The journey from imagination to implementation begins with brilliance—and DWFritz
When the world holds its breath in wonder at the arrival of another technological marvel that lifts humanity to new realms of accomplishment, questions abound. We ask, “Who could have thought of that?” and “How is this even possible?” and, because we are in business, “What took them so long?” and, “Can they help us?” These queries may lead you to an unassuming enterprise in Portland, Ore., which for nearly half a century has been building the machines that help manufacture the stuff dreams are made of. And that would lead you to DWFritz.
“We are the hidden gem of precision automation, assembly, and metrology,” said company president Mukesh Dulani, who joined the organization in 2017 after a 20-plus year career in engineering, operations, and business leadership. By way of introduction, Dulani reflected on his life before joining the firm by admitting, “If I had known DWFritz and their technology existed, the companies I was part of would have been a lot more successful.”
CEO Mike Fritz reimagined the company’s management team, bringing Dulani on to help diversify their product and services portfolio, take their world-class solutions to a wider audience, and to oversee a future of what is sure to be unprecedented growth. "With an expanding customer base and growing international operations, ensuring we had a strong executive management team with the skill and experience to drive day-to-day operations while staying focused on our strategic vision was critical to our future success," Mike Fritz said. Together, Mike and Mukesh have built a very strong cross-functional leadership team in the past few years to drive this vision forward.
From the very beginning, founder and chairman Dennis Fritz brought together some of the best and brightest to collaborate on the development of advanced manufacturing equipment and measurement technology that is unrivaled in sophistication. While he mostly retired in 2007, he still enjoys seeing how the company continues to solve the challenges that clients bring every day.
Dulani says the company’s top-tier talent, coupled with strong collaboration, makes the company what it is. “There's no way we would be successful if we didn't have such a strong team. In operations and engineering, we have some people who started with Dennis Fritz more than two decades ago, and we have heard them say, ‘We love it here!’ One of our clients described an engineer as a ‘godsend from heaven.’ That's how proud we are of our team.”
“From IT to infrastructure, from our finance team to our admins, we talk about how important it is to keep bringing on good people.” In December 2019, the company opened its first European office, and the reception has been extremely strong. “There's no such company in Europe like DWFritz, and already we’re talking to a company that makes millions of cars per year. Imagine that!” Dulani enthused. “But without clients we have nothing and without our people, and our amazing teams, we are nothing,” stated Dulani. ”Time passes by fast when I get excited about our company!” he chuckled.
The company’s core values developed by Dennis and Mike have helped enhance the connective tissue and culture of DWFritz. “We are very proud of what our employees have achieved and how they have enriched DWFritz. One of our core values is Collaborate And Share Credit. And this serves as a foundational element of our interactions with not only our clients, but also within the company,” Fritz said. “We truly went global when we established our offices in China more than 10 years ago. Today, we have several offices in China who regularly partner with our US teams to support clients and operations in the APAC region.”
The company’s Fortune 100 clients are a closely guarded secret, which is to be expected given their impact on the trajectory of progress. What is unexpected is the potent combination of genius and humility that brings the world’s technology leaders to DWFritz’s doorstep.
DWFritz specializes in high-speed, precision assembly and test automation for advanced manufacturing, with extensive engineer-to-order (precision custom automation) and build-to-print (value added contract manufacturing) capabilities. The company’s offerings are further enhanced by their growing ZeroTouch® high-speed non-contact product portfolio. DWFritz brings together custom software, best-in-class sensors, machine vision systems, robots, dispense equipment, processing equipment, and precision material handling along with technology innovation to make impossible designs possible.
When it comes to their build-to-print services, the company’s transparent and flexible processes enable clients to be variable in their manufacturing approach, while optimizing global supply chain efficiencies. DWFritz’s deep bench of engineering design talent bring Value Add/Value Engineering (VAVE) opportunities to any client’s project.
With their ZeroTouch® line of products, DWFritz has taken a bold step in solving several longstanding industry pain points with regards to inspecting high-precision parts that helps improve product quality and manufacturing processes with speed, accuracy, and repeatability.
On the engineer-to-order side, the realm of the possible is 100% defect detection and inspection, and fully automated production lines that take on the planet’s most difficult and complex manufacturing challenges. The company’s automation and inspection systems guarantee micron-level accuracy. (Given that a single human hair is 80 microns thick, you are right to be impressed.)
“With thousands of systems installed and running worldwide, our global operations, logistics and service teams maintain system, processes, and personnel to support our clients and to meet every supply chain or logistics requirement,” Dulani said. “Whether its’s for a startup company or one that’s mature, we are a one-stop shop for automation and inspection.”
Creating the world of wow
One of DWFritz’s core values is to Wow the Client. As a stalwart in a number of essential industries, including medical devices, consumer electronics, aerospace, automotive & EV, semiconductors, precision manufacturing and energy storage, it’s clear that they deliver on that value. “Some of our clients are big, with revenues of over $10-plus billion. They come to us with very specific requirements, but they don't know automation or how to ensure 100% quality through the use of precision inspection technology, so we help them with the entire automation part. We have over a thousand-plus platforms working all over the world right now,” Dulani stressed.
“Another core value is to Deliver Solutions We Can Be Proud Of. We are here to make our next generations proud of us when we talk about ideas, what they mean, and that we could manufacture them with zero defects.”
The company’s leading-edge R&D lab tests designers’ most challenging concepts, offering rapid proof of principle development, component qualification and calibration, advanced machine vision lighting design and testing, machine vision camera and 3D sensor testing, custom software and application development, and system prototyping.
Helping companies succeed through proof of principle studies is a key attribute to de-risk complex projects. “Companies fail because they don't solve difficult problems effectively. We help them solve their problems with proof of principle testing identified by methodical risk analysis techniques, so when we build a line or a system, it works! That's how we make them successful,” Dulani pointed out. “Our program managers and project managers are involved with our clients right from the get go, and stay deeply engaged with our clients until the line they need is working. That’s how collaborative we are.”
A necessary part of keeping leading edge manufacturers successful at every level is accuracy, and that is precisely what DWFritz delivers through their automation, inspection, and metrology systems.
“Imagine having to inspect a part with hundreds of Critical to Quality dimensions and features with single digit micron accuracy and with a cycle time requirement in a matter of seconds. This is extremely challenging and requires the ability to ‘measure in motion,’ while utilizing multiple different sensors and lighting configurations,” Dulani said. “For the life of our relationship with any of our clients, we go the extra mile to ensure their success. That’s our guarantee!”
The semiconductor industry depends on sub-micron level accuracy as chips require increasing levels of precision in their manufacturing. Dulani recalled a client who wished to automate their metrology and double their output on their semiconductor production lines. “They said, we would like your help—when we machine this product, can you modify our CNC machines and measure the product in-situ during machining, so we could decrease our scrap? And, can you measure it again, bring it to the metrology cell, measure all the key dimensional features and then cut it to precision? We cannot hire enough people and 100% quality is very difficult because many of the features and defects can’t be seen by the human eye.”
Of course, DWFritz could help. “We modified the three CNC machines, performed the measurements as desired, and our client achieved their goals. That client is currently in negotiations to have DWFritz build a second line. We have a tremendous amount of repeat business in every industry we serve,” Dulani said.
A medical device manufacturer reached out to DWFritz to create an automated assembly solution for an implantable medical device used to deliver medication to treat a specific eye disease that dramatically improves the quality of patient care. As Dulani explained, “Patients with this debilitating eye disease have to go to their doctor every two weeks to get treated for this condition. The treatment involves an eye injection. Our client’s innovation helps deliver medication directly into the patient’s eye enabling faster recovery while decreasing the number of hospital visits and time on the road.”
“At the time they came to us, no manufacturing technology existed that could bring this device into reality. DWFritz changed that,” Dulani said.
“Imagine a medical device the size of a grain of rice and comprised of multiple discrete parts. This device requires extremely high levels of precision assembly techniques to meet the product performance requirements. For example, we had to develop a dispense solution that could apply 35 nano liters (nL) of adhesive and control this within ± 3nL. At the same time, the individual parts must be aligned to within 5 microns before being assembled. As of now, we have completed production of a few systems and are finishing up the full automation line, which can make hundreds of thousands of these medical implants.”
Another market benefitting from such breathtaking expertise is energy storage. As the former CEO of a successful solar panel manufacturing group, Dulani keeps this sector close to his heart. “We are ready to take on the full challenge of fully automating battery production lines. We have recently received a battery design that will increase its storage power and make it safer. And, we are working with that company right now to make them successful with two fully automated assembly lines,” he revealed. Engineers at DWFritz will apply the full potential of Industry 4.0 technologies to manufacture at a brisk pace while radically reducing scrap.
“The energy storage market is so important to the world, and we want to be part of it. The company is working hard to help our client. We'll give them this line at the end of this year to start production validation, and next year this company will explode out of the starting blocks because we would have given them two state-of-the-art automation lines. Each line will create a battery every 6 seconds. And with two lines, that’s a battery every 3 seconds and we will make sure that every line is successful.”
You can’t—and shouldn’t—touch this
One significant reason that manufacturers may not test 100% of a component, product, or system is that in some cases the item to be measured will be damaged or rendered useless if it is touched in certain places or in particular ways. That conundrum inspired the company to develop its watershed non-contact metrology inspection platforms for precision parts with complex geometries such as orthopedic & dental implants, aircraft engine blades & vanes, foils, gears, bores, and brake discs, aptly named ZeroTouchⓇ.
Noting the difficulties aerospace manufacturers face with engine blade inspection offers insight into the necessity for ZeroTouch technology, which provides critical measurements in real time without compromising the construction of the object being measured.
Blades are typically inspected at 20 to 30 different points. “Imagine if you are a passenger in an aircraft. Will you not have that blade or any component for that matter, inspected 100%? I ask that question of many aerospace leaders. ZeroTouch will give them a million plus data points in three dimensions from root to tip to enable accurate measurement and identification of defects. We are the only company who will help them to take it to the next level—today they have no way to do it themselves.”
Three versions of the technology are presently available: ZTM-333, a high-speed, non-contact multipurpose metrology platform that inspects parts faster than traditional CMMs; the ZTG-2580 non-contact gear inspection system, and ZeroTouch® Surface (ZTS), a white-light interferometry-based product line, designed for performing rapid, high-resolution, non-contact, 3D surface measurements.
Not only does this technology enable 100% inspection, but ZeroTouch is also helping manufacturers fully reap the benefits of Industry 4.0. Many manufacturers have integrated digitalization into elements of their production processes already, with digital renderings of component parts, assemblies, and fixturing becoming common to 21st century manufacturers, but where many struggle is in aggregating all of this data to allow total production process simulation. ZeroTouch helps unleash the power of digitization by means of creating a dense 3D point cloud or ‘Digital Twin’ to enable advanced manufacturing.
Dulani illustrated the increasing need for non-contact metrology, especially in 3D printing, and specifically through the development of advanced medical device implants. Take a knee, for example; 3D-printed knees are currently measured at 30 to 40 points. ZeroTouch makes it possible to measure 100% of the replacement part, at one million data points, in 5 minutes with zero scrap. “Not all human beings have the same knee. When the knee is manufactured, ZeroTouch will never touch that knee. It’s measured, it's perfect to what the doctor wanted, and that knee will be much better for the patient,” he stated.
“What we’ve done with ZeroTouch is reminiscent of when flip phones were changed to smart phones. ZeroTouch will revolutionize metrology, combining various state-of-the-art sensor and precision material handling to increase speed, accuracy, and give us the ability to improve product quality to 100%—faster!”
Additionally, the company offers the AMP 3100 non-contact metrology platform for high volume small part inspection that employs machine vision, advanced robotics, and flexible part loading to achieve 100% inspection rates. Another offering, the Defect Detection system, utilizes deep learning technology and advanced machine vision to identify defects on complex surfaces.
With operations in the US, Europe, and China, when extraordinary imagination and expertise is needed, DWFritz will be on the frontline. “Wherever there is precision manufacturing automation and precision metrology needed, there is no better company in the world other than DWFritz and, I can vouch for that.”
DWFritz Automation is a leading global provider of precision automation, metrology, and inspection solutions for advanced manufacturing. The company designs, builds, and supports engineer-to-order automation systems, provides world-class build-to-print services, and offers an expanding line of high-speed, non-contact metrology and inspection solutions under the ZeroTouch® brand. Since 1973, DWFritz has built a reputation for solving the most difficult advanced manufacturing challenges across industry sectors, including consumer electronics, medical devices, automotive and EV, aerospace, and semiconductors.
Headquartered in Wilsonville, Oregon, and with offices in France and China, the company is a trusted partner of many Fortune 500 customers, with over 2,000 systems installed worldwide.