with the machine part they belong to, such as the filling machine driving back and forth over the mold. If the cabinets move with the movement, less fragile piping is needed. It simplifies control and ensures that the pneumatics in its own cabinets remain clean and dry under harsh production conditions.

"itsme delivered the cabinets completely finished."

Leenstra was able to source the pneumatics components from itsme right away. In addition, for this project Leenstra decided not to build the control cabinets itself. "We do have people for that ourselves, but with such extensive projects it is much more pleasant if another party prepares and builds the cabinets. Then we can immediately place them in the machine and only have to connect the hoses. We also came to talk to itsme about this combination of control cabinets for a pneumatic solution. We supplied them with the schematics and they looked at which old components we actually had to renew. Then they delivered the cabinets completely finished." 
To build the cabinets, itsme called on a partner, says Cooke. "This technical service provider has a lot of knowledge of and experience with hydraulic, pneumatic and electrical systems and drive technology. They have been working with us for quite some time. The logistics of component supply, cabinet construction and delivery to the end customer were coordinated by itsme from itsme Industrial Automation specialists. In this way, we have completely relieved Leenstra of the burden of the switch cabinets. Incidentally, we work with several partners for switchgear cabinets. With each project, we weigh up which cabinet builder or installer is most suitable for it."

Collaborating disciplines

The project started last summer and was delivered early this year. Terpstra: "It is now running to the satisfaction of the customer. Thanks to the innovations we made to the machine on the basis of previous experience with this customer, it contains a piece of production optimization. We like the new approach for the pneumatic switch boxes. In the initial process we were kept well informed and exchanged drawings each time to keep each other up to date with the latest version. The cabinet builder delivered on schedule - not too late, but not too early either, because then it just got in our way."
Cooke confirms, "Through the use of the right technical knowledge and good mutual relationships, this project was completed successfully. We continue to invest in the cooperation with Leenstra, for supply and advice on electrical and mechanical materials in automation and lighting technology, among others. But also consider the automation courses for the technical staff. Also in the future we will continue to seek cooperation with the various itsme Solutions, partners and suppliers in order to be able to help and support Leenstra in the best possible way with all technical and logistical issues."


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