Swapping solutions

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Being able to automate deburring helps a shop to achieve consistent results no matter who is processing parts.

Manufacturer opts for a faster and cleaner way to soften sharp exteriors

March 2015 - Even as industry steers toward more automated processes, there remain some jobs that only a skilled hand wielding the appropriate equipment can complete. In these cases secondary processes waste time and can deliver unreliable results. 

One shop, for example, found that stamping panels resulted in sharp edges. Sand blasting a part’s perimeter was both time-consuming and ineffective. “We were not satisfied because the edges were still sharp and we had to go to a mechanical process to further remove the sharp FFJ-0315-deburr-image1edges. It took up valuable time,” says Adam Giemza, engineer at Randall Manufacturing, Elmhurst, Illinois. 

Sand blasting tacked on additional processing time to finish each panel and resulted in a metal grit-filled environment. In July 2014, the team at Randall found the 24-in. SuperMax SuperBrush Single Brush head online. 

The main benefit to using the SuperBrush, according to Giemza, is that compared to sand blasting edges for each panel, the SuperBrush takes half the time and provides steady results. “The sand blasting wasn’t aggressive enough and left a sharp edge behind that had to be worked on again by someone with a hand tool,” he explains. “Plus sand blasting gave us inconsistent results. It was much harder to control than the solution we have now.” 

Sand blasting, or abrasive blasting, is the process by which a stream of abrasive material is exerted under high pressure to smooth down a rough or sharp surface. The previous process also produced a lot of noise and dust, “and wasn’t very environmentally friendly,” he adds.

Ramps and decks

Randall manufactures walk ramps made from grades 6061 and 6026 aluminum with cadmium-plated hardware. Each panel has six individual multidirectional fasteners that can withstand twisting, turning or shaking, according to the company. The ramps are engineered to be durable as well as contain replaceable, repairable and easy-to-maintain panels. After the stamping process, Randall’s fabrication team realized operations were becoming bottlenecked at the deburring stage. 

“We looked at other competing options and had a few quotes but, after trying the SuperMax SuperBrush, we found it could do the job quickly and affordably,” Giemza says. 

The company started up its line of walking ramp products three years ago but it also manufactures insulation processing equipment, including bulkheads and insulated walls/curtains. Giemza says the SuperBrush has helped it speed up production of both its walk ramps and platforms.

Randall has also increased its production of platform decks, which use the same aluminum panels that need edge removal. The elevated platforms are used to provide access to side or middle door deliveries. The platform is designed for a mid-trailer side door that meets drivers at the door without a drop or a transition plate, according to the company. Without the use of a transition plate, as it is typically used in many platform designs, these platforms can be used with a straight or folding walk ramp parallel or perpendicular with a truck trailer. Platforms are made from grade 6061 aluminum and can hold up to 1,000 lbs. with safety chains that can be attached to the trailer’s side door creating a safe working area for a driver. 

There are two different access platform designs: one where the platform is attached to the trailer’s undercarriage and it is pulled out by a driver to a working position. The second is where the platform is installed inside the trailer’s insulated floor and can be pulled out to create a landing area for a ramp hook up, Giemza explains.

Taking control

While Randall uses the SuperBrush to remove the edges off its panels, SuperMax tools can be used for a number of deburring applications. “We have people that deburr in order to take the sharp edge off for handling, prior to painting or anodizing, and need to scuff sand, for example,” says John Geyen, who runs all samples in the research and development department for sales at SuperMax Tools, St. Paul, Minnesota. SuperMax also makes drum and wide belt sanders in addition to brushes.

The SuperBrush Single Brush Sanders come in widths of 24 in., 36 in. and 49 in. and can be used for scuff sanding, primer sanding, base coat sanding, straight-lining (putting a straight line looking finish on the metal), graining (similar to straight-lining process as well as a finish on a stainless steel appliance), decorative finishing, deburring, radius edges, polishing/buffing, and cleaning/oxidation removal. 

The tool comes in single- and double-head versions. If someone needs to deburr something in one pass, the double-head tool has brush heads that counter rotate and will deburr the leading and trailing edges of a part, explains Geyen. It also features adjustable tension rollers that prevent stock slippage and includes a bristle contact gauge. 

These labor-saving sanding tools leave a small footprint in overall operations. “You can put it on casters and move it around, too, which differentiates this tool from what else is out there,” Geyen says. Being able to automate deburring helps a shop to achieve consistent results no matter who is processing parts. He claims that the system “will pay for itself in no time.”


Easy change-outs

It takes about five minutes to change out brush heads for the next job. For Randall, the ability to change the rotation speed of the brushes is equally important. “We can adjust and change the height of the brush so we can accommodate different [material] heights,” Giemza says. “There is another control that manages the speed of the conveyor belt on the tool, which controls how fast the panel goes through the SuperBrush.”

SuperMax customers can be accommodated for most deburring applications. “We’re able to recommend which head best fits the task,” Geyen says.

Randall and SuperMax each have high expectations for the future as North America’s economy continues to gain strength and pull demand forward, whether for platforms or for the tools that help make them. Even as innovation continues to change the face of the fabrication industry, SuperMax believes its brush design, launched in the 1990s, is “tried and true,” and will continue to be applicable for many types of jobs, according to Geyen. “It has a very quick learning curve and a lot of customers have a decent amount of turnover—the ability to switch hands from one operator to the next without a long training period is valuable. There aren’t a lot of computerized parts or different mechanisms you need to learn.”

Control was a big factor for Randall’s decision to go with SuperMax as the sand blasting process was difficult to manage. “Since using the SuperMax this past year, we’ve only had volume increase and we are deburring more edges on more panels,” Giemza says. “Despite having increased volume, we’re able to do more now by using this tool. It’s made our process that much more efficient.” FFJ


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