We love solving customers’ challenges and improving their processes. Sometimes, our commitment to your success means we end up pioneering an innovative solution using the latest electromechanical technology.
A long-time customer came to us with a complex problem: they wanted to reduce scrap in their extruded aluminum process. The automation engineers at MFP proposed a custom solution that no one else in the industry had tried before (as far as we know) and got the customer up and running in time to make a tight deadline. Here’s how we did it.
Manufacturers have long taken the high scrap rates for extruded aluminum in stride. The extrusion process involves casting raw material to form a long solid log of aluminum. Logs are cut down to smaller sizes called billets whose lengths are specific to each press container. After cutting pieces off a log to usable billet lengths, a manufacturer might have an odd length left over that can’t be used for anything else.
The industry is highly automated, with large, complex machines operating at high forces and high speeds. It’s often safer and more cost-effective to scrap this leftover material rather than risk personnel or equipment to make it usable.
Our customer (who’s been with us since the early days of MFP!) came to us and asked us to help them find a way to gain more control over a part of their system that was meant to safely reduce their end user’s scrap rates and increase yield without slowing down production. They had a hydraulic solution in place at the time, but they saw opportunity for some serious improvement and our engineers were excited to tackle the challenge!
After working with the customer to understand their process and pain points, we devised a plan to use an electric General Vehicle Motor (GVM) in place of a low speed high torque hydraulic motor. The motor would power an automated process to friction weld two pieces of aluminum together. This new system would reduce scrap by joining the previously unusable length of aluminum onto the end of the next log in line.
We proposed using an electric GVM because its high constant torque output in conjunction with its feedback to the drive would allow for unparalleled process control. The finite control of the motor ensured a quality weld that is repeatable with each would-be scrap billet. Our team calibrated every component meticulously, to guarantee a high-quality weld. There was no room for error. Any gaps or inconsistencies could compromise the joint and quality of the finished product.
We had to work quickly. Our customer needed the system to fill a large order on a tight deadline and they were anxious to have everything up and running. Our team of engineers worked closely with the customer’s technicians and an outside specialist to get the motor’s drive communicating with the customer’s PLC. Communications required extensive data mapping to integrate the new motor and drive package with the customer’s controller to ensure that the right system elements were being fed back to the main controller.
Our team finished the upgrade in time for the customer to meet their order deadline. It was exciting to see everyone come together on this project and use their expertise to help solve this incredibly complex problem. Once the system was running, we finally had a chance to step back and appreciate the true scale of the project. The new GVM runs at only 30% capacity of its torque curve, meaning its power output is both scalable and controllable.
This solution was especially unique because the GVM was a mobile unit, originally made for use in heavy equipment like loaders or excavators. It was designed to work with a mobile controller, not an industrial one. This was new territory for us and for the motor manufacturer. As far as we know, no one else has applied this kind of GVM to an industrial application.
We’re proud to have pioneered a solution no one has tried before (as far as we know). But more than that, we’re proud to have innovated a solution that helped our customer solve a complex challenge and improve their process.
When you come to us with a problem, we take time to dive deeper and truly understand your process and how we can help. Our customers know we consider our success as their success and they know firsthand that we go out of our way to help them meet their goals.
Have a challenge we can tackle? We’d love to innovate a solution just for you! Call 616.538.5700 or fill out this quick form to request a quote.