Case Study 005 - Ford Ohio

FORD MOTOR CO. increased the line rate of production of it’s transmission testing areas and needed an inexpensive solution to containing the oil spills generated by the transfer pallets.
An available area required an innovative multi-axis design as well as another main vacuum generator. TECH-TRANS worked directly with FORD in providing not only the automated station and controls, but in utilizing the initially installed main vacuum system (1993-4). The overall line speed increase required a quick solution for retaining and collecting oils which would otherwise be lost to the manufacturing process or require excessive house- keeping to control. The process location would also enhance the oil recovery prior to the pallet and transmission assembly passing through the final washer before shipment to final car assembly.
An increase in transmission production rates bodes well for any automotive manufacturer as it denotes increased sales in the market place. However even a slight change in production requirements can send a shock wave into a well planned and synchronized system. Higher line speed leave less time to complete the same operation (s). While most automated lines are sized for additional capacity, fluids such as oil, only follow the laws of gravity and seldom respond to the need for speed. The increased oils left residual within the pallets following “hot-test” increased oil spills on the work floor area requiring an immediate solution. To add to the problem, the only available location for the proposed oil collection placed the pallet / carrier post in such a manner as to block any conventional mechanical arm as had been supplied by TECH-TRANS on the previous installation at this facility. Any compromised automation solution would add additional transfer time to the arm thus minimizing the collection time available from the pallet. While the cost of transmission oils provides a considerable expense to the plant, and, a cost savings could be generated with the recovery of these oils for re-use, the main concern was worker safety. Oils which spill onto area work floors are expensive to collect on a regular basis. This requires additional house-keeping which in itself, provides an area of exposure to workers who may be injured as a result of a fall attributed to the oils or clean-up solutions being used. Finally, oils lost in the final stage washers require further waste-water treatment before the treated waters can be returned to the normal city water waste stream, also at an expense as well at a risk for non-compliance. Oil recovery at the increased line speeds therefore must be fast as well as efficient over a wide area. Pumps cannot cover the thin film build and wide area of oil coverage within the 15 second in-station cycle time available. The station location for the proposed collection was approximately 120 feet from the main vacuum collection system thereby increasing the possibility that an additional capital investment would be required.
TECH-TRANS was contracted to provide the design and build of an automated mechanical arm capable of reaching into the pallet oil collection area given the dictated base location. This design incorporated a two – axis design with a lift and rotate capability. The rotate axis was developed as part of the mechanical base and was a dual rack, adjustable stops, configuration. The lift axis was a vertical bearing supported post utilizing a cam lock cylinder with an internal pneumatic brake. Due to the robust capability of the main vacuum collection system all ready in place, it was decided that a cost savings would be available if the existing system could be “geared-up” to handle the extra capacity as demanded by adding this (4th) station to the system. In order to handle the extra capacity required, a higher gear ratio was installed which increased the vacuum collection rate. The new station would have the additional capacity to allow the collection of oils from all three original remote locations as well as from the new station at up to 120 feet from the main system location. The pipe transfers of the fluids could only be located at the ceiling , so additional lift at the new station of 40 feet was also taken into consideration. TECH-TRANS provided the main system up-grades to meet these needs, as well as the controls to allow each station to operate independent of the others , or again, all at once to optimize oil recovery. This way, the vacuum collection process as initially installed continued. TECH-TRANS provided a full 3-D CAD simulation of the mechanical arm prior to build to confirm optimized capability and process cycle. “Bullet-Traps” were also provided at the station to collect the course debris typically found in this type environment.