The economic environment remains rather challenging for the Fineblanking Technology segment. The reluctance to invest and efforts to save money were once again spurred on by the coronavirus crisis. As expected, the resulting low level of utilization of production capacity slowed the spare parts business and customer service activities. In particular, the lack of capital expenditures resulted in an additional decrease in orders received in the Presses & Systems, Tools, and Services business units. To compensate for the sales decline, comprehensive savings measures were implemented, capital expenditures were postponed, and personnel measures such as short-time work and layoffs were carried out.

Optimization of cost structures in all business units

To counteract the difficult market environment, the segment continued the optimization of cost structures and introduced a reorganization processes divided up into phases. Personnel measures such as expanded short-time work, early retirements in individual cases, and staff layoffs were necessary. These measures were accompanied by the increase in the automation of business processes. Additionally, with regard to technology, the level of automation of business processes was increased, and production costs were optimized as well. To prepare for the recovery of service business, the partnership with an international logistics center in Germany was intensified for the optimization of faster delivery of replacement parts.

A ray of hope in Asia

Thankfully, the fineblanking market in Asia was revived during the last quarter of 2020 and various inquiries ultimately led to orders in the Presses, Machine Overhauls, and Service business units. The Asian subsidiaries in the segment finished the financial year on a positive note thanks to customer service projects, and the United States was also able to finish the year strongly with machine overhauls. In spite of the crisis, the innovation road map was continued, the result being that now the entire series of the new FB one generation of presses is available. Additionally, the FB one was further developed for applications with metallic bipolar plates for fuel cells. The market’s responses to the product are very positive.

FB one – a new generation of presses

During the financial year, Feintool developed and built the FB one hydraulic press in the highest performance class of 11 000 kN. The experience gained as part of the field tests were included in the development. This press is available for tests with customer tools at our competence center in Jona, Switzerland, along with additional presses of different sizes. The benchmark results and feedback from customers regarding production show that the goals relating to increasing performance, energy consumption, and stability/durability have been achieved in practice.

Electric vehicles – development of metallic bipolar plates

The research and development activities from the previous year yielded their first successes. The first orders were received in Asia. Specifically, these involved projects for the manufacture of fuel cells. This resulted in the successful production and delivery of the first small series of highly complex plates – a major step for Feintool.

Research and development

The thermofineblanking project is a development that we are implementing together with ETH Zurich. This project is aimed at examining the possibilities of expanding fineblanking applications under the influence of various temperature ranges.

The partnership was able to reach satisfying milestones during the reporting year:

The fineblanked surface quality, crystalline structure, and wear and tear on the tool were investigated by means of a tool-integrated heating system on a test line. We will continue this research in the future and offer it on the market.

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 the luxury goods industry. The Fineblanking Technology segment will continue to develop the customer portfolio over the short term and expand it to be as diversified as possible.

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