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Blower-powered dryer speeds up manufacturing processes

21 July 2011

For every action there is a reaction, a law of physics with which specialist designer and manufacturer of high-performance transmissions XTRAC of Berkshire is very familiar due to the nature of its area of engineering expertise. But the impact of its recent adoption of new Health & Safety practice has brought efficiency benefits that might not have been appreciated fully when first initiated.

As an internationally recognised leading supplier of custom-engineered transmissions for applications on land, sea and air with major successes in Formula 1 racing applications, XTRAC’s manufacturing practices are at the forefront of technology. Accordingly, processes and practices are always under review, be it to improve efficiency or to ensure compliance with international manufacturing standards.

Previously, when machined components were progressing through the various stages of manufacture they were coated in a heavy, oil-based corrosion preventative, which had to be removed and reapplied after each operation. This rust inhibitor was sticky, messy to handle, time consuming to remove and presented H&S concerns.

To eliminate these issues, XTRAC introduced VCI bag technology along with an aqueous-based detergent that has a rust inhibitor additive which replaces the original heavy coating substance. Once applied, this new rust inhibitor leaves only a thin protective film that permits the work piece to be worked on at the next stage of manufacture without having to be removed.

The cleaning and application operations involved with the original heavy rust inhibitor took about 25 minutes to complete. With the new system, application and drying-off take around five minutes (drying only seconds). With each component passing through an average of ten stages involving rust inhibitor application and removal some 200 minutes can be saved during the manufacturing process.

Helping to accelerate this faster throughput is a drying system that removes all moisture from the washed components. This is a specially adapted blower-powered device from Air Control Industries of Axminster. Called the ‘JetBlack’, it delivers a high volume of clean, filtered air at low pressure which provides rapid effective drying with no dangers to the operative.

Compressed air had been considered but the risk of moisture-contaminated air potentially causing rust promotion plus the inherent dangers arising from using high pressure air for the operative resulted in it being discounted.

Also considered by XTRAC was a heated drying chamber, but this was far more expensive and much slower in drying components that the ACI JetBlack.

“The ACI JetBlack plays a significant role in our new between stages handling operations,” said Andrew Jackson, Senior Process Engineer. “The effective, safe drying of the JetBlack has facilitated the switch to the new process whilst also proving to be very cost-effective. We currently have two JetBlacks installed and another three have been ordered, which is an indication of our satisfaction with the unit.”

Another significant benefit of the new system is the avoidance of transferring corrosion inhibiting ‘tramp oil’ (residual oil) into the coolant tanks, reducing coolant and tool life, as components progress from stage to stage.

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