Rotational molding can reduce cost, part count
Selecting a manufacturing process is just as important as the design itself. And of equal consideration are the design parameters.
By Anna Allen Staff Editor
Chicago--Process yields product. So how do you determine which will provide the results you want for your application?
Know your application and the design requirements. Understand what materials will best achieve function. And, know what process will produce those properties. It is also a good idea to consider quantity you'll be producing, especially from a cost standpoint.
There are many molding processes in the industry: injection molding, blow molding, and compression molding, to name a few. But what about rotational molding?
"You don't think of rotational molding as producing a pretty part but as producing a functional part," says Jim Lietz, a member of the Assn. of Rotational Molders Board of Directors and marketing manager for Gregstrom Corp. (Woburn, MA), a rotational molding manufacturer.
Rotational molding, otherwise known as rotomolding or rotational casting, is a thermoplastic processing method for producing simple to complex, leak-proof hollow parts that can be filled with foam. The process is best applied for producing runs of 200 to 2,000 or 3,000 parts, which range in size from small ear syringes of plastisol to large 22,000-gal vessels of polyethylene.
Using the process, engineers can design a product that will feature mold-in inserts, eliminating component count; and embedded graphics, which eliminate surface pretreatment required with other methods.
The process generally makes use of polyethylene powders, other powders, and liquids. However, nylon, elastomers, fluoropolymers, and polypropylene can also be used. According to Lietz, the association is working with material suppliers to create more options.
The rotational molding process can be found in automotive/transportation industries; in applications involving sporting, medical, and industrial equipment; and in toy equipment.
Putting the process to work. When Arch Chemical, formerly Olin Chemical Pool Products, decided to improve the design of its Pulsar II pool chlorinator, the company's rotomolder Gregstrom Corp. referred it to Integrated Design Systems Inc., a design consulting office in Great Neck, NY.
The original product was produced using rotational molding. However, the design required much machining, secondary operations, and assembly work. These factors, combined with tight tolerances, resulted in a product with a limited market and limited manufacturability.
Arch Chemical called on Integrated Design Systems to improve manufacturing costs and marketability. The company redesigned the product from scratch and worked with Arch Chemical's product development team to coordinate product design and function. The firm rebuilt the model using PTC's solid-modeling Pro/ENGINEER software.
"The new design fully integrates the product's function and its aesthetics," says Michael Paloian, designer at Integrated Design Systems Inc. "A close look at the design and the benefits of the rotational molding process helped us eliminate 60 to 70% of parts. We also reduced cost by 50% and assembly time by 80%."
Paloian says the company used its knowledge of rotational molding to improve the design. "We creatively applied the technology to our advantage by maximizing molded-in features that ultimately resulted in part consolidation and lower cost," says Paloian. "Parts easily nested together without having to be molded precisely. When everything is assembled, the overall appearance is very precise and neat, with minimum secondary operations. We eliminated much of the machining associated with the previous design."
Paloian adds that the company also improved the assembly by stacking components. "This resulted in improved manufacturability and production consistency," says Paloian. "By reducing part count and eliminating assembly steps, we were able to make the product more reliable--it looked better, functioned better, and was ultimately more successful in the field."
| Integrated Design Systems Inc. redesigned the Pulsar II (left) to decrease cost, part count, assembly time, and most importantly, to take advantage of rotational molding benefits. The resulting product, Pulsar III (right), is more visually appealing at a cheaper price.
The original rotomolded product consisted of nested, single-walled containers that required precise molding and extensive machining of top and bottom surfaces. The upper hopper was covered with a single-walled lid that hinged about a plastic rod. "Although the lid was functional, it required additional machining and lacked customer appeal," says Paloian.
|Click here to see a video on rotational molding.
To fix this, Paloian considered the benefits of rotational molding. "We eliminated all the machining by molding the lid as a continuous, hollow, double-walled, 2-inch-thick part. This new lid design was very robust, easier to manufacture, less expensive, and better looking than the previous version because the process was integral to the design."
Paloian also says that when using rotational molding it is important to take advantage of the contours you can put into a mold instead of relying on machining. "Whenever you can put functionality into the part, that's where you are saving money and taking advantage of the process. The less machining and cutting you do, the better the end product will be from an appearance, reliability, and cost standpoint."
As the design progressed, Gregstrom helped Integrated Design Systems with design parameters. "Gregstrom helped us early in the design cycle by defining minimum radii, wall sections, draft angles, tolerance limitations, as well as advantages inherent in the process," says Paloian.
The original vessel featured many fittings on the outside of the unit. The fixtures were vulnerable to the external environment and had potential to leak if damaged by a service employee or outside force. Integrated Design Systems put the fittings inside the interior. This simple change, says Paloian, cleaned up the design and meant that any leaks would just fill the inside of the vessel.
Getting the most out of the process. While designers could have chosen to manufacture this product using a number of different processes, Paloian says they all would have been more expensive and not well suited to low volumes. For instance, he says, the quantities for this application are too small for blow-molding or injection molding to be cost-effective. In addition, the wall sections couldn't have been as heavy as they are so the chlorinator wouldn't have been as robust.
"With rotomolding," he says, "you have a lot of design freedom so you can get complicated shapes, big parts, and uniform wall sections." And, because the radii can be relatively tight, Paloian adds, you can achieve intricate aesthetic detail.
Rotational molding offers a low initial investment, 15 to 20% that of injection molding, says Paloian. And turn-around time is six to eight weeks maximum, depending on complexity. In this instance, the product was rotomolded in polyethylene for its chemical resistance.
"The best designs often include the creative integration of the best material and process with the right application," says Michael Paloian. "The rotomolding process, like all manufacturing technologies, has certain limitations. If you know what they are and creatively integrate them into your design, the results can be quite exciting."
Design considerations when using rotational molding
Heat transfer of material
Location of parting lines
Where to vent part
How mold is clamped
How mold is mounted for rotation
How many parts mold will make
Ability to mold different parts at same time
Produce little scrap
Short lead time
Low tooling costs
Low initial investment (15 to 20% that of an injection mold)
Beneficial for producing large parts with a seamless, double-wall construction
Turn-around time of six to eight weeks, depending on complexity
ROCK & ROLL
The Rotational Molding process involves the following six steps:
Machine operators deposit a predetermined amount of plastic, powder or liquid form, in 1/2 of a charged mold.
The machine rotates out of the oven into a cooling chamber where air or water spray, or a combination of both, cools the mold. The mold continues to rotate during this time and the temperature gradually lowers.
Smart electronics parade at NDES
By Rick DeMeis Associate Editor
Chicago--"Give the people what they want," goes the saying. And vendors at this year's National Design Engineering Show (NDES) were doing just that for their electronics designer customers.
According to Phoenix Contact (Harrisburg, PA) Product Assistant Davis Matthews, "Today, everyone wants everything smart." Which is why this supplier's line of bus-system technologies experienced great interest from show attendees. But smarter products were also found in the firm's other offerings as well. Take, for example, the new MCR-SLP, a compact ac transducer signal-conditioning module with analog and digital outputs. This DIN-rail-mounted unit eliminates the need for separate, bulkier current transformers, whose non-linear millivolt outputs require conversion to a standard linearized signal. The device converts 1 or 5A current signals from, say, motors and drives, into linearized signals (0-10V and 0-20 mA) that can be monitored by a PLC. The input measurement circuit powers the MCR-SLP, eliminating an external power supply.
But sometimes simpler is smarter, as is the case with Phoenix Contact's new QUIX terminal block. No wire stripping or special tools are needed to connect wires to these blocks, which also debuted at the show.
Test and measurement is smarter these days as well. Fluke (Everett, WA) DMM Product Manager Larry Williams outlined the features of the latest in the company's 87 and 89 digital multimeter lines. The latest capabilities these traditionally compact devices can now provide are manual or automatic data logging (1,000 measurements), PC communication, and reporting.
"Better, faster, and cheaper," was seen in Omron's (Schaumburg, IL) F150 compact, grayscale, machine-vision system. The $4,300 combination includes a controller, camera, light source, keypad, and cables. No programming is required--setup and use is quickly done via the keypad. The system stores up to 23 images in memory, allowing quality-control users to identify failure points. The 16 setup scenes, each with up to 16 inspection windows, permit complex applications. As to the high interest shown in the F150, Omron's Christina Lewis, PR specialist, remarked that, "The applications always were there, now people can afford it."
Design News recognizes best, brightest
Chicago--With thunderous applause, more than 275 engineers and business leaders saluted Engineer of the Year Lynn Otten at the 12th Annual Design News Engineering Awards Banquet on March 16.
"This is the Oscar of engineering," said Lynn Otten as she clasped her Leonardo DaVinci medallion. "The ability to give back a person a life as they once knew it is the ultimate high. My work has given me a complete and total satisfaction in my life."
Otten headed the design team at Medtronic that developed the ActivaTM Tremor Control Therapy. The device delivers electrical stimulation to the brain's vital motor control centers, helping victims of Parkinson's Disease and Essential Tremor get relief from uncontrollable shaking that disrupts their lives.
Otten received a $25,000 grant from The Torrington Co., which she designated for the University of Minnesota School of Bioengineering in the hopes that "it will help other girls as ornery as I was go into engineering."
Special Achievement Award winner Paul MacCready released a 1-gm, wind-up aircraft at the banquet. With wings fluttering as lightly as a dragonfly's, the ornithopter soared higher and higher above the audience, ultimately coming gently to rest on MacCready's palm.
The founder of AeroVironment and the father of human-powered flight, MacCready's projects include: the Gossamer Condor, an aircraft powered by a pilot's muscles; work with General Motors on the design of the Impact electric car; a solar-powered aircraft for NASA that has soared an amazing 80,000 ft; and tiny, micro-air vehicles which have a variety of military uses.
"When you get an award like this that you don't think you deserve, it will motivate you so that in 10 years you will deserve it," MacCready said after accepting his award from Design News Chief Editor Paul Teague.
MacCready received a $20,000 grant from NTN Bearing, which he designated for the Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA.
Expressing an equal concern that "no part of our design would end up in a landfill," John Elter of Xerox received the Engineering Quality Award. Elter headed up the Lakes team, named as a reminder to the team members that "sustainable development is to the millennium what cost was to the 70s, quality was to the 80s, and speed was to the 90s."
The Lakes team efforts lead to a family of products that can not only copy, but also print, fax, and scan. This "all-in-one machine" has parts that are 98% recyclable and 90% remanufactured.
More than 400 patents were issued on this revolutionary new copier system. In acknowledging the team effort, Elter noted, "The three trademarks of a great group of talented people are that they can all work together as a team; they think they are a mission from God; and they know they can deliver the project. I worked with such a team."
His $20,000 grant from the Schneeberger Co. will be awarded to the Montana State University College of Engineering and the Ogala Lakota College in Kyle, SD.
Other awards presented included three grand prize winners in the Design News Excellence in Design Competition: Jim Bylander of 3M Telecom Systems for the VF-45TM VolitionTM high-speed fiber optic interconnect; David Fadness of Mechanical Design and Development Co. for a portable radiotherapy machine; and Mark Tempel, Stratos Product Development Group LLC, for an automated salmon marking and tagging system. They received awards of $5,000 each from The MacNeal-Schwendler Corp.
Power transmission rides integration wave
Chicago--"Power transmission has changed more in the last 3 years than it has in all of the last 30 years," asserts Chris Popp, sales manager for DieQua Corp. (Bloomingdale, IL). "What's happened is that the industry has taken a giant step forward in its ability to integrate power transmission components in new and innovative ways."
Nowhere has this ongoing trend in power transmission technology been more evident than at the recent National Design Engineering Show, held in Chicago in mid-March. To underscore Popp's point, DieQua had on display its new line of torque limiters featuring an integrated flexible bellows coupling. A patented ball-and-detent design ensures high torsional rigidity and no play.
"The benefit to the design engineer is that he or she can now purchase a single product that performs multiple functions better than individual components can, and it performs them within a very small envelope," says Popp. DieQua's new torque limiters, he adds, are designed for use in applications where moving products have a tendency to jam up, including conveyors and paper converting machinery.
Exhibitor Horton Industrial Products (Minneapolis, MN) had a slightly different twist on torque limiter technology at the show. "Horton's SmartValve controller is a multi-purpose air-pressure controller that functions as both a valve and regulator," says Edd Brooks, senior technical representative.
Based on a microprocessor that senses current pressure and adjusts pneumatic valves as required, the compact unit integrates all of the mechanical and electrical functions of a dual pressure circuit into a single device. "It replaces ten or more components, plus all of the associated hoses and fittings," says Brooks. The unit, he adds, can manage any of 16 air pressure levels in the range of 0-80 psi, and provides substantially more functionality than alternative strategies.
Motors are another power transmission technology riding the integration wave. Baldor (Fort Smith, AK) and ABB (New Berlin, WI) were among the motor companies introducing new drives with integrated motion control. Baldor, which is currently beta-testing its FlexDrive and Flex+Drive products, says that customer feedback has been extremely positive.
"I think there's always the question of how much flexibility you sacrifice with an integrated solution," says Phil Strong, director of motion controls, "but companies are finding that this particular concern is outweighed by the benefit of getting to market quickly at lower cost and less risk with a product like FlexDrive."
The target customers for Baldor's new line of servo drives, says Jerry Peerbolte, vice president of marketing, are companies with an application for single-axis control that do not want to have to shop around. "They know what they need, and they just want to go out and buy it," says Peerbolte.
Ball screws may have been around since the 1940s, but thanks to the efforts of companies like Thomson Industries, this venerable power transmission technology just keeps redefining itself. "Our business is growing at 20% a year," says John DeGenova, manager of industrial products marketing at Thomson Saginaw, "and that's because we keep extending the line with innovations like our new Lube-for-Life ball screw."
On display at the show, the secret to this novel device is the integration of an oil-saturated (80% by volume), anti-friction polymer directly into the ball nut. When the ball screw is in use, the polymer exudes a thin film of lubricant inside the ball nut, continuously lubricating the rolling elements and raceway. For extremely high-duty applications, the lubrication element is replaceable. "People like the product because they can install it and forget about it," says DeGenova.
GAM Gear's unique take on integration was evident in its new right-angle gearbox, on display for the first time ever here at the show. A logical extension of the company's PowerGear line, the DynaGear gearbox uses hypoid gears manufactured to extremely tight tolerances to achieve gear ratios of 15:1.
"Normally if you want to turn a right angle you need a beval gear and a planetary gear system to achieve the necessary ratios," points out Craig Van Den Avont, general manager. "This product requires only a single gear stage in a very small package."
What's new in software? Everything.
By Laurie Ann Toupin Associate Editor and Paul Teague Chief Editor
Chicago--New products, new partnerships, new logos, and new target markets made headlines at the computer software portion of the National Design Engineering Show in Chicago.
The show floor was buzzing with Visionary Design Systems' (VDS, Santa Clara, CA) announcement that beginning with IronCAD 3.0, users will be able to design in ACIS- and Parasolid-based CAD packages simultaneously. Engineers will be able to pull a design from a Parasolid-based package, such as Solid Edge from Unigraphics (Huntsville, AL), and turn it into an ACIS model, or vice versa. Users will also be able to seamlessly join two parts developed in opposing kernels. Dave Tiley of VDS says, "This technology makes it painless to use any data out there and share it with customers, regardless of their CAD." VDS expects to ship release 3.0 within the next six months. In the meantime, IronCAD 2.0 began shipping in early March.
SolidWorks (Concord, MA) introduced a special product just for AutoCAD users called XchangeWorks. This data- exchange plug-in allows engineers to import solid modeling CAD data directly into AutoCAD and Mechanical Desktop. Users can import native SolidWorks files through pull-down menus in AutoCAD or Mechanical Desktop, and work on them within the AutoCAD environment. And here's the best part: XchangeWorks is absolutely free. The program is available on CD by calling (800) 393-4118.
In conjunction with SolidWorks, Linius Technologies (Westborough, MA) announced the integration of its EMbassy software with SolidWorks' 3D solid modeler. By the end of the year users will be able to create system enclosures and then use EMbassy to design wire harnesses and cables within the context of their 3D model.
Autodesk (San Rafael, CA) made its own big news, announcing four new products, all formed on a new software platform: AutoCAD 2000. Two of the offerings, AutoCAD Mechanical 2000 and AutoCAD Mechanical 2000 Power Pack, offer drafting and design for 2D users, and includes recently acquired GeniusTM technology. The Power Pack supplies a parts-and-calculations library specifically geared for mechanical engineers. Mechanical Desktop 4 and Mechanical Desktop 4 Power Pack, aimed at the 2D and 3D solid-model user, offer a multiple document environment and new assembly-centric design tools. All four products are expected to ship this summer.
With the show debut of ANSYS/ProfessionalTM, its new analysis package, Ansys (Canonsburg, PA) plans to target the needs of the "mid-range analysis user." The target customer is the engineer who occasionally needs to run an analysis but doesn't have the time to relearn a complicated program each time, says Frank Marx, manager of the Ansys business unit. "Ansys software has traditionally required extensive training and engineering experience to run effectively in the past," he says. But a new graphical user interface, the Mechanical Toolbar, with sequential tabbed menus and drop-down boxes, make running an analysis as easy as using any Windows application, says Marx.
The MacNeal Schwendler Corp. (Los Angeles) showed off several products at its booth, as well as its new logo. The company is now MSC Software, and while it still develops its flagship analysis products MSC/NASTRAN, MSC/PA-TRAN, it is branching into other areas as well. Recently, the company acquired Working Knowledge, developer of Knowledge Revolution simulation software, which it integrated with MSC/InCheck. MSC staffers demonstrated new Windows-based products emerging from that acquisition, such as Working Model View, Working Model FEA, and Working Model Concept. Also, the company introduced a new Engineering e.commerce division, which, MSC says, will deliver web software and services.
SDRC (Cincinnati, OH) gave previews of the latest version of its flagship product, I-DEAS version 7. Among the enhancements: web-centric orientation, a new architecture for manufacturing, new variational analysis solutions, scalable architecture, and vertical applications. The company promises 10 to 20% performance improvements in the manufacturing applications. I-DEAS 7 will ship in June.
Fastening solutions for all phases of design
By Christine M. Ferrara New Products Editor
Chicago--Gone are the days when fastening companies just supplied screws, rivets, or self-clinching fasteners. The current trend in fastening, joining, and assembly is the total assembly solution, where fastening companies supply everything needed to assemble products. This year's fastening exhibitors at NDES showed the range of the complete assembly solution.
The assembly process begins when the engineer specifies fasteners. Southco Inc. (Concordville, PA) showed off its ZOOMTM CD-ROM interactive product selection guide. The guide custom-matches more than 13,000 Southco fastening products with user applications.
After a quick selection process, which involves entering design criteria such as access restriction requirements, the ZOOM CD-ROM takes the user to the Southco fastening product that provides the best match. Southco plans to release two CD-ROMs a year filled with new products, with the newest products appearing on the company's web site, www.southco.com.
The ZOOM development process actually started at last year's National Manufacturing Week. Southco let showgoers see ZOOM in the preliminary prototype stage. Based on their input, the company decided to take a completely different approach, says Bob DePippo, manager of interactive marketing.
| Southco’s ZOOM interactive product selection guide CD-ROM lets users select the proper fastening solution.
Emhart Fastening Technologies (Shelton, CT) showcased its fastening product selection CD-ROM, the Mentor Product Library. The software features "Fastener Wizards," which walk the user through a step-by-step process of choosing and applying the company's products. The CD-ROM also provides the user with instant access to product information, the company says.
The CD-ROM also provides links to Emhart's web site, www.emhart.com. Through the site, users can pose questions about their fastening problems to Emhart representatives.
Several exhibitors showed basic fastening products engineers go to fastening companies for: adhesives and fasteners. Devcon (Danvers, MA), showcased its 10-Minute PlusTM epoxy. The epoxy adheres to metals such as aluminum, copper, steel, brass, and galvanized steel; and provides 20-minute fixture, and shear strength of 1,600 psi. Benefits to the user include chemical resistance to oils, hydrocarbons, and fuels; good peel; and tamper resistance, the company says.
In tune with the total assembly solution, Devcon's Mark 5TM application system applies the 10-Minute Plus epoxy. The Mark 5 pneumatic applicator uses 50-ml PolyStrateTM cartridges and a mix nozzle that blends two-component adhesives.
The applicator's ergonomically designed grip allows dispensing of a smooth, even bead or individual adhesive spotting with fingertip control, the company adds.
On the mechanical fastening side, Camcar Textron (Rockford, IL) presented two of its offerings at the show. Mag-formTM thread-forming fasteners meet the need for tapping and fastening into low-ductile materials. The main benefit to the user is minimal debris generation, which can cause damage to the formed threads.
Camcar also showcased Camtronic® fasteners, which address the problem of galling and seizing when the user assembles stainless-steel engagement materials, such as in a computer hard drive assembly. Camtronic fasteners are paired with Camcar's TORX PLUS® drive, which makes them less susceptible to recess damage during assembly, the company says, more evidence of the total assembly solution.
Once the user specifies fasteners, more of the total assembly solution comes into play as the engineer incorporates them into a design. Penn Engineering & Mfg. Corp.'s (Danboro, PA) PEMSERTER® Series 2000TM press system now features tooling that enables the user to automatically install Penn's PEM® Type PF11TM self-clinching panel fasteners.
The Type PF11 panel fasteners are complete, spring-loaded assemblies with captive screws. The fasteners can install permanently in metal sheets as thin as 0.036 inch, and feature a large, knurled knob with a combination slot and Phillips drive.
The PEMSERTER Series 2000 tooling features a speed of 1.2 sec/fastener installation. Ram force ranges from 500 to 16,000 lb. Benefits to the user include increased production time and realization of optimal clinch performance, the company says.
Motion control does more
Chicago--Design engineers who want to achieve motion control are clamoring for higher speeds, greater loads, and longer life at affordable prices. At the National Design Show, held in mid-March, they found much of what they're looking for.
"The customer also wants one-stop shopping, great customer service, and fast delivery," says Bill Hayes, marketing vice president with Bishop-Wisecarver Corp. (Pittsburg, CA).
Bishop-Wisecarver showcased its HEPCO Driven Linear System (DLS) line, a reflection of the growing trend toward complete motion control systems for OEM applications.
With a mechanical drive package and aluminum beam fitted with "Vee" wheel and track systems, DLS systems can be used as a stand-alone or multi-axis stage design. Ring Oval Track systems for circular motion were also shown.
Pittman, a division of Penn Engineering (Harleysville, PA), highlighted its ELCOM II Series 4400 brushless dc motors. Their slotless construction eliminates magnetic cogging for smooth, quiet operation while achieving maximum continuous torque of 19 oz-inches. "Our catalog is a point of departure. We are really customization kings," said Bob Kish, sales & marketing manager.
Trilogy Systems (Webster, TX) unveiled a patent-pending linear encoder module that president Bruce Beakley says is the first-ever equivalent of a rotary motor and encoder. Using the same magnetic field that the coil uses to generate position feedback, the encoder is integrated into the motor head and has a resolution of 5 microns, says Beakley. The development will make the linear motor more cost competitive to rotary ball screws, he adds.
Oriental Motor (Torrance, CA) announced Global reversible motors in 110, 115, 220V for the world market.
High-performance-cable maker, Igus (East Providence, RI) showed its TwisterChain carrier series. The new chain carrier series is ideal for robotic part spraying and welding since it can turn corners, fulfill rotary motion, and save space. "With manufacturing speeds rising, we designed a cable system that can withstand millions of cycles of flex in the carrier," says Ralf Kabus, marketing manager.
Fluid power firms focus on design services
Chicago--In fluid power, the emphasis at the 1999 National Design Engineering Show was on service. Several firms--including Parker Hannifin and IMI Norgren--spotlighted internal service groups that can work with customers to simplify designs and lower OEM costs.
Parker Hannifin, for example, displayed a newly redesigned directional drill from American Augers Corp. The drill, which makes underground holes for power and telephone lines, was upgraded by Parker Hannifin's Tech Services team. The Tech Services team includes 22 degreed engineers who do nothing but work with customers on their fluid connector problems. "When customers need help, we do an audit," notes Scott Kane, technical services manager for the company's Fluid Connectors Group. "We take photos, document our findings, and write a complete report." The effort, Kane says, helps customers solve technical problems and cut costs.
To deal with the high pressures, engineers from American Augers and Parker Hannifin employed O-ring face seal adaptors, specially-designed hydraulic hoses, and single-piece hose fittings. At NDES, the Tech Services Team showed how long-drop 90° hose ends simplified the design and eliminated leak paths.
Big picture. Similarly, engineers at the IMI Norgren booth described how literature, software, and training schools can help OEM engineers set up complex pneumatic systems at manufacturing plants. The company says that its regional managers can work one-on-one with customers, or can set up training schools at the customer's site, in some cases.
"It's in the customer's best interest to take advantage of it," notes David Papadimitrio, technical marketing manager for Norgren's airline equipment. "If you just deal with issues at the point of use, then you're probably just dealing with a symptom, rather than a whole problem. It's important to have an understanding of the entire system."
Such approaches are growing increasingly popular among the fluid power industry's biggest companies. Vickers Mobile Business Unit, for example, established a "Systems Solution Team" on March 15th. The team, formed for the purpose of helping customers in the mobile and off-highway markets, consists of more than 50 people, including application and product engineers, laboratory technicians, and logistics specialists, among others.
Such programs allow OEM engineers to have access to specialized help from the initial platform concept through systems development, component and systems testing, field testing, machine prove-out and certification, and actual production and assembly of complete hydraulic systems into vehicles.
"We've been successful because most OEMs don't give much thought to hydraulic connectors," says Kane of Parker Hannifin. "In the past, it's always been an afterthought. But that's changing now."
Outsourcing has its (many) benefits
Newton, MA--Outsourcing can be a great way to reduce cycle times in the design process, which we describe in detail in a special report starting on p. 81 in this issue. But as two OEMs who recently partnered with the Square D Co. discovered, there can be a multitude of other benefits as well.
Take Mizu Enterprises, a company that manufactures safety devices and distributes replacement parts for above-ground spas. Recently, with production capacity already taxed, the company was preparing to manufacture a new safety device. Called an influent blockage protection device, it monitors pump force.
"Since we had no experience with the product, we were looking at a fairly major undertaking," says Barry Knickerbocker, president. "So when Square D approached us about the possibility of partnering with us to manufacture the device, we were receptive. The program they put together made a lot of sense."
The way Knickerbocker sees it, the biggest advantage lays in the fact that Square D took responsibility for the entire project. "They've taken ownership over everything, from the engineering and sourcing of materials, all the way to the final production schedule," says Knickerbocker. "Without them, we would have had more inventory, more production headaches, and, in the end, much bigger management issues to deal with."
Another customer, Marley Cooling Tower, recently joined forces with Square D to manufacture controls for cooling tower applications. Square D manufactures all of the company's control panels, including one for a packaged variable speed drive. This proprietary sequencing card, says Senior Engineer Glenn Esser, controls the start and stop levels for the drive and the on/off operation of the bypass contactor.
All drive parameters are loaded at Square D's facility before shipment to the end customer. The customer simply connects power to the panel, the motor, and the temperature sensor and the drive is ready to run. "Marley Cooling Tower is the world leader in cooling towers," says Esser. "Our proven controls eliminate startup problems--saving our customers untold hours of troubleshooting."
Marley particularly likes the fact that Square D is a UL-listed panel builder with ISO-certified facilities. As a consequence, it can provide panels meeting even the most stringent of requirements. "Our partnership with Square D enables us to provide startup services, technical support, and complete warranty service worldwide."