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OEM Report: Heavy Equipment/Construction

The right position

By John Loos

November/December 2009- Bigger may be better in a lot of ways, but bigger in terms of the size of a product being manufactured can also mean greater fabrication challenges.

When a company’s manufacturing trucks that weigh 261 tons or fabricating enormous 75-ton sections of bridges, the welds not only have to be solid, they have to be precise. This is no easy task, considering the huge sections of metal used for these sorts of products.

Large-capacity positioning equipment can provide a distinct advantage to manufacturers of big products, allowing them to ease hefty pieces into place for necessary fabrications. These pieces of equipment need to be durable, dependable and immensely strong.

One company that’s discovered the advantages of dependable positioning equipment is Liebherr Mining Equipment Co., Newport News, Va., a manufacturer of large, earth-moving trucks used in mining operations all around the world. Vehicles of such size and capacity can’t be constructed in a slapdash manner. Although precision is often associated with small products, it’s just as important for the largest, as well.

"Reliability is one of the big things we are concerned with in our operation," a representative from Liebherr says. "These positioners and rotators are key elements in our production process, and it’s critical that they’re in working order and available when needed."

To help achieve the desired level of reliability in its production processes, Liebherr purchased several power-elevating head and tailstocks and positioners from Koike Aronson Inc. (Ransome), Arcade, N.Y., a manufacturer of welding positioning equipment, as well as plasma, oxyfuel and laser cutting solutions. For more than five years, Liebherr has built a relationship with Koike, purchasing pieces of positioning equipment of multiple sizes, including a 50,000-lb.-capacity positioner, all of which helps make the welding on Liebherr’s T 282 B trucks more economical.

The T 282 B Ultra Class truck has been in operation since 2003 and boasts impressive dimensions: 51 ft., 3 in. long; 29 ft., 6 in. wide; and 25 ft., 9 in. tall. To put that into perspective, a T 282 B is roughly as long as 2.5 2010 Ford F150s, as wide as 4.5 F150s, and as tall as a large male giraffe. It has the capacity of 1,250 gallons, a gross horsepower of 3,650 at 1,800 rpm and a top speed of 40 mph.

Building trust
To help weld the major components of such a big truck, Koike first supplied Liebherr with several power-elevating head and tailstocks, with capacity ranging from 9,000 lbs. to 12,000 lbs.

"We attempt to put all of our welds in the best position in order to increase the efficiency and also improve the weld quality," says the Liebherr representative. "We feel that by using these rotators, we’re able to improve our product."

"The guys really liked working on them because they had power elevation on them, and they were able to position the part where it was the most efficient for them to operate," says Don Burgart, product manager for Koike. "And as they were going through their shop, they build a lot bigger, heavier stuff, so we sold them a big 50,000-lb. positioner about a year after the smaller head stocks. And after that, we sold them these big, 80-ton head and tailstocks with powered elevation. When they bought the first set, they were going to get them in their plant and then put another set in. Once they got these in their plant, their production increased so much that they ended up not even needing to buy the second set."

Koike’s power-elevating head and tailstocks provide worm-gear elevation for objects from 5,000 lbs. to 80 tons. With their large-diameter ball screw design, the machines can provide consistent elevation performance with a 4-to-1 safety factor. Also featured are machined and slotted tables, enabling swift clamping of weldments.

The head and tailstocks’ digital AC drives allow synchronization during elevation cycles and absolute mechanical re-synchronization at full stroke. Coupled with its welded steel construction and boxed-section design chassis, the equipment is able to provide precise guidance of large pieces in need of welding. And for Liebherr, it helped simplify and streamline the fabrication process, as its large pieces needed less handling and received stronger, more exact welds.

"[The equipment] gave Liebherr the amount of lift needed to rotate their big dump beds and get them into a position where they could work on them and handle them a lot more easily," says Burgart. "Every time you move something that size, you use a big overhead crane, and you have people stopping their work because they can’t work around it when they’re moving a part. And it takes several people to hook up the cranes and make sure the way is clear. Whereas with our equipment, once they put it on the machine, they don’t use the crane again until they take it off. Some of these big frames could stay on these machines for a week with all of the big welding they do on them."

One of the major features of the Koike equipment is operator safety, as it eliminates the need to crawl on, over or under a part to get into position for handling or welding.

Big job, big solution
Another heavy equipment manufacturer in need of enhanced welding performance was Atcon Industrial Services,

Miramichi, New Brunswick, a civil and industrial construction company. Using an 80-ton-capacity head and tailstock from Koike has saved the company valuable time when fabricating pier sections for a bridge project in Northern Canada that weigh in excess of 75 tons.

"We’re very happy with the piece of equipment," says Bill MacLeod, AIS structures manager. "It used to take us three or four hours or all day to turn a 75-ton piece over. When you don’t have that kind of crane capacity, it’s quite a challenge. Now, instead of everyone standing around watching it, the piece gets turned, and nobody even realizes it’s turning. It’s that quick."

The head and tailstock at use in Atcon’s facility has a loading capacity of 160,000 lbs. when headstock and tailstock are combined, and it provides 60 in. of powered elevation while a mobile car adjusts the distance between the head and tailstock.

"It’s saved us lots of time," says MacLeod. "Some of these pieces were horseshoe-shaped--the cross-section through it would look sort of like a horseshoe--and we’ve even used the head and tailstock to help us weld around the radius again with a Koike welding manipulator.--

In terms of service, considering the scope of jobs its customers work on every day, Koike takes multiple steps to ensure users of its positioning equipment are well-versed in its operation.

"When the machines are shipped, we’ll help companies install them, and we’ll provide training for their operators on equipment operation and maintenance," says Burgart. "Positioning equipment is generally low-maintenance, but we give customers manuals, and we give them recommended maintenance procedures.

"The people that build [the equipment] in our shop are also the people that go out and install, train, service and repair anything on it," he adds.

For heavy-duty manufacturers looking to better position themselves in a changing economy and evolving marketplaces, any improvement to fabrication processes can go a long way. With high-capacity positioning equipment like Koike’s power-elevating head and tailstocks, companies such as Atcon and Liebherr are finding that big jobs don’t necessarily have to be big burdens on production efficiency. FFJ

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