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ABB drive cuts costs by £25,000 at GKN

26 March 2012

Vehicle component manufacturer, GKN, is set to save some £25,000 with the use of an ABB low voltage AC drive.

The GKN Wheels plant at Telford produces a wide range of components for major vehicle producers around the world. One of the production lines makes wheels for many of the leading brands of agricultural and construction vehicles, including Caterpillar and JCB.

One part of the line involves a walking beam, which uses a system of reciprocating parallel bars to pass rolled and welded wheel rims from an oil dip to a flare press. As the beam reaches top dead centre, the larger wheel rims can cause the beam to over speed and the momentum carries them too quickly towards the press. This can result in the system jamming.

Kevin Evans, Production Manager for the plant, says: “This type of stoppage can take an average of two hours to remedy resulting in lost production time and associated costs.” 

To maintain schedules this was resulting in the need for the plant to run overtime following such incidents. The estimated costs, taking account of maintenance, materials, and lost production totalled around £25,000 a year.

Estil, a systems integration company, and ABB were already on site investigating potential energy saving applications. “We asked them if they could look at the walking beam and come up with a better control system that would reduce the risk of jamming,” says Evans.

The two companies developed a system that employed a 1.5 kW ABB standard drive. At the beginning of the walking beam’s cycle, the drive is started and the internal timer runs the drive for one second at full speed. After this time, the drive is switched to two thirds speed and is then gradually decelerated. The beam, carrying the wheel rim, is slowed gradually as it approaches the press. As the wheel rim reaches the press, the beam triggers a limit switch that stops the drive to complete the cycle.

Phil Lampitt of Estil designed the control system for the application: “We worked closely with ABB to fine tune the application to get a steady positioning of the wheel rims. ABB also helped us size the drive, particularly critical in view of the need to cater for the heavier rims in the range.

“As there is limited space, we had to mount the drive externally. This lead to challenges from the harsh environment of the production building and we needed to specify an IP54 rated drive casing to resist the ingress of oil.”

Evans says: “I am very pleased with the way the project has gone. Since installation in April, we have not had a single stoppage on this part of the process and are on target to save circa £25,000 a year. This is a significant saving for us and we are also looking to standardise on ABB drives throughout the plant to save further costs on our energy use.”

ABB Limited
Discrete Automation & Motion
Tel: 01925 741 111
Fax: 01925 741 212
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