A pre-configured Cartesian Motion System (CMS) from Bosch Rexroth has provided Applied Cooling Technology with a safe, convenient and cost-effective automation system for loading cooling fins into its innovative finning machines.
Previously loaded by hand, the machines use forces of up to half a tonne to swage cooling fins, with great precision, on to the tubes that make up a heat exchanger element. This patented process eliminates the need for brazing or additional bonding between the tubes and the fins, producing a heat exchanger that is said to offer superior performance and reliability.
Because of the high forces used in the swaging process, providing adequate operator protection in the manually loaded machines without seriously impairing productivity had always been difficult.
This led the company to seek an automatic loading system that would allow additional guards to be fitted, as well as remove the need for the operator to work in close proximity to the machine's moving parts.
The automated loading system was required to remove fins, one at a time, from a bulk stack, orientate them, and feed them into the machine.
Functionality at an affordable price
"We looked at a number of possible approaches," says Andy Price, Applied Cooling Technology's Engineering Manager, "many of them based on robots. We found that these gave us a choice between very expensive, but no doubt capable robots, or cheap but unproven robots that would be very difficult to interface with our existing automation system. Bosch Rexroth's CMS, however, gave us the functionality we wanted, at an affordable price."
The CMS arrangement chosen has two axes, with 1000mm of motion on the X-axis, and 500mm on the Z-axis. It was supplied as a pre-configured assembly, complete with servomotors, ready for immediate installation.
"Interfacing the CMS with our existing control system, which uses a SERCOS bus and a Bosch Rexroth controller, truly could not have been easier," says Andy Price. "We simply connected the CMS to the bus, and the controller instantly recognised the two new axes - we did not have to do anything at all. After that, we needed to configure the control of the CMS to match our application, but the hard part was essentially done for us!"
With the safety improvements made possible by the new automatic infeed system, Applied Cooling Technology is now confident that its new finning machine will meet the requirements for CE marking. This will allow the company to use the machine and manufacture others for lease to other organisations that have a requirement for producing high-performance, high-reliability heat exchangers.
A further bonus is that the automatic infeed substantially reduces the amount of labour involved in running the machine. Whereas each manually fed machine needed its own full-time operator, one operator can easily manage three or even four of the automated machines, providing substantial cost savings.
"We have used Bosch Rexroth products for many years in our machines," says Andy Price, "and we have always found that them to be reliable, easy-to-use and economical. The automatic infeed for our finning machines is just the latest in a long line of challenges that Bosch Rexroth has helped us to address successfully."