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.
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.
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.
Many times we all make assumptions based on our own knowledge. This can be a very deep conversation that gets into human nature and any number of other points. But I am noting that just because you know something is no indication others do. With that thought in mind I want to go back to the basics to help every one have a good foundation to build from.
My grandfather used to look at newer cars and say that they were too complicated. He was looking at the car as it would be in a few years when it would need repair. He was not afraid of the new technology but rather what problems it would bring later. Other than, the robot overlords taking over the world part, the rest of his argument made sense. Just because you can get a new anything with all kinds of add-ons and upgrades does not mean you should. If you get that new machine can your current staff operate and service it? If you need to bring in an outside factory tech for every little thing that goes wrong, the cost will certainly pile up over time. Keeping points like this in mind are important, as they are part of the big picture and the machine's True cost. It may not be an upfront cost but you are going to pay for it one way or the other.
As is always the case looking for ways to save money often leads to looking at many different paths. It can be the time invested in a process to vendor supplies and services. One area to look at that often hides savings is finishing.
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.
Fabtech is open and running currently in Atlanta. Its a little rainy but the people are coming to see the wide range of machines on display. We have machines on display and welcome every one to stop by. We have factory staff present from Germany and Spain to answer questions and help you choose the right machine. Booth B7711 just to your right as you enter the hall. Feel free to stop in any time during the show and if you are at the show, safe travels.