Fingers on the pulse: blast technology and the Internet of Things

By Bernd Busskamp
Sales Director, OEM Air Germany, Wheelabrator

Leithülse DetailThe revolution currently underway in manufacturing has many names. Here in Germany it’s often referred to as “Industry 4.0”, and globally we’re hearing a lot about the “Industrial Internet of Things”.

But whatever name we pick, the change rung in by this technology-driven new approach to manufacturing is rapid –and it’s everywhere. Blast equipment is no exception.

Whole armies of sensors, cameras and other measuring devices are conquering blast machines from airblast to wheelblast, from high-volume foundry machines to super-high-spec peening applications. All this data capturing and monitoring then helps control and adjust processes and workflows across the whole production.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what’s already possible today in terms of connected blast technology, and how this benefits production.

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Evolution holds the key to reinventing the wheel

By Lawson Pryke
European Equipment Modernisation Director and COMET Engineering Team Leader  at Wheelabrator

Two years ago I was charged with developing the best blast wheel ever made – we like to set the bar high at Wheelabrator! Now, as we launch the result of that project – COMET HD – I wanted to tell you a bit about how it was developed and why it really does live up to the accolade of ‘best blast wheel’.

Impeller-test-blade-Jane's-editThe first temptation when faced with a challenge like this is to go back to the drawing board and look purely at the theory of how to develop the best wheel. What do the maths and physics tell us about what would make the wheel perfect?

In his 2011 book, Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure, Financial Times journalist Tim Harford called this temptation ‘the God complex’. In this scenario you find the most brilliant minds in engineering, maths and physics to calculate what the best blast wheel should look like.

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Posted in Engineering, Equipment upgrade, Manufacturing, R&D, Technology, Uncategorized, Wheelblast | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Smart’ machines make Aerospace peening a precision art

By Ron Wright
Automated Airblast & Peening Manager at Wheelabrator

There’s a clear reason why Aerospace engineering is driving innovation and development in shot peening – put simply, if something goes wrong in Aerospace, people’s lives are on the line. A broken down car is annoying, but a broken down plane could fall from the sky. This means that quality and precision for Aerospace shot peening is paramount.

Shot-Peened-Compressor-Blades-BlogShot peening is used in Aerospace to strengthen parts against fatigue. As engineers are striving to make aircrafts lighter and faster, a reduction in the weight of parts is an obvious result. This means shot peening has become an ever more important process to strengthen and protect these lighter parts.

Over the last 10 years, more people have become involved in the shot peening process for Aerospace. The big OEMs don’t always carry out peening themselves, instead using contracted companies who supply these services.

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Posted in Aerospace, Airblast, Engineering, peening, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Sieving, screening, separating – the high-tech way

Ulrich Goos
EMP Manager at Wheelabrator Plus in Germany


Anyone at Wheelabrator who’s involved in automotive applications will have been talking or thinking a lot about complexity and control recently.

More complex internal geometries of parts, more tightly integrated processes, fiendish peening specs, exact repeatability of results – the sector is certainly keeping us on our toes.

An example of how these trends affect every aspect of the blast machine and beyond, is the impact they are having on the humble process of sieving.

Sieving, screening and separating of abrasive in automotive applications has evolved into – you guessed it – a pretty complex affair.

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Posted in Automotive, Equipment upgrade, Manufacturing, peening, Service, Technology, Uncategorized, Wheelabrator Plus | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Investing wisely – how to choose the right machine every time

Jonathan Edwards 
Customer Application Lab Manager at Wheelabrator in LaGrange, US


When you invest in a new machine, you want to know it’s going to work. You want to know it’s going to deliver the finish that you need at a reasonable cost and with the cycle time that suits your surrounding processes. And you’re not the only one – all those factors matter to us too, because we want to get it right first time.

I work in Wheelabrator’s Customer Application Lab. It’s our job to figure out which machine is right for each customer, and having run over 5,000 trials at our headquarters in LaGrange Georgia, we’ve got a wealth of experience and data to back up our solutions.

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Survivors: Spanish manufacturing emerges from long downturn – smarter and more strategic

Xavier Lecina
EMP Manager at Wheelabrator in Spain

It has been a long, long wait for the Spanish economy, in particular in manufacturing, but we’re finally emerging from more than seven lean years. My customers are looking ahead again: construction is picking up, car production is back, and those who survived the crisis have emerged stronger.

EMP_BlogYet, the recent past has left a legacy that is very much present in manufacturing today. People do things smarter, invest more strategically, plan well ahead. Service, maintenance and equipment modernisation play a key role in this.

The fighting spirit I’m sensing among manufacturers shows a willingness to make up for lost time – and work harder, better and more efficiently to make the most of improved operating conditions, while being cautious in terms of investment.

For us at Wheelabrator Plus here in Spain, this means we have to be even more conscious of the value we add and focus on making a genuine difference for customers’ operations. Here are my three rules for thriving in a survivor’s industry.

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Color-coding our way to success

Connie Campbell
Service Administrator at Wheelabrator

Late last year, Marty Magill (Senior Vice President, Wheelabrator Plus) wrote about how foundries and fabricators across North America are under increasing pressure to maximize production and reduce unplanned downtime. For us on the ground in the Services team, this means we have to organise ever more complex logistics and take a very disciplined approach – to deliver the best possible service to customers.

For many people administration is the bit of their job they try to avoid, but we love it. There is never a dull moment for the Service Administration team! To explain why, I’ll need to give you a better understanding of what exactly it is that we’re administering.

The work of the service team – a look behind the scenes

Our team looks after four key services that keep our customers’ machines in top condition. The first is Service Repairs which can either involve one of our service technicians visiting a customer to make repairs and install parts already owned by the customer, or it can be integrated with a ‘parts install’, where our customer has also ordered new parts from Wheelabrator.

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Organising innovation: finding the best machine faster

By Stanislav Venclik
Engineering Manager at Wheelabrator

Wheelabrator’s expert design, production and assembly teams face many challenges day-to-day, but one of the key ones is how to keep up with the continuous innovation taking place within our own company – and make sure we learn from the nearly 30,000 machines we’ve got in the field around the world.

Of course, innovation is a good thing. It means we can meet the ever-changing needs of our customers, we ensure our products are the best on the market, and that we continue to be at the forefront of blast and peening technology. However, the amount of innovation taking place every day can also cause a headache for our teams.

To explain why, I’ll need to set the scene a little. Wheelabrator’s ‘Standard’ wheel machine offering includes dozens of different options. In addition to these, we also have our parts offering, which includes everything from blast wheels to safety switches.

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Unsung Heroes: how our service team reaches every corner of the US, Mexico and Canada

By Marty Magill
VP and General Manager of Wheelabrator Plus in North America

Foundries and fabricators across North America are under increasing pressure to maximize production and reduce unplanned downtime. For us at Wheelabrator this means we are not only ensuring our customers have the right equipment for the job, but we are also helping them to keep their machines running.

In an era of lean manufacturing and preventative maintenance, this requires a whole new type of service operation. Demands for speed and real-time response, as well as increasingly complex technology, require service organizations to offer more expertise, increase their understanding of customer operations and improve administration and dispatch flexibility to meet rolling service needs.

US Service teamAnd that’s exactly what we’ve built over the last couple of years. Our Wheelabrator Plus Service Technicians are out on the road and on call almost 24/7. They each cover a territory of a 4-6-hour drive radius around their home. Their office is at the customer, and their product offering of technical expertise, process knowledge, hands-on experience are a key component of successful operations and seamless production at our customers’ sites.

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Posted in Manufacturing, Service, Wheelabrator Plus | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Under the spell of the prototype

By Stanislav Venclik
Engineering Manager at Wheelabrator

Image by via

Image by via

When I was little, one morning every fortnight started earlier than usual – I had to get up quickly and wait in line for “ABC”, the most famous Czech magazine for “young engineers and biologists”. Sometimes I was lucky and got my hands on a copy, sometimes it was sold out by the time I got there – even though I was on the pre-order list!

One of the reasons copies of ABC were so precious to me were the paper cut-out models inside them – sometimes castles and famous buildings (which I found a bit boring), sometimes tanks, artillery, and space shuttles (which were all right), sometimes trucks and cars (which I found very interesting). But the best cut-outs were definitely the models of GP motorcycles and Formula 1 cars.

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Posted in Engineering, R&D, Wheelabrator Plus | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment