Small parts are one of the challenges most shops face at some point or every day in some cases. They can be tough to manage and tend eat up a lot of time while in some cases being dangerous.
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.
Dealing with tasks that require a lot of labor or hand work is a way to improve processes and trim costs. This is not to say eliminate jobs but rather put the staff to tasks that better use their skill. Helping to make the people more efficient by providing better tools is a way to do this. From finishing enclosures to mirror polishing the finishing tasks tend to be the most manual.
Rather than have four people doing bur removal by hand a through feed machine can speed this way up and provide more consistent parts. Don't size the machine based on you starting material size but rather the part size you cut from that material. Getting a machine sized to your starting material tends to be a good way to spend more than you need to. Machines like the Loewer also let you do the small parts that tend to be done by hand safely.
In a situation where there is a small army hand finishing enclosures bring a stroke sander online. With a good twin belt unit you can cut handling and greatly increase speed. If you opt for one that has a 3D part mount it increases the speed and ease of use further. One belt will cut the welds and the other blends the finish all with out a belt change or moving the part. Quality and speed are both increased while maximizing labor. KBM machines come setup to fill this task by default.
Polishing tends to be a massive labor sponge. Real polishing where you are going for a #8 mirror takes several steps with several abrasives. It is also dirty and physically draining. The best polisher cant keep the same quality level all day as they get tired. That causes a variation in finish just across their parts each day. Now compound that by 6 or more people polishing and consistency becomes a pipe dream. Custom polishing systems tend to have a high buy in but make massive improvements once running. From worker safety and morale to part consistency every aspect tends to see sizable improvements. Getting a higher volume of parts with a much more consistent finish is just the start. Anything from high volume CNC to fine detail robotics are possible with Autopulit and they are built around your needs and not a one size fits all.
Tube finishing is another area many struggle with. As with other material the same issue exist here. Your standard chuck it in a lathe is just so slow and ties up an other wise useful machine with a task it was not designed to do. There are small machines that can put any finish you need on tube and safely. Machines that spin the tube should be avoided if possible due to safety issues. As even a slight bend can cause things to go from zero to crazy in a blink and no one wants to see someone injured. A small simple planetary style tube sander can process 3 feet or more per min and automatically feed the material through the machine. Its a simple yet genius machine that can drastically speed up the process with fewer people all while being safer. Here is where the ML machines from NS can resolve the tube sanding issues quickly and safely.
Looking at the finishing side is an easy way to trim production costs while using fewer people and getting better parts overall. With the reduced quality of raw material most are having to use this becomes more of a key point. What was labor intensive with good materials has now gotten much worse. We can help with these issues and more and advice is always free. If you have a specific issue talk with us and take advantage of the years of experience we have is improving finishing processes.
When you are looking at your parts or talking about them with others the terms tend to get used interchangeably but they mean different things. When you cut a part you end up with a bur with very few exceptions. The process of removing that bur would be deburing obviously. That leaves you with a part that has no bur but can still have a crisp 90 degree corner. At that point you may be done or you could want to break that 90 degree corner and move into edge rounding. These things are not the same and are two separate tasks. While they can be combined they are two tasks none the less. Removing the bur and breaking the edges is about handling, welding, coating adhesion amidst other things and not about the visual appearance of the part.
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.
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.
Due to the demand and lead time we rarely get a unit in stock. We have managed to get an extra unit with our current delivery. The KBM stroke sander is built in Germany and is the twin belt design. This allows you to grain and blend without changing belts or unloading the parts. It is also equipped with the articulating mount for doing formed, welded or odd shaped parts. This is a very flexible configuration and by far the most popular.