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Ford re-thinks gear manufacturing process.

The quest for improved quality and manufacturing efficiency is a continuous process. This is especially true in the automotive industry, where incremental improvement of a component manufacturing process can add up to better quality, enhanced fuel economy, or a smoother-shifting transmission.

Sometimes, such improvements require almost a re-invention of an existing process. Such was the case when engineers at Ford Motor Co's Batavia, OH, transmission plant began looking at ways to streamline manufacturing of sun gears for a new, four-speed automatic transmission.

The old process was typical of the way such gears had "always been made" at Ford and elsewhere: the forged gear blank was turned, heat treated to the desired hardness, ground to restore roundness and concentricity, and polished to achieve a fine surface finish. Gearmaking required three different machine tools, part handling between them, and three part fixturing or chuckings. Heat treating after machining of the part'ss concentric diameters resulted in distortion of the component, which necessitated the grinding operation.

Developed by Ford engineers working with machine tool builder Industrial Metal Products Corp (IMPCO), Lansing, MI, the new process replaces the traditional gearmaking paradigm with a method that leverages advances in turning and finishing technologies. Now, the heat treated part is hard turned on a machine supplied by Kasper Machine Co, Madison Heights, MI, eliminating distortion problems associated with heat treatment after machining. The machined part is then subjected to a patented microfinishing process to achieve final size within [+ or -] microns, roundness within 3 microns, and surface finish of 0.3 Ra or better.

The micronfinishing process, IMPCO GBQ, uses an abrasivee film circulated around cylindrical workpiece to achieve size, roundness, and surface finish to within a few microns of nominal in high-volume production. The sun gear is said to be the first application of the process to eliminate grinding. GBQ has been used for finishing of crankshafts, camshafts, and power transmission shafts.

In the automated gear process, a gantry loader grips the machined part, turns it over, and sets it in the collect of the microfinishing workstation. The machine first sizes the two concentric diameters, then takes them to final size, roundness, and surface finish. An average of 15 microns of stock are removed in a cycle time of 14 sec. At the end of the cycle the collet opens and the gantry removes the part.

The new production method is not only shorter an less expensive than making gears the old way, but results in more consistently accurate parts. The improved gears are destined for Ford's new electronically controlled, four-speed automatic transmission, the company's first designed and produced in the US for use in Ford and Mazda automobiles worldwide.

Grinder line offers solutions

Swisher Finishing Systems, a division of the Crankshaft Machine Group, has introduced the Swisher Grinding System, a product designed and equipped to provide micro-finished parts for the automotive, computer, aerospace, and commercial product industries. The system processes such diverse materials as ceramics, glass, abrasives, metals, plastics, stone, and minerals.

The complete line, available in four models (Mark VI, Standard Rotarr, Precision Rotary, and Double Disk), is designed to offer solutions to grinding problems from occasional tool room usage to tight-tolerance, high-production applications. Swisher grinders easily interface with robotic equipment and other high-tech systems.

For more information from the Crankshaft Machine Group, Jackson, MI, circle 287.

European firms seek partners

Two manufacturing groups in newly independent Slovenia, previously part of Yugoslavia, are seeking US partners to introduce products and technologies to the North American market.

EMO-Celje, in existence since 1895, has 2000 employees and approximate yearly sales of $40 million. The conglomerate makes enamel ware, home and industrial heating products, and industrial containers, all supported by an integral chemical plant. EMO has made a strategic decision to concentrate modernization efforts in the EMO Tool Factory. The Tool Factory offers three main cooperation mechanisms:

1) American distribution of EMO robotic manipulators,

2) production of dies, molds, and tools for various industries including automotive and aircraft,

3) subcontract production of various machine-tool accessories, such as chucks.

COMET-Zrece is a producer of resinoid and vitrified bond grinding and cutoff wheels, and superabrasive diamond and CBN wheels. The 30-year-old company is seeking US distributors and is offering advantageous import price lists for companies interested in private labeling their products. COMET is also intereste in more substantive joint ventures or subcontracts in the area of machine-tool accessories.

For more information, contact Prof Alex Dely, Joint Venturee Coordinator, at 602-721-4336 or circle 243.

Partnerships benefit firms

Chemical systems management contracts, or partnering, is a relatively new business method that is being used more and more in the industry, says EF metalworking Houghton & Co, a manufacturer of specialty chemicals, oils, and lubricants. Companies like General Motors and Ford have recently launched corporate programs where one supplier is contracted to supply all of the metalworking lubricants to individual plants. Previously, each plant had dealings with dozens of suppliers. In 1988, for example, it was reported that GM had about 13,000 chemical suppliers for its 130 plants in North America.

The industrial lubricants industry grosses approximately $1 billionn a year. Purchases by a single user, such as a major transmission plant, can easily total $3 million to $5 million. Under the partnership, a single supplier is responsible for managing "indirect chemicals," like metalworking lubricants, that do not become part of the finished product.

As major automotive companies are discovering, chemical systems management partnerships benefit both customer and supplier. The customer can reduce its chemical supplieir base by as much as 95%, while at the same time cutting its costs from 20% to 30%--by reducing fluid consumption and waste.

Because a partnership is established the pressure to make a sale is eliminated. Instead, the supplier's goal becomes the same as the customer's--reduciing fluid consumption. By minimizing product usage, the supplier's costs are reduced, which allows the supplier to reduce costs to the customer, while at the same time minimizing waste removal.

A partnership also fosters a closer working relationship between suppliers and plant buyers and engineers. Another plus--many suppliers will provide on- and off-site personnel to manage products at a pre-arranged price. In a sense, the customer purchases the management of the chemicals, rather than the chemicals themselves. This allows the supplier to use his expertise to increase efficiency and effectiveness, so the customer can focus on the manufacturing at hand.

An on-site manager constantly evaluates the manufacturing process--discovering methods that are more efficient and cost-effective. Most of the specialty lubricant companies bidding for these contracts have extensive testing procedures both on-site and off-site that enable them to closely monitor the fluids involved. Single-source suppliers are being selected based on their technological expertise, pricing, and ability to coordinate the hundreds of chemicals neede in a factory or plant.

For more information from EF Houghton & Co, Valley Forge, PA, circle 196.

Tool industry goes private

The government of Poland has launched an aggressive program to privatize the country's state-owned machine-tool industry. Covering 32 companies with $160 million total sales, the program will direct both foreign and domestic investment to firms producing equipment ranging from manual lathes to CNC machining centers.

The program, organized under the Ministries of Privatisation and Industry, will steamline the investment process. The Polish government has reaffirmed its policy to speed the process of transferring these companies to private ownership and is taking measures necessary to facilitate these arrangements.

To oversee and coordinate the privatization program, the Ministry of Privatisation has retained Company Assistance Ltd, a Warsaw-based Western-Polish consultant as its representative. Company Assistance has developed intimate knowledge of the Polish machine-tool industry through a yaer of hands-on experience working with the companies. Using this insight, Company Assistance is working to identify strategic opportunities for investors interested in Polish firms.

The simultaneous privatization of the entire industry is generating investor interest International investors from within and outside the machine-tool industry have expressed interest in taking ownership of a number of firms. Rob Conn, heading up the machine-tool group for Company Assistance, says that "these are world-class machine-tool firms. There are tremendous investment opportunities in this industry thanks to excellent products, low cost, and access to all of Europe's markets." Moreover Poland produces most major types of manual and CNC equipment, including lathes, grinding and milling machhines, presses, press tools, and machining centers.

For more information from Company Assistance Ltd, Warsaw, Poland, circle 199.

AMTDA offers new programs

Member of the American Machine Tool Distributor's Association (AMTDA) are using a new video to promote careers in the machine-tool industry. The video, "Meeting Tomorrow's Challenges Today," explores the variety of careers available in the field of machine-tool distribution. It also illustrates the importance of machine tools in the growth and maintenance of the country's industrial base and current standard of living.

Overcoming the shortage of qualified personnel continues to be one of the major challenges to companies that market machine tools. The video package includes support materials to assist AMTDA members in developing an effective presentation to schools, colleges, and community organizations.

The AMTDA has also developed a certification program to recognize and identify knowledgeable salespeople and to help educate others. "The certification program for machine-tool salesperson (CMTS)," says Bob Miller, chairman of the AMTDA Certification Task Force, "will benefit not only the individuals, but the entire industry--customers, builders, and distributors. It's essential that a machine-tool salesperson be able to understand customers' problems, provide applications assistance, recommend manufacturing method, and sell skillfully and professionally."

To qualify for the examination, individuals must be active, employed salespeople working for a machine-tool distributor builder or related organization; must have completed four years of continuous employment in the field; or two years employment and two years related education.

A written examination covers three areas:

1) knowledge of machine tools and metalworking operations, mechanical and electronic, as well as the history and the state of the industry,

2) interpreting customers' needs to recognizing what is needed to satisfy them,

3) ability to perform professionnally in the sales function with capabilities raning from developing sales strategies, promotion programs, and forecasts to advising customers about such matters as the legal aspects of sales contracts and financing.

The first CMTS examination is scheduled for early 1993. For more information, contact the AMTDA at 301-738-1200 or circle 195.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Manufacturing Update; Ford Motor Co.
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Previous Article:A cooler way to turn.
Next Article:The promise of robots.

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