How airblast conquered Automotive

By Alain Portebois
Sales & Marketing Manager, Charleville Technology Centre, Wheelabrator

Aerospace peeningWhile airblast peening has been widely and successfully applied for decades in Aerospace for improving or restoring the fatigue resistance of all critical components such as jet engine parts, landing gears and aircraft structures, nowadays the highest automotive standards are involving more and more the same level of technology.

Traditionally, many shot peening requirements in the automotive industry were covered by wheelblast technology. However, in the 1980s, demand started to change. Driven by the need to reduce component size (and weight) while maintaining its mechanical strength, shot peening processes became more and more precise. They had to be designed to induce compressive stresses to a narrowly defined pattern, enabling engineers to reduce material and strategically strengthen specific areas of a part.

This trend presented us here in Charleville with an opportunity to demonstrate the superiority of airblast technology for high-precision applications to automotive customers. Using our expertise from the aerospace industry, we developed a range of airblast machines to meet automotive industry requirements: to construct engines that are more powerful yet consume less petrol, and transmission components that are lighter yet outperform their heavier predecessors.

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A complex numbers game: staying competitive in the global automotive supply chain race

By Viktor Lussi
Sales Director, Wheelabrator

Automotive Supply ChainAutomotive supply chains are complex beasts – in a highly competitive market. Production locations around the world have to improve constantly in a battle to secure the next model and stay in the game. Over the last decade, we’ve seen that the big car manufacturers won’t shy away from moving huge chunks of production capacity to a different country in or outside Europe.

I’ve been following the car industry’s relocation trends from a Wheelabrator perspective, as our machines are a vital part of automotive production: shot blast equipment is used to treat, peen and clean axles, engine blocks, brake discs, gears, springs, bodywork, and most other metallic car components, either at the car manufacturers’ own facilities or at their suppliers’.

The biggest trend we’ve all seen and felt is the increasing pressure on European manufacturers to establish production capacity in Asia. Customers there prefer local production – not just because production costs are lower, but to avoid the risk of transport damage, and to comply with local import legislation. Automotive OEMs from Europe are encouraged to cluster around the big car manufacturing centres, for example in China, and deliver locally.

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Jet-setting aerospace parts – or ‘All flights lead to Slough’

By Tony Grammauro
VP/ General Manager, Wheelabrator Impact Finishers UK

aerospaceIf you work in the aerospace industry, you’ll know that building aircraft is a truly global effort, with suppliers around the world contributing parts, services and expertise.

Thus, parts jet-set around the world – designed at one location, manufactured at another, travelling on to be treated, and finally installed.

What you may not know is that a huge number of aerospace parts, on their journey around the globe, will at some point make a pit stop here at Wheelabrator Impact Finishers in Slough near London.

Parts of all shapes and sizes, from 1cm² to 15m long, come to us for bespoke shot peening treatment.

From shot peen forming through to fatigue enhancement, controlled shot peening is a safety-critical process, giving light parts strength and wing sections curvature. The level of precision required for this is incredible.
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How many engineers does it take to reinvent the wheel?

By Ray Bitzel
Global Development Director, Wheelabrator Group

The answer to the question is: in my experience, a handful of the best. But the important thing is not the number, but the mix of people. That’s a departure from how we used to do things in engineering.

Only a couple of years back, development of engineering products would be dominated by one way of thinking. A German “Mittelstand”-company would do things in a very specific way.  A US business would take a different approach – and find a different solution to the same problem.

engineerFor a science-driven, rational discipline like mechanical engineering, that’s hard to fathom. Surely, there’s only one right answer!

The reality is, there isn’t. We never know enough. When I asked ten different seasoned Wheelabrator experts exactly how they think our blast wheels work, I got ten different answers. None of them were wrong, but all of them admitted that there’s a lot more to discover about the blast process.

The exercise started off a programme of intense testing, imaging and experimenting and got us to a point where we probably know more about wheel blasting than anyone else in the world.
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Introducing Beneath the Surface – the blog from Wheelabrator

Welcome to the newly launched blog from Wheelabrator, the world leader in surface preparation technology.

Beneath the Surface is dedicated to sharing insight, opinons and ideas from, for, and around industries using surface preparation equipment.

Wheelabrator experts from around the world will be regularly contributing to the blog and talking about everything from trends across industries to the latest innovations in blast technology. Our first few posts will cover topics including R&D and the aerospace and automotive industries.

Our goal with the blog is to encourage discussion and opinion sharing, so please feel free to leave your comments and let us know your views.

We hope you enjoy reading Beneath the Surface and come back frequently to view the latest posts.

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