Blast machine forensics – my quest for IBC efficiency

By Gerhard Puttinger
Electrical Engineer at Wheelabrator

A blast machine is a complex beast. Assessing its energy consumption behaviour to find room for improvement therefore isn’t as straightforward as it sounds.

For my degree project in mechanical engineering, I made it my mission to systematically measure, evaluate and compare all the factors contributing to one machine’s energy consumption and efficiency. So, for several months in 2017, a Wheelabrator IBC-12/45-540-432, the trusted inclined belt conveyor concept, had my undivided attention. Every nook and cranny of it. Here’s what I did and what I found.

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Equipment upgrades: innovation by stealth

By Dante Terry
EMP Warranty Coordinator at Wheelabrator

Blast machines last 20, 30 years or more – a long time to wait for product innovation if your production needs change or operational challenges occur. So, are we leaving you behind the curve for 20 years until you need a new machine? Of course not.

A fix for an old machine to address a specific customer’s issue can often lead to innovative new solutions that find their way into other customers’ machines via upgrades or the more comprehensive Equipment Modernization Programs (EMPs) offered by Wheelabrator.


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Posted in EMP, Equipment Installation, Equipment Modernization Program, Equipment upgrade, Innovation, Manufacturing, Technology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

New spec for rail wheels raises peening questions

By Ron Wright
Automated Airblast & Peening Manager at Wheelabrator

A change in the specification of rail wheels by the American Association for Railroads (AAR) probably wouldn’t immediately strike you as a momentous event. But even if you’re not affected by it, it is worth hearing me out, as the issue at hand is one I keep seeing across industries and applications. And it’s about interpreting, applying, and complying with peening specifications – and asking the right questions about them.

American-AxleHere’s what happened: In its new specification for rail wheels, the AAR has tightened up rules around the manufacturing of carbon steel train wheels in an effort to improve wheel durability. As part of this, the AAR has also made some seemingly minor adjustments to the prescribed peening spec – with potentially significant knock-on effects for manufacturers. And with the US a lead market for the rail sector with global supply chains, we expect the new spec to travel way beyond North America.

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A lean, mean Wheelabrator machine

By David Pless

Director, Supply Chain and Lean Champion for North America, Wheelabrator Group

The concepts of lean and continuous improvement are not new. Indeed, the implementation of efficient processes with minimal waste was a major driver in Japan’s rise to become a world force in manufacturing in the 1980s.

Today, manufacturing companies all over the world – including most of our customers – follow a lean methodology to optimize their processes and production capabilities. For many organizations, it’s become second nature to think lean.

We continue on our own lean journey, as it is becoming more and more engrained into the way we operate. We aim to provide our products at the best speed, quality and cost possible by constantly improving material handling, inventory, quality, scheduling, personnel – all of which contribute to a better value for our customers.

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Adding a new dimension to R&D with 3D printing

By Doug Kim

Aftermarket Engineering Mechanical Designer, Wheelabrator

Following Bernd’s excellent blog about the complexities of blasting 3D printed parts, I wanted to share a glimpse into how we use 3D printing here in LaGrange for our R&D.

For the past couple of years, we have used a MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental 3D printer to help us design and develop prototype components. This helps to ensure we find a solution that is both fast and best for our customers’ manufacturing needs.

Testing complex designs
R-and-D-BlogWheelabrator is always looking at new ways to develop and test parts that we put into our machines. After all, there’s little point producing something that won’t deliver the optimum performance in real world conditions.

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Keeping up with complexities: blasting 3D-printed parts

By Bernd Busskamp

Sales Director, OEM Air Germany, Wheelabrator

Surfaces are getting more complex. At least that’s what I’ve been seeing in recent years. We’ve adapted to that, developing blast and peening technology that can cope with internal surfaces and organic external topographies. But things are about to get more fiendish still.

At first, it was lightweight design that turned engine blocks into something akin to Swiss cheese – with bores, channels, nooks and crannies. Now it’s the rise of additive manufacturing (AM), the printing of (among other materials) metal parts, that is posing new challenges, adding new complexities and requiring new blast processes.

Why blast 3D-printed parts?

3D-PrintThe additive manufacturing process itself creates its own new cleaning tasks and blast requirements. Powder residue, half sintered-on during the build process, may need removing. Additive manufacturing of metal parts can also result in a relatively rougher surface which then needs polishing.

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Posted in 3D Printing, Abrasive Media, Blast Media, peening | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

The right abrasive for the right job

By Peter Longstaff

Former National Sales Manager at Wheelabrator Plus UK

Selecting the correct abrasive medium for cleaning and peening surfaces is crucial to achieve the desired surface finish, but the process can, to the uninitiated, be both complex and confusing.

blog-abrasivesDuring my career I gained a wide knowledge of surface finishing and the use of wet and dry blast equipment, wheelblast and vibratory finishing, and, in particular, the selection and use of abrasives.

The list of blast media options can be quickly narrowed down by recognising the equipment available for the process. For example, glass beads would not work in a wheelblast machine as they would shatter immediately.

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Posted in Abrasive Media, Airblast, Blast Media, peening, Shot peening, Wheelabrator Plus, Wheelblast | Tagged | 2 Comments

BLOG 2: Keeping it simple – foundry equipment that hides its complexity

By Birgit Bernhard
Service Technician, Wheelabrator Plus

If I’ve learned one thing during my travels around the foundries of this world, it’s that in heavy-duty environments simplicity is king.

Simplicity means being able to exchange a part easily, it means a machine that is fit-for-purpose – without frills that can become sources of error.

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Made in the USA – the rebirth of the North American foundry industry

By Mark Lambrix
Director of North American Foundry Technology for Wheelabrator OEM

Until recently, the foundry industry had been in decline in North America. Cheap labor costs in countries like China saw companies looking overseas for foundry requirements. Demand dropped and many foundries in the US closed.

The tide, however, is beginning to turn. Overseas labor costs have risen and this, combined with the high costs of shipping heavy castings over long distances, means it’s becoming more cost effective to bring foundry work back home.

The last year or so has seen demand for US-made foundry products soar, but there are now fewer foundries to do the work. The result: the remaining foundries are ramping up their production and running longer hours than ever before.
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Superfast flipping of connecting rods and other new tricks

By Trevor Burns
Applications Technology Manager at Wheelabrator

We have a saying in the Applications team at Wheelabrator – the customer doesn’t want the machine, they want the end result. It sounds obvious, but it actually has profound implications not just for how we identify the right equipment for a customer, but for development and innovation in our field.

Connecting Rods Machine - White BackgroundPut simply, rather than trying to fit an existing machine to a customer’s requirements, we look at how we develop our machines to give the customer exactly what they need.

Of course, Wheelabrator’s standard machines are suitable for a wide variety of requirements already – they’ve been designed with industry needs in mind and proven in the field. But if there’s one thing our design and development teams love it’s a new challenge from a customer. Sometimes that involves teaching a machine impressive new tricks.

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Posted in Automotive, Innovation, Manufacturing, peening, Shot peening, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment