Ingenuity Wins New Business

To find new business, often all a shop needs is management with experience in other areas of the industry and a little ingenuity. For more than 50 years, Acro-Feed Industries was solely a designer and builder of automatic bar and shaped bar feeding systems for screw machines, as well as automatic part loaders and unloaders, bar load assists and automatic bundle feeders.


To find new business, often all a shop needs is management with experience in other areas of the industry and a little ingenuity. This is true for Acro-Feed Industries (Detroit, Michigan). For more than 50 years, this company was solely a designer and builder of automatic bar and shaped bar feeding systems for screw machines, as well as automatic part loaders and unloaders, bar load assists and automatic bundle feeders. Then, in 2005, Dennis Haller was appointed president, and shortly thereafter, the company began to broaden its manufacturing approach.

Mr. Haller’s more than 20 years of screw machine engineering experience and manufacturing intelligence include a number of machine-related patents as well as a vast knowledge of the industry, the major equipment manufacturers and big screw machine customers.

Therefore, when Acro-Feed was approached by a leading manufacturer of automotive struts to see if the company would be interested in designing and building a series of specially automated manufacturing cells, Mr. Haller had enough confidence in Acro-Feed and his own experience to agree to do the project. Sixteen weeks later, the first cell was delivered. Once the first system and the process were proven, a second system was ordered and delivered.

Because Acro-Feed began providing rebuilding and remanufacturing services for automatic screw machines and loaders in May 2006, the capability already existed to handle the required rebuilding aspects of the manufacturing cell project, including the ability to provide a system that is totally CAT 4 safety compliant with the required guarding and interlocks, Mr. Haller explains.

Although the business was prepared for the new job, it still faced obstacles. “This was a challenging project because the customer’s appropriation budget was limited, which necessitated the application of used screw machines,” Mr. Haller says.

Acro-Feed created a manufacturing cell design that includes a new standard Acro-Feed Model 125N620DR eight-spindle, 20-foot-long bar feeder; a rebuilt and remanufactured Acme 1 1/4 RB-8 screw machine; a rebuilt and remanufactured Acme 1 1/4 RA-6 screw machine; and a milling machine (provided by the customer).

All of the automation that includes escapement assemblies, diverter assemblies, elevator conveyors, magazines, conveyors and loader/unloader mechanisms were designed and built by Acro-Feed.

In operation, 1/2-inch diameter, 20-foot-long steel bars are fed by the Acro-Feed automatic bar feeder to the eight-spindle screw machine where they are cut to 12-inch lengths, and the piston end of the strut rods are turned, shaved and threaded. They are automatically unloaded to a gravity conveyor that moves them to a pneumatic escapement and transfer device that times each strut rod to land on a conveyor cleat that moves the part upwards to the two-station rear load/unload device of the six-spindle machine. Here, the rods are escaped one at a time into the machine spindles where the stem end is turned, shaved and threaded. The rods are then automatically unloaded to a chain conveyor that moves them to the final milling station where a flat is milled on the threads of the piston end. The system has PLC controls and touchscreen monitors.

Each of the Acme screw machines was processed through the Acro-Feed rebuilding process, which involved a variety of options. These were dictated by the condition of each of the machines with respect to age, maintenance history, loading, and use and abuse. Some of the machines were completely disassembled. All the parts were inspected, evaluated and replaced or made “like new” to OEM specifications. Newer features were also added, such as a head design that allows the user to switch feed rolls and drive gears by removing a hair pin, eliminating the snap rings typical of other conventional feed heads. Because Acro-Feed has a subsidiary division—Automatic Tooling Corporation (Detroit, Michigan), a manufacturer of tooling and replacement parts for all foreign and domestic multi-spindle screw machines—the task of providing the replacement parts was expedient and less costly.

In addition to the new production cells, the business has also expanded to include the manufacture of automatic and semi-automatic tube and pipe bending machines and replacement parts, rugged acoustical stock tubes, and a full complement of energy control and power lockout (ECPL) tags and custom safety signage.

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