For leading manufacturer of wide-format inkjet printers and high-precision cutting plotters, Mimaki, Rosler and AM Solutions collaborated with the Japanese printer manufacturer to develop a fully automated surface finishing system for a Full-Color Inkjet 3D Printer.
Through collaboration, a fully automatic machine capable of safely removing support structures for work pieces with the finest detail was developed.
Modern metal fabrication operations aren’t like the fab shops of old. Many are clean, well lit, with employees working in fresh, filtered air. Yes, some operations in fabrication are, well, just plain dirty—and manual blasting is a prime example. The work isn’t pleasant, requires protective gear, and if the booths aren’t maintained or set up properly, they can constrain workflow in a serious way.
Options in blasting automation abound, but before diving into all that technological wizardry, try laying some groundwork by answering a fundamental question: What must the blasting operation accomplish?
Shot Blasting Versus Shot Peening
Shot blasting (or just “blasting” if using a different media other than shot) prepares a metal surface while shot peening aims to change the metal’s properties (see Figure 1). Certain aerospace applications require precise levels of stress relief (or other changes to material properties), and they use specialized shot-peening technologies to achieve it. Precision shot peening of landing gears is a prime example, with the process optimizing surface stresses, eliminating microcracks and the stress risers around them.
Most metal fabricators employ blast cleaning for the vast majority of their applications, cleaning and preparing a metal surface for the next manufacturing step, usually painting. If a beam or plate isn’t blasted correctly, paint won’t adhere properly. However, some fabrication operations do employ a kind of peening—not as precise as high-end peening applications, but it’s peening nonetheless, with the media impacting the surface and causing compressive stresses that aim to change the material’s properties.
Because of its many technical advantages and versatility, wet blasting is the fastest-growing segment in the field of shot blasting.
As with dry blasting, the available scope of wet blasting machinery ranges from simple, low-cost blast cabinets to sophisticated, partially or fully automated systems. Customers can choose between a wide spectrum of standard wet blasting equipment, however, for certain applications, special custom-engineered systems may offer the most efficient and cost-effective solution.
The machine type is usually determined by the processing task, the size and shape of the work pieces, and the desired degree of automation. Frequently, multi-axis robots are used for work piece handling or guiding the blast gun movement.
Rosler has extensive experience in wet blasting technology and the development of customized solutions. We have even developed the Rosler PureFinish® system for cleaning stainless steel components for the chemical, food, and pharmaceutical industries through wet blasting. This system cleans the work piece surface while facilitating cleaning, sterilization, and prohibiting bacterial growth.
Learn more about common types of wet blasting systems and examples of machine use for a glimpse into the technical capabilities wet blasting offers.
As we have learned during recent world events, outside factors can have a significant impact on your ability to maintain a largely manual process. Though automated mass finishing and shot blasting machinery does require some human intervention, it can often be operated with a minimal headcount and limited human contact.
In previous blogs, we have explored how an automated-first posture can help you to gain significant efficiencies, lower costs, and increase your competitive advantage. We have also looked at the balance between automation and the environment and have discussed ways that you can mitigate environmental impacts of operating automated mass finishing and shot blasting machinery.
We now conclude our Automation Blog Series with best practice examples of automated mass finishing and shot blasting machines Rosler offers and the associated accessories and components available to help in building your next-generation automated processes.
As previously discussed in our Automation Blog Series, building a robotically assisted process requires evaluating your surface finishing system along with its problems and goals and selecting the right machine and consumables. Automating a mass finishing or shot blasting process also requires selecting the automated hardware that will best achieve your overall goals and provides the most efficiency in terms of time and manual labor.
An experienced partner such as Rosler Metal Finishing can provide insight and advice on the numerous material handling tools specially designed or adapted to mass finishing and shot blasting process improvement.
Work Piece Loading Systems
Including skip loaders, lift and tip loaders, vibratory feed hoppers, and other tools, work piece loading systems are ideal for small- to mid-sized work pieces handled in bulk.
Taking time to evaluate your process needs as a whole will help you and a trusted partner such as Rosler determine what machine and consumables will best suit your automation needs and goals.
How do I choose the right machine?
Selecting the right machine is the most critical step to ensure the success of any automation project. Without the right machine, your automation process is sure to fail or produce disappointing results.
We’ve all heard the saying “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” At Rosler Metal Finishing, we often view automation as the solution—or fix, if you will—for mass finishing and shot blasting processes in need of added efficiency.
Both mass finishing and shot blasting are specialized processes that require a lot of practical consideration. Automating these processes can deliver great benefits to a manufacturer when properly targeted to a prescribed need, but, if the engineers developing the machine don’t understand your challenges, the solution is likely to miss its mark.
It’s hard to dispute that technology, on the whole, has made our lives easier and more convenient. Myriad functions have been automated – and improved – to mitigate the effects of human intervention. We make purchases more intelligently, we manage data more efficiently, we can control devices with our voices and eye movements, and we ultimately move through life with less left to chance.
In the world of manufacturing, this mitigation of human intervention promises even greater and more measurable, efficiencies. At Rosler Metal Finishing, quality improvements and cost benefits that have resulted from the mechanization and automation of mass finishing and shot blasting operations deliver dividends that transcend the manufacturing floor.
Since the first microprocessor-controlled machine appeared
on the manufacturing floor in 1974, hundreds of new varieties have been shipped
across the world. With each improvement, these automated attendants encompass a
larger footprint, are able to handle heavier loads and more axes, and require
fewer controllers to do their work, according
to a McKinsey study.
Automation has revolutionized smaller tasks as well,
including simple parts bin handling, lift assists, automatic media adding
systems, or multi-step process control systems (like those where noxious
chemicals are dosed, without human risk, into the process).
So how do these automation
upgrades pay off for you? Let’s start by taking a look at where mass finishing
and shot blasting has fit into the manufacturing paradigm. Then we’ll dive
deeper into the benefits of today’s automated processes which have a lasting
impact on the finished product.
Automation is changing the way mass finishing and shot blasting processes are delivered. In this seven-part blog series, Rosler Metal Finishing will explain what has given rise to automation trends, the human factors of these manufacturing upgrades, and how such automated processes deliver benefits to your business.
Those of us of a certain age remember a portrayal of robotics
that, in hindsight, was rather quaint: human-looking automated machines would
be crisscrossing our landscape, delivering us food and wardrobe, pumping our
gas, collecting our garbage, or – in a more macabre rendering – leading a rise
of the machines that would eliminate the human race.
In reality, Rosie the Robot and the Terminator have not ruled the world, as predicted by Hollywood. Today, faceless, automated machines, arms, and processors are streamlining the way in which products and services are delivered.
In fact, a World Economic Forum article found that the 2020s will be the “age of automation,” with manual jobs making up only 35 percent of the manufacturing labor force by the end of this decade (a drop from 48 percent, as measured in 2016).
While today’s foundry operations are mostly automated, surface treatment frequently still involves a lot of manual labour resulting in one of the most costly operations within a foundry. Automated systems tailor-made to the unique requirements of desanding, deburring, cosmetic finishing and overall surface finishing of raw castings not only significantly reduce costs but also increases process safety.
Regardless of how a component is cast, tasks such as desanding, deburring, and surface cleaning are often still carried out manually. Not only are they extremely time consuming and highly labour intensive but the quality of manual blasting strongly depends on the skills of the person who is blasting, resulting in a process that is neither consistent or documentable. High quality shot blast results are however a crucial aspect for any foundry product as well as being an important competitive factor.