Hexapod Production: PI Substantially Increases Production Capacities for High Precision Hexapod Stewart Platforms

Significantly reducing lead time and increasing potential output by more than 100% are results of PI's new initiative.

Based on a comprehensive analysis of the production processes for hexapods (Stewart Platforms), Physik Instrumente (PI) has adapted its production capacities to the sharp increase in demand and is prepared to expand them even further when required. The focus of the restructuring was the optimization and relocation of PI's entire "Hexapod" micro-robotics production area to newly designed premises, as well as the expansion of the workforce. These measures are an integral part of the company-wide investment program with a volume of close to $70 million. The aim is to capitalize on PI's above-average growth opportunities in markets such as Industrial Automation, Semiconductors, Photonics, Microscopy and Life Sciences.

"The demand for hexapod micro- and nano-positioning systems has been increasing significantly for a number of years," says Markus Spanner, CEO of PI, describing the market situation. "Expanding capacity in this product division at PI's Karlsruhe, Germany site was therefore a logical step as part of our investment program to prepare all PI product divisions for a continued increase in demand."

The new hexapod production factory layout was developed by PI experts, with the support of specialists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA. It takes the latest findings in the fields of ergonomics, digitalization, and automation, as well as lean approaches into account. "We have analyzed all process steps and optimized and reorganized assembly in the form of matrix production," explains Dr. Axel Widenhorn, Director Operations for the PI development and production sites in Germany. "In addition to an overall increase in production capacities, our goal was to significantly reduce lead times. This has been fully achieved. We have already reduced lead times to less than half of what they were at the beginning of the year and will be down to a few weeks for standard products by the end of the year. Additionally, we now have the potential of increasing the output by more than 100 %, which will allow us to respond flexibly to further increases in demand," adds Dr. Widenhorn.

Hexapods are 6-axis, parallel kinematic motion systems or micro-robots, with six degrees of freedom that are used in an increasing number of applications including: micro-assembly production lines, fiber optical alignment, Silicon Photonics wafer probing, camera testing, satellite antenna testing, microscopy, and large astronomical telescopes. PI has an extensive portfolio of configurable solutions of various sizes and capabilities for these and many other applications. The redesigned factory layout for PI's hexapod production was developed according to the latest ergonomic findings and taking lean principles into account. As a result, capacities have been significantly increased while lead times have been shortened at the same time.

Industries Served
Industrial Automation, Semiconductor Manufacturing, Automotive, Silicon Photonics, Quantum Computing, High Resolution Microscopy, Life Sciences

About Physik Instrumente (PI Group)
The PI Group is the market and technology leader for high-precision positioning technology and piezo applications in the market segments Industrial Automation, Semiconductor and Photonics, as well as Microscopy and Life Sciences. In close cooperation with customers from all over the world, PI's more than 1,500 specialists have been continuously pushing the boundaries of what is technically possible for more than fifty years. Various drive technologies, internally developed sensor technology and electronics, as well as control and regulation technology provide the basis for this. PI's portfolio ranges from components to subsystems, to tailor-made complete solutions. 508 granted and pending patents underline the company's claim to technological leadership in the fields of precision positioning and piezo technology. PI operates on a global scale, with nine production sites in North America, Europe, and Asia, as well as sixteen sales and service subsidiaries.

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