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issue: July 2005 APPLIANCE Magazine

Metal Working
A Precise Revision

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by David Simpson, Contributing

Commercial refrigeration manufacturer Thermo-Kool added a second coil processor to keep up with growing demand. Successfully integrating the new and the existing processor took careful planning between the producer and its equipment supplier.

Since moving into its current production facility in Laurel, MS, U.S. in 1975, walk-in cooler and freezer maker Thermo-Kool/Mid-South Industries, Inc. has undertaken several expansions to accommodate increased production needs. Among its equipment is a coil processor, purchased from Iowa Precision Industries (Cedar Rapids, IA, U.S.) in 1984. Seventeen years later, in 2001, the company began looking into purchasing a second coil processor.

The company wanted the new processor to incorporate presses to punch and notch prior to shearing. This capability was expected to improve productivity compared to the existing coil processing system, which produces a few parts as well as plain blanks. When the plain blanks exit the coil processor, they are transported to separate presses, where they are punched and notched.

Another addition was to be the inclusion of a rail-mounted coil car to service both coil processors. This would eliminate the use of an overhead crane to position metal coils on an uncoiler mandrel. Achieving this goal would require careful planning and some changes to the existing coil processor.

The manufacturer was pre-disposed to again buy from Iowa Precision. “The decision to purchase another coil processor from them was due to the reliability of the existing coil processor, and the customer service we received on the machine if there was ever a problem,” says Lee Thames, Thermo-Kool’s manufacturing support manager.

The company contacted Iowa Precision in May 2001. In August, Mr. Thames visited an Iowa Precision coil processing line that was ready for production run-off. The purchase order was issued in February 2003, and the equipment delivered in February 2004.

“From the time that we got our first quotation until a decision was made to purchase the coil processing system, there were eight revisions made,” observes Mr. Thames. “During this time, the staff from both companies worked extremely well together. The installer definitely had our best interests in mind to ensure that the machine would provide us with the best possible production capabilities to fit our requirements.”

During the decision-making process, Thermo-Kool determined that it had to relocate the metal coil storage area to make room for the new coil processor, which meant expanding the plant layout. To accommodate the flush-mounted rail system, a pit needed to be formed and concrete poured during expansion.

“Since we had an existing coil processor that we wanted to keep in production, we designed the floor layout so that the rail car system would feed both coil processors,” says Mr. Thames. “To accomplish this, Jerome Brown, the Iowa Precision installer, reversed the existing uncoiler mandrel so it could receive the metal coil from the coil car. The coil car is positioned between the mandrels so that they are mirror images of each other. Coils, up to 10,000 lb and 4-ft wide, can be quickly loaded on and off the mandrels of either machine without the use of an overhead crane.”

This efficient loading comes in handy, since the manufacturer uses a variety of metals, including 22-gauge stainless steel, 16-gauge mild steel, 24-gauge stucco pre-paint, 22-gauge stucco aluminum, 0.080-in aluminum, and 0.080-in aluminum tread plate. Thermo-Kool produces inner and outer skins for walk-in cooler and freezer walls, ceilings, and floor panels. They are made in a wide range of sizes and configurations, and many of these are custom. Most skins will be assembled into interlocking units filled with urethane foam insulation.

Once the metal coil is on the uncoiler mandrel, a peeler table mounted on the front end of the straightener rises up and telescopes out to the metal coil. The peeler table allows the leading edge of the coil to be fed into the straightener. Once the metal is in the straightener, the peeler table lowers itself and telescopes in, thereby creating a loop between the uncoiler and the straightener. A vinyl applicator is mounted just past the feed table, which is located right after the peeler table. The operator starts moving the lead end of the vinyl onto the lead end of the coil, and the vinyl is then automatically applied to the top of the metal coil.

Once the metal passes through the straightener, it feeds into a loop. If the straightener is stopped when sensitive materials such as stainless steel or aluminum are in the rollers, marks can form on the metal. Therefore, the metal exiting the straightener continues to be run at low speed to avoid these roller marks.

Metal from the loop feeds into the press area. There are 15 small presses that are programmed to automatically punch and notch as required. Feed tables between the straightener and processor cantilever up and down. They are raised to help feed the leading edge of the coil into the processor, and they then drop down out of the way to allow room for the loop. The final section is the shear head, which cuts the coil into the programmed lengths. The cut pieces are automatically stacked on a conveyor until an operator removes them for further processing.

During installation, a few mechanical issues came up, but Mr. Thames says they were quickly resolved. “Also, there were a few software issues that had to be debugged, such as adding a ‘feet’ counter, a ‘repeat’ function button, and a ‘clear job’ command button,” he continues. “At our request, the Iowa Precision programmers revised the software responsible for the automation of the coil processor to reduce drop-off scrap produced when certain in-line dies in the machine were in operation.

“The new installation has reduced labor in the layout area, and improved quality and accuracy,” Mr. Thames tells APPLIANCE. “We have had no equipment downtime thus far. The vinyl applicator does a much better job than the previous method. With the design of the coil car and the peeler table, the coiled metal loading method is much faster, easier, and safer. Overall, we’ve been very pleased with the equipment, the service, and the support that we have received.”


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