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Cutting Organ Pipes Is a Different Matter

The art of classic organ building has merged with the highest level with modern CNC techniques as German manufacturer August Laukhuff relies on a five-axis milling center from Spinner equipped with a Sinumerik 840D sl control from Siemens for small-series production.

With the Sinumerik-controlled Spinner U5-620, Laukhuff uses new options for the more productive manufacture of organ components, such as chimes.
Walter Rhein is very satisfied with the five-axis Spinner U5-620 with Sinumerik 840D sl.
This chimes are now machined with CNC technology. In cutting applications for organ pipe tuners, Laukuff had to retool three times. Now, it is possible in a single clamping and the shop is at least twice as quick as a result.

At August Laukhuff GmbH & Co. KG (Weikersheim, Germany), tradition and modernity merge together in a way that cannot merely be seen, but also heard. This family-run company, with almost 200 years of history, is the international leader in organ building, a supplier to the best-known organ builders and a provider of its own complete instrument developments.

The company operates on a global level with 150 employees, considering itself an artistic crafting enterprise rather than an industrial company. Company owner and chief executive officer Hans-Erich Laukhuff emphasizes, “In our carpenter’s workshop and when manufacturing organ pipes, we are hardly able to use any machines because 90 percent of the work must be done by hand. When it comes to cutting, however, this is a different matter. Here, we can use modern milling and turning machines with innovative CNC equipment so that we can keep productivity levels as high as possible.”

If required, these masters of organ building will supply everything from a single source. Laukhff further explains, “If requested, we will take on all the tasks involved in the design, the manufacture of individual parts and the installation onsite. We even make the bench seat and the key lights ourselves, as there are no usable, satisfying solutions in the market today.”

The high level of perfection shown by this organ builder is reflected in the optics, in the haptics (touch and feel) and naturally in the sound of the instruments. It also has a positive effect on their reliability. After all – quite unusual in these fast-moving times – it is typically not necessary to plan the replacement of a Laukhuff organ for more than 100 years. However, a few spare parts will still be required.

Tutorial programming Sinumerik 840D sl and Sinumerik 828D with ShopMill.

Despite the fact their high quality is globally recognized, this family-run company is still facing constant cost pressure. To achieve a high throughput in cutting applications, the company uses five CNC turning machines and three CNC milling machines together with a five-axis U5-620 CNC machining center (3+2) from Spinner (Sauerlach, Germany) with a state-of-the-industry Siemens Sinumerik 840D sl CNC onboard.

Laukhuff and production manager Walter Rhein already had positive experiences with the CNC, however, since mid-2009 they have been relying on the Spinner machine tool factory in Sauerlach for the first time and using the U5. According to Rhein, this decision was based on the price-performance ratio and the small space required by the machine in contrast to comparable machines from other manufacturers. The U5-620 only needs 2000 mm x 2400 mm of surface area, but achieves travel distances of 620/520/460 mm in the X/Y/Z-axis direction.

The new Spinner machining center has high-quality individual components, including 32 tools as standard, a double arm for rapid tool changes and linear axes on roller bearing guides. Michael Schulz, Spinner sales representative at Hollenbach GmbH, confirmed, “This enables us to achieve rapid feed speeds of 48 meters per minute in all directions. Even in terms of accuracy and surface quality, our U-series sets a very high standard.”

In terms of the productivity and quality increases that can be achieved, the organ builder amortized the Spinner machine within a relatively short period of time. Ultimately, an organ builder will often manage without time-consuming retooling, as Rhein noted, “In the cutting applications for our organ pipe tuners, we previously had to retool three times and needed around 13 minutes just for clamping – which doesn’t even take into account the downtime while retooling. The five axes mean that production is now possible in a single clamping, within about eight minutes per piece. All in all, we are at least twice as fast as a result.”

Like many medium-sized contract manufacturers, this organ builder’s employees also program directly at the machine. CNC specialist Kurt Stüdlein is totally convinced about the Sinumerik 840D sl because, “. . . it is powerful, safe to operate, user-friendly and reliable.”

But the CNC user interface, tailored to shop floor programming, also scores highly, being graphically-animated and logically-structured. ShopMill, the resident software suite, is great, particularly for beginners. Rhein further explains, “Even a fitter who has only just finished his training, without any extensive programming experience, can work with it, after some brief instructions.”

Stüdlein adds, “Even on complex components using the 3+2 axis machining, I can create lots of programming steps with ShopMill. If I reach the limits when entering certain contours, or if I am quicker with DIN, then I can switch from the graphic to the text-oriented DIN interface at the touch of a button.” For additional employee safety, the Safety Integrated software solution is also built into the control. This means that it is possible for the user to safely track his program’s production process in setup mode with the machine doors open.

Laukhuff is certain, based on the experience gained, that he has made the right decision with the Spinner-Siemens CNC combination. The technology and the continuously fast service from both companies have convinced him, “If there is a problem, we are helped very quickly – which is not always a given with other manufacturers in this particular industry.”

August Laukhuff GmbH & Co. KG, August-Laukhuff-Straße 1, 97990 Weikersheim, Germany, +49 7934 91600,

Siemens Industry, Inc., Drive Technologies-Motion Control-Machine Tool, 390 Kent Avenue, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007, 847-640-1595, Fax: 847-437-0784,,

1 Comment

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  • Andrew Mead wrote:

    I dealt with Laukhuff about the year 1990. I am an organ builder and at that time I needed a very small order of new organ pipes for the final stage of a large project at home in Toronto. Specifically I required a 2′ Principal from c25 to c 61 and one oboe pipe (f#[43]] to replace a sole missing pipe from a treasured Cavaille-Coll Hautbois-Bason rank I acquired and restored. I shipped the two neighbours from the missing pipe and Laukhuff built a replacement that is indistinguishable in every respect (save pitch) from the original rank of pipes that were then about 100 years old. The two neighbouring pipes returned in the same good condition they were sent to Germany and the 37 small flue pipes required to replace the top a 2′ Principal were beautifully made with stainless steel tuning sleeves. I held an unsubstantiated, pre-conceived notion that my very small order would be treated as something like a nuisance in consideration of the modest price Laukhuff charged and the “fuss” of having a single reed pipe made within ( I can only imagine) a very tight production schedule in their plumbing department. Needless to write, it seems, their shipment arrived when they suggested it would (by writing). It was the most satisfying consumer experience I’ve encountered; Laukhuff could have charged considerably more and I would have paid more but I sensed they refused to take advantage of the opportunity for the sake of maintaining the ethical integrity of their admirable company/family name/repute. (I’m aware of the admirable state of the $CAD to the German Mark at that time–never-the-less, I entirely maintain my estimation of the value I received in exchange for my payment)

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