The economic environment particularly affected the Fineblanking Technology segment, which specializes in capital goods. The challenges facing the automotive industry are leading to significantly fewer orders in the engineering industry. Our basic strategy remains unchanged; the segment will continue to position itself as the industry’s innovation leader.

The trend that was already apparent at the beginning of the year was particularly noticeable in the Fineblanking Technology segment during the second half of 2019. The economic environment and the uncertain outlook caused our customers to be reluctant to make capital expenditures, and this translated into a decline in press and tool projects. This reluctance was particularly abrupt and pronounced in China and was ultimately reflected in the overall global market.

Difficult market environment

As a result, incoming orders in most business units failed to meet expectations compared to the previous year. Feintool saw a positive development in the Services business unit, with the share of net sales generated by machine overhauls increasing. In the toolmaking business, Feintool received a major order from an automobile manufacturer in 2019, but orders generally remained below expectations.

Systematically continuing our strategy

The Fineblanking Technology segment optimized its own cost structures and systematically continued making necessary capital expenditures. The globalization of purchasing activities plays a key role in this respect, as it allows Feintool to have components manufactured internationally that it then uses in its own presses. Feintool has also further expanded its Press Center of Excellence and successfully launched the new FB one fineblanking press generation. The company further enhanced its presence in China by professionalizing the local service organization. Our close partnership with an international logistics center in Germany allows us to supply spare parts to our international clientele more quickly and more comprehensively.

New FB one press generation undergoing field tests

During the first half of the year, Feintool made further advancements to the FB one hydraulic press generation and will add additional models to the series. In the future, we will be able to supply all sizes from 4 000 kN to 11 000 kN from our own Press Center of Excellence in Jona, Switzerland. The new press series contains a variety of highly complex innovations. For example, it cuts energy consumption by 30%. After an intensive testing phase, the first press ready for field operation was handed over at the Swiss plant in Lyss and a further press was delivered to a customer. Initial test results confirm the expected quality and performance of the new press. Further customer projects are currently scheduled for delivery.

Electric vehicles – development of metallic bipolar plates

With regard to research and development projects, Feintool was able to make considerable progress in the project to manufacture metallic bipolar plates for use in fuel cells. Since then, the company has succeeded in proving its feasibility and developing a production concept. Feintool attended an exhibition for electrolamination stamping and hydrogen fuel cells in China and was met with a great deal of interest there. Together with a development partner, Feintool is now focusing on making advancements to the entire production technology. Feintool believes that these applications hold significant future potential, as the components for a corresponding electric vehicle contain an additional 600 to 800 individual parts.

Research and development

Feintool was also able to initiate and successfully complete various projects in cooperation with universities that are now starting to be used in industrial applications and at Feintool’s plants. For example, the company worked with ETH Zurich to test the use of new applications with new materials, among other projects. Feintool also worked on various projects with RWTH Aachen University’s Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) in Aachen, Germany, for example, enhancing wear protection, i.e. improving coatings for tools. Together with the University of Shanghai, Feintool researched a new forming process for manufacturing toothing. As a result, Feintool has proven that it can develop a functioning production concept from its own machine and tool concept. In doing so, Feintool has positioned itself as an innovative and reliable partner for the industry.

Breaking new ground

The combination of fineblanking and cold forming makes Feintool the only full-range supplier that can cost-effectively manufacture complex precision components in large quantities for demanding industries. Feintool also generated a great deal of interest outside of the automotive industry, for example in medical technology or the watch industry. Feintool developed a new product line for a watch manufacturer – a 200 ton orbital cold-forming press. In this context, orbital forming is a subform of forming.

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