Moving heavy machines through a production process by traditional methods such as cranes, conveyors and forklifts is time-consuming and often costly. Contact pressure from wheels, rollers, forklifts, or the load base can damage flooring due to excessive point loading. Costs to repair or replace can be considerable. Epoxy coated flooring, commonly used in industry, costs from $5 to $10 per square foot—a significant expense for a 50,000-square-foot shop floor.
While cost-efficiency is an ongoing issue with cranes, conveyors and draglines, another drawback is that all three are subject to limited flexibility due to their fixed position on the factory floor. If throughput requirements are increased or the production flow needs to be changed, these solutions are limited by their fixed location and speed. Compounding the problem is the tight design of factory floors. With minimal investment and zero downtime, air casters provide a workable alternative, which can be expanded to accommodate changes to production flow and throughput.
Company supervisors and owners have increasingly turned to air caster hovercraft technology to provide a low cost and flexible conveyance for heavy machines through a production process with less manpower, often in the form of a single operator.
Explaining Hovercraft Technology
Air caster hovercraft technology literally floats the equipment or load on a film of air. This technology has been around for many years, the most notable examples being the air hockey table and, of course, hovercrafts. In industrial applications, use of air casters provides ultra-low friction, allowing movement of loads weighing thousands of pounds to be controlled by hand.
Basically, an air caster is a torus shape bag that captures air to lift and move objects. The air pressure requirement for them is less than 60 psi, which the overwhelming majority of factories already have in their compressed air systems. Air caster technology provides omnidirectional load movement adjustments, meaning the casters can move in any direction without increasing force as is the case with wheeled casters. Omnidirectional movement allows more maneuverability and precise placement of equipment and loads that is not feasible with fixed transport systems or rollers.
Air casters work best on smooth, flat surfaces found in most manufacturing plants as well as epoxy coated flooring, tile, metal and vinyl. Although surfaces including asphalt, gravel and dirt are considered unacceptable, use of a temporary overlay will enable the technology to do its job and successfully complete the move.
The Experience of an Engine Rebuilding Facility
Among the many facilities relying on air caster technology for flexible moves is a diesel engine rebuilding facility in the U.S. Southwest. Air caster systems transport a variety of components weighing several thousand pounds each throughout the plant. The company describes the operation as “effortless load movement for technicians,” and relies on air caster technology to provide efficient production processes.
The company still uses cranes for large sections and subassemblies, but has had issues with battery-powered wheeled vehicles, which it says lack the mobility and flexibility inherent with air casters.
Among the benefits senior management attributes to the technology are precise load control, reduced damage to the shop floor and an increase in productivity. The firm said its employees required only minimum training to become proficient.
While air casters require an initial investment, short and long-term financial calculations will offer a clear picture of return on investment. They cost more than traditional wheels and rollers, but certainly far less than cranes. Users cite several compelling benefits of this technology. Among them:
- Considerably less injury exposure than with wheels.
- A reduced need for costly repairs and replacement of floors.
- For industries considering expansion at their location, air casters can easily relocate an assembly line—a capability fixed moving systems are incapable of duplicating.
- Improved manpower efficiency as many air caster systems need a single operator for tasks formerly requiring multiple personnel.
Adopting the Technology
It’s little wonder that hovercraft technology is finding a home in heavy industry. A technology often associated with recreation at its inception more than 50 years ago has been significantly advanced and upgraded. From eliminating floor damage to more effective use of time and manpower, air casters are gaining greater acceptance as efficient, agile, safe and cost-effective tools for moving heavy equipment.
About the Author:
John Massenburg is president and chief executive officer of AeroGo Inc. of Seattle, Wash. AeroGo manufactures heavy load equipment utilizing hovercraft technology for moving heavy, awkward or delicate loads in factories. Tel: 866-537-0153. For more information, please visit www.aerogo.com.
KME CNC solved an internal problem with innovative equipment that have now made it a bigger success.
By Chris Petersen
Many of the biggest success stories in manufacturing come about because someone found a creative way to solve a particular problem about found that the solution could be applied elsewhere. That has certainly been the case for Irvine, Calif.-based KME CNC, which found a creative solution to an internal problem and has turned that into a highly successful business solving the same problem for its manufacturing customers across the country.
As Director of Sales Robert Reynolds explains, the company’s path to success arose unexpectedly. KME CNC’s original focus was on contract manufacturing for equipment used in a variety of applications. The company wasn’t satisfied with the accuracy it was seeing from its existing equipment, so it explored the possibility of investing in five-axis systems. However, Reynolds says, the five-axis machine tools on the market at the time were prohibitively expensive. The solution, he adds, was for the company to create its own.
In time, KME CNC designed a five-axis system that could be built directly into an existing tombstone, making the existing system capable of machining five faces of a part in a single cycle and creating greater productivity and accuracy. A local distributor stopped by the company’s facility and saw its five-axis equipment, and Reynolds says the distributor offered to buy the company’s tombstones on the spot. Ever since, KME CNC has specialized in offering manufacturers five-axis systems built right into the tombstone. Reynolds says the company’s customer range from small mom-and-pop manufacturers to some of the world’s biggest operations. “Because of our particular product line, our customer base is pretty broad,” he says, adding that the company’s five-axis systems can be found in the automotive, aerospace and medical manufacturing sectors, among others.
The diverse nature of KME CNC’s customer base is testament to the versatility and utility of its systems. The company’s equipment can convert three-axis vertical machining centers or four-axis horizontal machining systems into five-axis production machines. According to the company, its standard five-axis tombstone comes standard with four platters, but can be customized to include more platters based on the customer’s needs. This allows customers to machine multiple five-axis projects in a single setup, with the option to drive each platter independently or all at once. The end result, the company says, is reduced setup time, less waste, greater accuracy and more productivity overall.
One of the most important elements of the company’s five-axis systems is that all of them utilize transponders to communicate with the tombstone wirelessly. Reynolds says the across-the-board wireless capability is one of the strongest advantages KME CNC’s equipment has because of the added flexibility it gives customers. “All of our devices have brains in them,” he says.
Another significant advantage KME CNC has working in its favor is that it is an American-based manufacturer, and all of its equipment is made in the United States. That means the company not only has a better grasp of what its customers require than an overseas manufacturer would, but Reynolds says the proximity to its customers also gives KME CNC greater flexibility to fulfill custom requests. Reynolds says the company is able to build systems to suit each customer’s specific requirements. “I don’t know that a lot of other tool builder do that,” he says.
With the innovative solutions it provides, Reynolds says KME CNC’s biggest challenge is making sure it stays at the forefront of the industry and keeping potential customers aware of the many advantages its systems provide. “Our real competition is evolution,” Reynolds says. “For us, the biggest challenge is just getting the word out, more than anything.”
Fortunately, the manufacturing sector is changing in such a way that KME CNC’s five-axis systems could be the solutions needed for a growing segment of the industry. As more manufacturers institute lights-out CNC machining and pallet-pool machining into their operations, the need for flexibility and quick-change setups becomes more prevalent. Reynolds says this is where KME CNC can bring a lot of value to such operations, and the company is hard at work keeping its name and its products out in front of those potential customers.
Additionally, KME CNC is always looking for new ways to improve upon its forward-thinking equipment. Reynolds says the company’s goal is to push wireless technology forward in the marketplace to anticipate customers’ needs before they even know what those needs are themselves. “We’re always looking for what the next need is in our environment,” he says.
From manufacturing welded wire mesh and proprietary PVC coating to performance testing, Riverdale Mills does everything in-house to ensure the highest-quality engineered products for their customers. By Bianca Herron
Riverdale Mills Corporation manufactures more than 3,500 configurations of welded wire mesh for the marine, aquaculture, security, and construction and farming industries.
“We invented Aquamesh®, the welded wire mesh used for building lobster traps, crab traps, aquaculture trays and other subsea applications,” says CEO Jim Knott Jr., proudly noting that 80 percent of all lobster traps built in North America are made with Aquamesh.
“Today Riverdale Mills is equally known for its galvanized and PVC-coated wire mesh products for the high security and construction industries,” Knott says. “Our WireWall® high-security fencing protects the employees at the U.S. Embassy in Panama, commuters at the L.A. and San Diego transit systems, the Port of San Francisco, and the service men and women at military bases in Virginia and California. WireWall is a virtually impenetrable, high security fencing material that is nearly impossible to climb or cut.”
Read more ...
Aerostar Global Logistics’ customer service and extensive product knowledge make it the go-to transportation and logistics service provider in the aerospace industry. By Janice Hoppe-Spiers
Aerostar Global Logistics carved out its niche in the aerospace industry by offering a full suite of international and domestic transportation and logistics services complemented with unparalleled customer service. “We compete with some of the largest companies in the world and beat them every day,” CEO Tom Gioia says. “The way we do that is our absolute obsession with customer service, understanding delivery demands that airlines and OEMs have and providing constant communication to our customers.”
The company is based in Lombard, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, but has opened offices in Dallas, France, Germany and the United Kingdom to remain an international leader. Gioia is part of Aerostar’s new management team brought on in mid-2016 to focus on growth and expansion, not just in the United States but worldwide. “They hired me to come in and grow the customer base and locations, expand opportunities for employees and hire more people to facilitate that growth,” Gioia adds.
Read more ...
The names Moloney and Lehmann-Peterson have been staples in America’s manufacturing industry for the past 50 years. By Bianca Herron
The Moloney family of companies spans over eight decades of manufacturing leadership. The Moloney name in America’s manufacturing industry dates back to 1931 when Raymond T. Moloney founded Bally Manufacturing, which became the world’s largest manufacturer of coin-operated gaming equipment. Today, its global presence is highly recognized in the manufacturer marketplace.
From there, Earle F. Moloney Sr. founded Comar Electric Company, which became known for designing and producing components for the Apollo Space Program. Additionally, Moloney Sr. founded Molon Motor & Coil Corporation, a premier designer and manufacturer of sub-fractional horsepower motors and gear motors.
With more than 60 years of electrical motor expertise, Molon has successfully applied numerous engineering refinements and technical innovations within a wide range of industries. Today, Molon still specializes in custom AC/DC motors and gear motors, and its products are used in applications such as vending machines, medical equipment, appliances, valves and pumps.
Read more ...
Van Diest Supply’s manufacturing and corporate campus in Webster City, Iowa, provides herbicides and other agricultural products to customers throughout the Midwest and the world.
On the surface, Webster City, Iowa, may not seem to be the sort of place you’d expect to find a manufacturing company with an international customer base. However, Van Diest Supply Co.’s reputation for meeting its customers’ needs at a fair price has made the town of just more than 8,000 people an epicenter of the agricultural chemical manufacturing industry.
“We’re very proud of our reputation in the industry. Many of the companies we work with are based in Europe and have their choice of manufacturing partners, but they’ve found this little town in Iowa to do their production,” the company says. “We believe we have a positive reputation because we get the job done, meet our customers’ specs and have fair pricing. Our customers are more to us than just an invoice.”
Read more ...
Major Tool has provided customer satisfaction for seven decades.
After 70 years, Major Tool & Machine says it is a world leader in contract manufacturing, fabrication and machining services. “Since 1946, Major Tool & Machine has provided exceptional customer satisfaction with our persistent dedication to quality, service and state-of-the-art technology,” it says.
Based in Indianapolis, the company began as a custom manufacturer of tooling and aircraft ground support equipment. Major Tool now also provides engineering, fabrication, precision machining and assembly services to clients in the United States and internationally.
“Major Tool & Machine manufactures hardware for a variety of industries, including aerospace, defense, power generation, commercial/industrial and the nuclear markets,” the company says, noting that it has more than 600,000 square feet of manufacturing space in the Indianapolis area.
Read more ...
American Ultraviolet remains a leader because of its focus on advancements. by Janice Hoppe-Spiers
As one of the leading UV companies specializing in all facets of the industry, American Ultraviolet is riding the next wave of the future with its high-powered UV LED curing light. Cool Cure 365/395 is the most powerful LED UV spot curing device on the market and is a direct replacement for old mercury arc lamp technology.
“It will cure the same substrates with a lot less energy,” President and CEO Meredith Stines says. “LED lasts for 20,000 hours and is very energy-efficient. Cool Cure can be used to manufacture juice boxes, membrane switches and foil wrap. LED is the wave of the future for the UV curing industry. I think it’s going to be quite a while before it really takes off because it’s too expensive right now for most applications, but it’s growing faster this year. By 2020, I expect it to be a standard product.”
American Ultraviolet’s curing products include additive lamps and conveyor systems used to cure ink and coatings. They are used in applications including screen and digital printing and wood processing, as well as spot curing systems that bond substrates together using UV-curable adhesives, Stines explains. Curing products are produced by two divisions: AETEK UV Systems, which serves the flooring and industrial curing markets; and Lesco UV, which manufactures UV conveyors and LED curing devices used in the aerospace, electronics and other markets.
Read more ...