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3 May 2013

A highly innovative range of pneumatic cylinders from Norgren, an international market leader in pneumatic motion and fluid control technology, is bringing substantial operational and commercial benefits to a major manufacturer of surface finishing equipment and its customers.

US-based Corrotec Inc. designs and manufactures custom-build process systems for the surface finishing industry, including zinc, chrome, copper, POP, nickel plating and anodising. The company builds system modules at its facility in Springfield, Ohio, and then assembles and installs them at its customers’ locations. The systems range in size from 12 to 120 metres in length and width, depending on individual customer requirements.

Key to recent developments has been increased modularisation of the process. “We’ve really started to modularise things. We started with I/O, moving to Ethernet-based I/O blocks. We can plug in the Ethernet cable and power and be ready to go,” explained Dan Edgington, project manager at Corrotec.

The logical next step in the I/O block, Edgington says, was to modularise the pneumatics system. Corrotec uses a lot of pneumatic valves for its diaphragm pumps and also to lift and lower rotary tables and open and close gates. The machine builder considers pneumatics as the best option because of their chemical resistance.

“We typically won’t use hydraulics; if the oils get into the bath, it will destroy them,” Edgington explains. “Some things can be done electrically. But it’s a harsh environment, so a lot of electric actuators would fail.”

The modularisation process has now for the first time moved into the area of pneumatics, enabling Corrotec to do away with long runs of tubing and make significant savings on installation time.

This is being achieved through the use of the IVAC (integrated valve and actuator control) range from Norgren. An integrated unit which delivers Engineering Advantage by combining the valve, flow controls, cushioning and sensors in a single actuator package, IVAC is a weight and space optimised actuator, suitable for a range of bore sizes from 32mm to 100mm, featuring integrated valve and magnetically operated switches for complete actuator control.

It was while Corrotec was designing a dye penetrant inspection system for the aviation industry that the company was first introduced to IVAC. The inspection system uses an overhead conveyor to move aircraft parts through different steps of an inspection. At various points throughout the process, doors open to allow the parts into various equipment and operator areas such as dryers or operator stations and then close behind them. Pneumatic cylinders are used to actuate the doors.

Discussing the system’s pneumatic requirements with Corrotec, Tim Miller of Norgren distributor Mosier Fluid Power took a closer look at the cylinder and became convinced that using the IVAC system would deliver a radical improvement over the existing component.

In this application, using IVAC enabled Corrotec to connect each cylinder with just one air line from a distribution header and one cable from an I/O block – saving considerably on installation time when compared with installing a traditional valve island and all the tubing on site.

Given the scale of the systems Corrotec install, the company says that shortening the installation time by a day or two (which IVAC allows them to do) means real value for their customers who can use their system sooner, meaning there is a direct payback on the machine in a short amount of time.

Dan Edgington explained: "If you have one central valve manifold, you have miles of tubing that you have to test and monitor. With IVAC we can effectively ‘plug and play’.”

The other key advantage for Corrotec’s customer is maintenance. A single non-functioning door can shut down the whole machine. With a traditional system, it is unlikely to be immediately clear where the problem lies– it could be the cylinder, the seal or the valve.

The new system has 20 IVAC units on it with spares kept in the warehouse. If a door were to stop functioning, it would take just 30-40 seconds to remove the pins that hold the IVAC unit in place. This can then be replaced and the machine is back online almost immediately. The cylinder that has been removed can then be analysed for the problem.

“Lost production time is a major issue,” Edgington adds, noting that for plating processes, a machine going down could mean thousands of ruined parts. “If a machine goes down for 10 minutes, but the parts are supposed to be in there for 30 seconds, that is a big loss. Everything in process becomes a few hours of lost work.”

Corrotec also chose the ‘cleanline’ version of IVAC – designed originally to meet the exacting hygiene and washdown requirements of the food and beverage sector - even though the system is not technically a wet area.

Dan Edgington commented: “We preferred the aesthetics of it but more important for us was what it communicates about the quality of the whole system. There's a comfort factor for our customers who know that all the parts are sealed safely inside the package, especially in environments with a lot of dust and oil mist in the air.”

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