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issue: December 2008 APPLIANCE Magazine

Case Study - Laundry Manufacturing
Expanded Online: A Press for Complex Parts

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When a laundry OEM orders large, complicated laundry appliance parts, the part supplier finds the solution in two specially configured straightside presses.

The Flextronics NST can accommodate up to seven dies on a bolster and transfer the part up to seven times. A variable position exit conveyor on the final transfer station is integrated with safety interlocks on the press control to allow the conveyor position to be linked to specific part numbers with specific numbers of stations.

Appliance consumers today have an appetite for more color options, accessories, and unique profiles. Making the parts to support these appliance means adding stamping operations and forming shapes that are more complex.

Component manufacturer Flextronics International (www.flextronics.com) recently was given the task of producing the largest consumer washer and dryer parts on the market. This called for press equipment with an extra long bed length to accommodate the number of die stations needed to deep draw laundry front panels.

The appliance OEM provided the part requirements and also recommended a press manufacturer and model. As a result, the part manufacturer purchased two AIDA NST 1200-ton straightside presses from AIDA-America Corp. (Dayton, OH, U.S.; www.aida-global.com). This is the same press being run at their appliance customer’s manufacturing plant.

“Our customer owns the tooling we’re using to run this job,” said Rick Thompson, senior director for Flextronics’ Juárez Operations. "They found the NST to be very reliable, able to provide the precision appliance goods final assembly processes require, and protect tooling with overload protection and tonnage monitoring."

The appliance producer specifications called for a press with the largest bed area (84 in by 288 in. with dual moving bolsters) ever produced at AIDA-America. The presses were fitted with HMS three axis servo transfer systems and included a 48-in, wide coil feeding system.

Getting It There

“The next challenge was transporting these extra large press components from Dayton, Ohio to Juárez, Mexico," Thomson said.

The largest parts consisted of:

  • The crown, at 31 ft long; 14 ft wide; and 10 ft, 6 in. tall, and weighing 261,800 lb.
  • The slide, at 25 ft, 3 in. long; 12 ft, 2 in. wide; and 8 ft., 7 in. tall, weighing 186,120 lb.
  • Dual bolsters, each 24 ft, 7 in. long; 10 ft, 2 in. wide; and 2 ft, 5 in. tall, weighing 89,760 lb.
  • The bed (33 ft, 11 in. long; 14 ft wide; and 10 ft, 5 in. tall, weighing 250,800 lb.

The components were trucked to Cincinnati, OH, and crane-loaded on a hopper barge. The barge traveled the Ohio River to the Mississippi River and into the Gulf, where the components were offloaded to line trailers near Brownsville, TX. The line trailers, with multiple steerable axles configured to support heavy weights, crossed the border at Matamoros, Mexico and drove on to Juárez.

Other press components were shipped from Dayton to Juárez on a total of eight trucks for each press. The components were staged to arrive over a four-day period in the order the parts were needed for installation and setup. The first press was shipped in Dec. 2007, the second in Jun. 2008.

The press's automatic quick die change supports Flextronics’ lean manufacturing methodologies, allowing it to run the smallest possible batches.

The press has the Hydraulic Overload Protection system (HOLP) operates 7 to 10 times faster than other current systems. The slide connection itself is configured to operate as a high-speed valve, eliminating pressure relief valves and large hydraulic flow systems found on older design presses with wrist pin and saddle bushing connections. As a result, die and press components are protected beyond the level provided by conventional presses.

“By using the same equipment we were able to ensure our customer’s dies were operating in a safe press, an advantage for us,” Thompson added.

In addition to front panels, the presses in Juarez produce tops, sides, bases, and other laundry components from cold roll, galvanized, and stainless steel. The equipment runs 24 hours a day, five to six days a week, generating more than 500,000 parts each month. The laundry appliances were recently launched in major retail stores in the United States, along with television and magazine advertising featuring a major celebrity.

Part requirements dictated a press with greater right to left bolster and slide area to accommodate additional dies and a bed size of 84 by 288 in. with dual moving bolsters. The two presses were also fitted with three-axis HMS servo transfer systems with 48-in. wide coil feeding systems. “The bed length was the largest ever produced at AIDA-America, and the 1200-ton straightsides are the largest presses in the world for Flextronics,” Thompson said.

One press can accommodate seven dies on a bolster and transfer up to seven times. The final transfer is performed on a variable position exit conveyor integrated with safety interlocks in the press control to allow the conveyor position to be linked to specific part numbers with specific numbers of stations. Parts are then shipped locally in returnable containers to the OEM’s plant, giving the appliance producer about four hours of parts prior to paint.

The straightsides’ automatic quick die change supports Flextronics’ lean manufacturing methodologies. “We’re able to run the smallest possible batches,” said Thompson, “minimizing working capital, inventory, and floor space requirements while optimizing flexibility, cycle times, and capacity.”

Quick Die Change

The rolling bolsters facilitate die changes, which can be made in 4 min. “It actually takes me longer to change a coil then it does to set a new die set,” Thompson said. As the facility increases its expertise on the programming of the transfer system, Thompson expects to see increased press speeds and greater capacity.

While the addition of extra dies and more operating stations typically amplifies off-center loading and its negative effects, Flextronics finds the straightsides’ lube-free preloaded roller slide guide systems minimize the condition. Zero clearance improves slide guiding while the system’s “preloaded” characteristic provides immediate resistance to any lateral slide movement caused by off-center loads. “We can see by the tonnage monitor, which records tonnage at all four corners and registers different tonnages when smaller tool sets are running, that the dry slide guides are managing the off center loading from these tools,” Thompson said.

The zero clearance of the lube-less roller slide guides provide accurate guiding of the press slide, keeping it parallel throughout the loaded condition, which minimizes the amount of punch and die chipping that can occur during production. The dry slide guide employs a proprietary roller bearing mount with the ability to swivel. This capability helps the roller maintain contact with the guide surface on the column during off-center load situations. And since preloaded roller slide guides are lube free, the potential for oil contamination of a part is eliminated.

Wide-spaced connections also combat the negative effects of off-center loading. By placing the connection points towards the outside of the slide, the greater distance between the connection points increases the stability of the slide and enables the press to resist the affects of tipping under off-center loads. Part accuracy is improved and die life and press reliability increased.

“The sheet metal operation we’ve launched with the NST straightsides allows us to showcase our press and tooling maintenance/repair expertise to prospective customers,” Thompson said. “We want to grow the breadth and depth of our metal operation at the Juarez campus and continue capturing non-traditional work. It also supports our goal of providing customers with a vertically integrated facility that meets their manufacturing, repair, and logistics challenges.”

Thanks to Gabriel Macias, general manager, Flextronics, Juarez, for providing this information.

Suppliers mentioned in this article:
AIDA-America Corp.

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