Just about every market can find benefit in process automation. From labor reduction to improving the total time in production there is value in the automation. For some it is the need to improve part to part consistency or just the basic improvement in the over all finished product.
From detailed sanding tasks to simple weld removal robotics have a place in finishing. We will take a look at an enclosure application and touch on some of the main points that the company was looking for and how we got there. As always I respect the privacy of the people I work with and to that I will not share more than the company involved approved. So I can not show the final system in detail but can give a good idea of it in general.
I received so many really good questions I thought it may be helpful to share some with the answer to help others that may be faced with the same questions or problems. I am going to try and not go too deep and keep it easy to understand. Be aware the dynamics of each situation and the parts will be different. Keep sending me those questions as I enjoy good questions.
Working with an extrusion is one of the things that seems easy but the devil is in the details. Its a product where the final finish can make or break its acceptance. In some cases it can be as difficult or more than mirror polishing. As you tend to see the grain finish through the top coating on an extrusion the margin for error is much smaller. If the finish is not even or straight it will at minimum mean rework or possibly rejection. When you apply the grain you have to be careful not to over round any profile and go just the right depth with the grain. Too shallow and the top coat fills it in and it vanishes, but too deep and coating ends up thin in places and the grain is too pronounced. With the cost and headaches involved with top coating extrusions rework and rejection need to be avoided.
I thought I would share some of the most common questions I get and the related answers. This will not be a deep dive by any means but rather a few of the most common.
Automating a finishing process is one of the more complicated things you can take on. When it comes to finishing the definitions tend to be more in the eye of the beholder. There is not one clear standard for finishes and in some cases the end user will confuse all manner of words. It is not uncommon for companies to say they need to polish something and when you dig a bit deeper you find they need a standard #4 type grain. To them that is polishing but to someone else it would not be. This is what complicates finishing processes the most. With bending or cutting the specs and tolerances are more clearly defined for example. The labor consumed by finishing makes it a prime candidate for automation. Being able to free up 3 to 5 people by automating finishing is common and it allows the labor to be moved to other areas of need. It is also an area that tends to have poor retention as it can be some of the dirtiest work in the facility. You can gain repeatability and more consistency as well as speed while reducing labor needed and improving retention.
Well here we go “the salesman” trying to pitch me his machine above the others, right? Well no, we want you to buy the machine that has the most impact for you and your business. You may not believe it but I have advised plenty of people that one of our machines is not the solution to their problem. Selection of the machine that is going to have the most impact on our business and our bottom line is always a challenge. Whether that is a new laser, punch press, brake or a finishing machine.
After touching on the difference between polishing, graining and bur removal I wanted to give some information on how each is done. I do not intend to go too far but rather the basic how and why for each. As with all things there is often more than one way to do anything. This is just pulling from my own experience of over a decade and what others have shown and taught me as well.
Choosing a machine can be complicated. From floor space issues to getting everyone up to speed and able to use it successfully. Then there are the details such as how much is it? And when can I have it on the floor. There are an untold number of people selling finishing machines and it can be tough to sort through them. You want a machine that will do the job and not be out of service every time you turn around. This is where you can help yourself by weeding through the different avenues available to you.
All stroke sanders "should" have a flat table of some fashion to allow placement of parts or material being worked. The size and weight capacity tends to be where the conversation ends. With the better machines you may even have a twin belt setup to make life and use of the machine better still. But when you get to the very best of stroke sanders an articulating mount comes into play. What they allow you to do is have the machine hold a given 3D or formed part at just about any angle or height. If you are working with a range hood for example, you can have the mount hold the part at the needed angle while you grind down the weld and blend the finish with the second belt. Before you would need to make a fixture to hold the part and it would be a one off fixture no less. With the articulating mount that is not an issue any longer. Together the features of the better stoke sanders save time per part by not needing fixtures and belt changes. Then add in the fact you don't need to remove the part from the machine for a belt or fixture change and you cut down on injury to the part as well as the staff. Watch the video at the link below to see the mount on a KBM stroke sander. And as always feel free to send in any questions we are happy to help.