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Stopping leaks: helium sensor system proves critical during brazing operation of manifolds.

Millennium Industries, a Michigan-based automotive fuel rail manifold manufacturing company, needed to maintain and improve its competitive position in the marketplace. It recently challenged itself to further improve manufacturing processes as well as reduce both capital equipment and manufacturing costs.

The fuel rail manifold distributes gasoline from the gas tank by way of fuel lines to fuel injectors mounted to each cylinder of the automobile engine. The fuel rail manifold construction consists of three to four injector cups, sensor mounts, and fuel line tubes brazed to a sealed tube.

Leak-tight integrity is critical for safety, engine performance, and environmental protection. Leaking gasoline on a hot engine is a detrimental safety issue; the emission of hydrocarbon vapor (fuel vapor) is a greenhouse gas environmental issue.

Millennium Industries' quality improvement strategy involved modifying its leak-testing process to provide faster and more cost-effective feedback as to the quality of its green-line and brazing operation--a form of soldering that utilizes high-temperature alloys to join high-temperature metals.

Traditionally, fuel rail manifolds are tested using either pressure decay or helium mass spectrometer technology. However, Millennium Industries wanted to move the testing closer to the critical brazing process to receive immediate feedback that would not only identify the presence of a leak but also pinpoint the actual location of the leak, an even more critical aspect of leak detection that significantly improves manufacturing efficiency. This immediate feedback would reduce scrap as well as permit the company to accurately and efficiently monitor and correct the copper application and brazing process.

To accomplish this task, the company wanted a simpler system that would not be affected by temperature and required less maintenance.

Sensor solution

Cincinnati Test Systems Inc., which had previously supplied the fuel rail company with pressure decay and mass spectrometer systems, introduced the Falcon Leak Test System as a cost-effective solution to the customer's challenging quality-improvement initiative. Cincinnati Test Systems designs and manufactures leak test instruments as well as fully automated leak detection systems.

The Falcon Leak Test System is a helium-based system with chambers designed for each fuel rail manifold. The chambers incorporate strategically placed Intelense helium sensors. The Falcon System monitors the sensors, which respond immediately to a helium leak. The system can accurately determine the leak location and accumulate the total leak rate for the manifold under test.

An immediate response is provided that is both accurate and consistent because the Falcon Leak Test System functions independently of the fuel rail manifold's temperature as well as any small changes in pressure due to temperature variations within each manifold being tested.

This system significantly improves upon the function of other pressure decay systems.

Temperature neutrality allowed the Falcon System to be integrated into the manufacturing process immediately after the brazing furnace, when parts are more than 120[degrees] F and rapidly cooling. After each test, a graphic depiction of the fuel rail manifold appears on the operator screen. If a leak is detected, the specific location of the leak is indicated on the onscreen view of the fuel rail manifold along with the total leak rate. The leak location and leak rate information is immediately communicated, alerting operators to take corrective action to ensure that proper adjustments are made quickly to the pasting operation.

Additional advantages

Timely feedback was pertinent in the success of reducing scrap and improving production efficiency at Millennium Industries. The overall long-term maintenance on the system was greatly reduced versus the mass spectrometer vacuum system because the Falcon Leak Test System does not have a vacuum chamber, a chamber vacuum pump, a mass spectrometer instrument, or a backing pump for the mass spectrometer.

Millennium Industries successfully met its objective to improve manufacturing process efficiency and reduce costs. The immediate feedback indicating the leak rate as well as the specific leak location allowed for timely corrections to the manufacturing process, reducing the scrap rate.

The company also saved floor space and reduced capital equipment by eliminating an off-line repair test station. Finally, it alerted and documented the efficiency of its process. The Falcon Leak Test System helped Millennium Industries reduce its overall costs and enhance its competitive market position. Cincinnati Test Systems Inc., www. rsleads.com511tp-163

By Gary Grebe

Marketing Director, Cincinnati Test Systems Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:quality
Author:Grebe, Gary
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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