Fusing tactics

By Gretchen Salois

An ice machine manufacturer uses fresh tactics to cut costs and quicken pace

May 2011 - The next time you take a sip of a favorite soft drink cooled by ice from an automatic dispenser, take a moment to consider how the ice for that refreshing drink came to be and how much fabrication went into creating the machine that made it.

Follett Corp., Easton, Pa., needed a more cost-effective and expedient way to deburr and finish materials to create its ice machines and other products, which include ice storage bins, transport systems, ice makers, ice and water dispensers and medical-grade refrigerators and freezers for use in the food service, hotel and healthcare industries.

"A combination of things were necessary since the two machines we had required significant repair [and were] in need of replacement," says Todd McAllister, fabrication engineering supervisor at Follett. It wasn't until a Fabtech trade show three years ago that Follett first tested Hans Weber Corp.'s Olathe TT1P(6) 1350, a dry system with a 53-in.-wide vacuum conveyor belt and Siemens 10 in. color touch screen control.

"Our team objective was to replace our old machines with an equal or better option," McAllister continues. "We wanted to increase usable floor space, reduce labor content and maintenance costs with improved reliability. Hans Weber offered a machine that deburred and edge rounded parts with one handling of the part, allowing us to achieve these goals by combining the two belt sanding and double rotating discs into one process."

According to Shawn Stuteville, general manager at Olathe, Kan.-based Hans Weber, multiple stations for deburring machines are more in demand when dealing with sharp edges. "When Follett purchased their Weber TT, they had two machines, one wide belt deburring and one edge-rounding machine," he says. "Multiple-station deburring machines are becoming much more popular with the sharp edges laser cutting creates." The Weber TT line is used for deburring, punching and nibbling parts, as well as for laser and plasma cuts.

"Hans Weber made a decision to stop using greaseable bearings and instead uses a seal bearing that is pregreased for the life of the bearing in order to decrease maintenance downtime," Stuteville says. "Greaseable bearings can be overgreased and shorten the life of the bearing. Other companies are following suit."

Using degreaseable bearings reduces the machine's overall maintenance downtime. "If you look in the operator's manual, it says you need to grease the bearings every 500 hours - that's a step we've taken out," Stuteville says, noting this method saves customers from having to shut the machine down from 30 minutes to an hour on a monthly basis.

"We removed an entire step from Follett's manufacturing process," says Stuteville. "They used to have to deburr a part on their wide belt deburring machine and then they would have to go to their edge-rounding machine. The Weber TT machine cut their deburring time in half by combining these two operations into one machine." He adds that using lasers gives a sharper edge and end users are requiring edges to be rounded.

"The sharper edge can cut you," Stuteville says. "Follett needed a machine to deburr and round edges. It wasn't that effective when they bought a standalone edge-rounding machine. And it didn't give them a better-quality part." Once Follett combined these two operations, the company didn't have to take parts from one station to another. "It lets them do both operations with our one machine," he says.

Cutting costs
Follett found its purchase yielded immediate payouts. "After the machine was in place, we reduced [the need for] two deburring operators to one," McAllister says. "We were able to improve our deburring operation because the edge rounding is better than the machine we previously had."

In addition to saving on labor costs, Follett found the machine reduced its maintenance and disposal costs. The company's previous machine had liquid coolant, which resulted in $1,000 per year spent to remove hazardous waste. "We had to pay people to clean the solution before it was put in the waste water stream," McAllister says. "We no longer need to do that."

The factory floor room also opened up after switching to the Hans Weber machine. "With floor space being so valuable, the 300 sq. ft. we had available for products and processes was important. We bought a machine that wasn't a wet sanding machine, saving us approximately $50,000 a year,' McAllister notes. Since the company already possessed a dust collector, it did not need to purchase one to accommodate the dry cutter's needs.

Sanding belts were also less expensive because they were not in the wet environment, another significant savings. The company saves $11,000 per year alone by using less expensive belts. "For capital investments, we had to be sure the machine could be paid off in five years," he says. "We made sure we were able to pay off the machine within that timeframe, otherwise we wouldn't have made the investment."

Quality edges
"The edges are more round than they were from prior processes," says McAllister. "These parts are handled by our customers. When we deburr them, we want them to be free of any sharp objects so our customers do not get cut." With previous machines, the sanding belts rolled the leading edge of the cut more than with the Weber machine. "The Weber produces more of a flat cut. When the other machines were beveling or cutting the part, it put a burr on the side of the part that was difficult to remove," he says. "We used to have to use hand tools and grind the burrs off [manually]. It was a discretionary operation that produced inconsistent results."

McAllister also believes combining the processes will take hold across the industry. "I see the trend for other tool machine manufacturers to follow suit currently, compared to 2007," he says. "Because laser sales are increasing more and more every day, there will be more demand for this type of machine going forward."

The need to cut costs and increase efficiency incited Follett to invest in Hans Weber's machine. "We have over 250 employees and ship worldwide," says McAllister. "We have a factory in Poland and our main facility in Pennsylvania - we need to be able to streamline distribution in North America as well as markets in Europe and the Middle East." Competing in a global environment with the right tools allows Follett to produce "quality parts in less time, using fewer resources," he says. FFJ

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  • Follett Corp.
    Easton, Pa.
    phone: 800/523-9361
    fax: 610/250-0696

  • Hans Weber Corp.
    Olathe, Kan.
    phone: 913/254-1600
    fax: 913/254-1582


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