Founded in mid-2020 as a start-up based in Stuttgart, Optimate GmbH originated from an internal innovation program at TRUMPF. The founders contribute years of experience in sheet metal processing and have incorporated this expertise into an advanced digital solution for part analysis and optimization. In addition to manufacturers and job shoppers, web shops and marketplaces use the cloud solution for the analysis and optimization of sheet metal parts as well.
In an interview, CEO Jonas Steiling and CSO Sebastian Beger provide an up-to-date insight into the TRUMPF spin-off from Stuttgart.
Mr. Steiling, how has your start-up developed since you began three years ago?
Jonas Steiling: What began with the idea of an automated feasibility check for sheet metal processing has since developed into a digital companion for design and work preparation that has proven itself many times over. With just a few clicks, a user receives the feasibility analysis, part optimization and associated cost calculation for his parts in just a few seconds.
And where are you today?
Steiling: The App can now generate significantly more optimization suggestions – and also twice as fast as in the beta version, and we can optimize ten percent more parts. This know-how is developing from day to day, thanks to our artificial intelligence. At Blechexpo, we would therefore like to show visitors how we have managed to make AI easy to use and experience – for design engineers as well.
Mr. Beger, how does Optimate help to avoid unnecessary costs for parts?
Sebastian Beger: We want to take a holistic approach to the challenges of the transfer from product creation to manufacturing. The questions that arise along the way are: ‘Can I manufacture the part like this’, ‘Are there any better variants?’ and finally ‘What does the designed part cost?’.
And this is exactly where our integrated cost calculation comes in. Right at the start of the App, the user is shown three options for digital support: Feasibility analysis, part optimization and cost calculation.
Are there different packages?
Beger: Yes, we currently offer three packages of our cloud solution. These are precisely tailored to the individual needs of our customer groups. The ‘Essential Package’ is made for contract manufacturers and focuses on the features feasibility analysis and calculation. For companies with their own product and design, there is the ‘Professional Package’, which also includes the potential recognition and automated optimization. For portal operators who offer sheet metal processing in their web shops, we have the ‘Integration Package’ – here the Optimate services run in the background and our entire stored sheet metal knowledge is available via an API interface.
Which user groups are you targeting and which license models do you offer for them?
Beger: Within the packages, we have the option of offering licenses that depend on the number of users. For large companies or enterprises, we offer a flat rate in order to be able to reach different user groups, from purchasing to design engineers to managing directors. The number of users does not matter at this point, and Optimate can be used throughout the entire company, from design to work preparation, by a wide range of specialist departments without higher costs.
How can users apply the Optimate software?
Steiling: It is possible to use the feasibility analysis, cost calculation and part optimization directly in the browser-based web app without installation. For contract manufacturers or production-related work preparation, this basically means no effort. For those companies that want to use the tool in their CAD system for designing, we have developed a CAD plug-in for SolidWorks. We will also be presenting this integration to trade fair visitors for the first time at Blechexpo. And for those who want to access Optimate’s sheet metal knowledge across the board, we have developed an API interface that can be used, for example, to connect online web shops.
Do you also address international markets?
Beger: That is an important question. Although we mainly address sheet metal processing companies from the DACH region at Blechexpo, we are also open to international trade fair visitors. We are currently in the process of actively targeting further markets. Specifically, we are talking about China, Great Britain and the USA, because the first customers there are already using our App.
How do you manage to make the savings potential transparent for customers?
Steiling: Our Automated Optimization shows the savings potential in percentage terms. Supplemented by our new cost calculation, this is now further specified and broken down into the factors of material and scrap as well as manufacturing processes. The generation of the suggestions themselves, including cost calculation, does not require much effort. Our App does it with the push of a button.
How does Optimate support designers in expanding their existing sheet metal knowledge?
Steiling: In our App, we provide decades of knowledge and access to valuable sheet metal know-how as a ‘digital consulting service’. The App supports the designer like a consultant in finding potential and shows him what he can change. Optimization suggestions are automatically displayed, giving the designer a huge head start in terms of design ideas. If the design engineer decides in favor of a particular suggestion, all it takes is a mouse click and the redesign is presented to him, including drawing data for download. With this sheet metal knowledge, we not only provide the design and work preparation departments with greater process reliability, but also eliminate time-consuming queries with the customer and expensive manual redesigns.
How does the cost calculation for individual parts and assemblies differ?
Beger: Within the assembly, we also determine the costs for the individual parts, which results in the total for the entire group. The assembly is of course exciting because it usually represents an entire function. We also identify standard parts, such as screws or nuts within the assembly, which do not need to be optimized. All other sheet metal parts get analyzed.
How does the App specifically support the analysis of assemblies?
Beger: There are two points to consider when analyzing assemblies. On the one hand, we can dismantle assemblies into their individual parts and analyze them. Currently, these are assemblies with up to 25 individual parts. On the other hand, it is also interesting for some users to look at the complete assembly in terms of cost reduction. For the optimization of complete assemblies, we are currently using a hybrid approach. We combine our digital services with manual visualizations.
Can you give a concrete example of a consulting case for the savings from the hybrid optimization approach?
Beger: I can gladly give you an example of a customer: In this case, his order volume for a special assembly amounts to almost 222,000€. Thanks to Optimate's hybrid optimization approach, the savings achieved are 30.4 percent. This means that over the course of the year, the optimization achieves considerable savings of almost 70,000€. In addition, the part will continue to be manufactured on an ongoing basis, which means that the customer can plan for this saving every year.
What future developments are planned for Optimate's part optimization and AI?
Steiling: The next big step will be to be able to digitally map the still consultation-intensive area of assemblies throughout. Here, we are working on additional strategies for part optimization in order to further develop AI.
Optimate CSO Sebastian Beger: ‘Our big highlight is definitely the new cost calculation functionality and that we can digitally map the three critical steps from CAD to the handover to fabrication. I’m absolutely convinced that sheet metal processing companies can ill afford not to use Optimate in the long run.'
Jonas Steiling with an optimized sheet metal part in a before-and-after comparison: ‘What good is it if manufacturing is optimized and automated in the direction of Industry 4.0 and Smart Factory, but a part or assembly cannot be manufactured at all?’
Highlight at Blechexpo from TRUMPF spin-off Optimate: new digital cost calculation for parts in sheet metal processing.