Automated Chip Processing Meets Demanding Goals


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Forward thinking manufacturers know they need to optimize every aspect of their manufacturing operations in order to survive and prosper. Swagelok Company (Solon, Ohio), a manufacturer of fluid system components such as fittings, valves and tubing and a proponent of continuous improvement, is one of these manufacturers. When Swagelok wanted to “wring” more value out of coolant and chip management at its Highland Heights and Solon, Ohio, facilities it turned to Mayfran International.

Not only does it offer an array of chip and coolant management systems, but Swagelok had worked with Mayfran on successful applications in the past. Mayfran was tasked with creating systems for Swagelok that would improve oil recovery from machining scrap. Those facilities had existing chip shredders, but there were problems. “We primarily machine 316 stainless steel,” says Dave Rudary, Swagelok project manager. “Some of the chips are stringy and long. These chips tended to get caught between the shredder blades and in the clutch. It turned into a maintenance nightmare.”

A more efficient, lower maintenance chip processing system was an obvious necessity. In addition, the company wanted both systems to be automated to save man hours and reduce labor costs.

The new system for the Highland Heights facility, serving dozens of screw and turning machines, centered on a Mayfran VBU-3000 wringer. It is designed for heavy duty continu-ous operation, with hardened components to reduce wear and prolong life while providing effecient coolant recovery. The chip wringer dries chips from machining or grinding sludge through centrifugal motion. Depending on the material and cutting fluid, it can achieve dryness of less than 2-percent residual coolant. Not only does it recover valuable coolant, but this also has the potential to increase the value of the scrap and the ability to help customers meet stringent environmental regulations regarding chip disposal, the company says.

“The system recovers approximately 500 gallons of oil per week for Swagelok,” Mr. Rudary says. “This saves us approximately $4,000 per week, varying with fluctuations in the price of coolant. It also reduces the facility’s environmental impact and better positions us to meet future regulations regarding used coolant.”

Sustainability—buying less material, making better use of what you do buy and reducing disposal—is an important issue for Swagelok, and it’s one with which Mayfran is very heavily involved. The systems it created for the two plants definitely address such concerns while delivering an outstanding return on investment, according to the company.

Swagelok runs two different types of coolant at its Highland Heights location—an oil-based product and a water soluble emulsion. Fortunately, the design of the VBU-style wringer facilitates this: An automated ball valve located on the coolant outlet of the wringer can direct the coolant to either tank A or tank B, so the oil-based coolant can be kept separate from the water-soluble coolant. This allows the company to process the two different coolants through a single system.

The wringer is augmented by two Mayfran VC 800H crushers, complete with automatic cart dumpers and a vibrating screen for tramp metal separation, capable of handling throughputs that could reach a peak of 2,500 pounds per hour. Powered by a high torque hydraulic motor, the chip crushers have no belt drives or clutches in which stainless steel chips could get stuck. After being sized by the crusher, the chips are elevated, screened and automatically delivered to the wringer, which dries the chips to recover the coolant. As the chips exit the wringer, they are pneumatically conveyed through a 5-inch diameter pipe system directly into an outside container to be hauled away.
The entire system—wringer and crushers—is highly automated. “We wanted a fully automated system, and that’s exactly what we have,” Mr. Rudary says. “You set the chip cart in the dumping area, hit the button, and walk away from it. Its operation is completely hands-off. This is a significant savings for us in terms of manpower. It has been very well received by our associates, too, because crushing chips now is a small task compared with the troublesome and time consuming task it had been in the past.”

It is estimated that the new system saves Swagelok approximately 1 man-year at Highland Heights facility, allowing them to reallocate that labor to more productive uses. There is also maintenance savings with the system. That’s largely because the VBU design, though effective, is simple. “Very little adjustment is needed,” says Chris Velichka, Mayfran project engineer. “You just grease the bearings and that’s your maintenance. Not much technical expertise is required to run the system.”For the Solon facility, Mayfran supplied a TD-5000 wringer. The TD style was chosen because of its large capacity and because Solon uses a single coolant, instead of two different types. Linked to this is a VC-1200 crusher, complete with an automatic cart dumper and tramp metal separator.
Together, this system handles chips from several dozen screw and turning machines, with throughputs that could reach a peak of 3,000 pounds per hour. The Solon system recovers 1,250 gallons of oil each week, saving Swagelok approximately $10,000 per week in coolant. And like the Highland Heights system, the Solon system also results in a marked labor savings, allowing Swagelok to reallocate roughly 1.5 man-years of labor to tasks that offer more value-added services than handling chips.

“With the aid of integrator IWI Inc. (Wickliffe, Ohio) and with minimal disruption, it took a little less than a year to complete the project,” Mr. Velichka says.

“The installation went smoothly,” Mr. Rudary says. “The communication between Swagelok, Mayfran and IWI was excellent. They kept us abreast of any changes so there were no surprises, and that’s a huge part of any project. In addition, Mayfran and IWI worked well with our associates and that’s always a plus. There were really no glitches at all in the installation process. In fact, both installations took less time than they were slated for, and in the case of the Solon facility, the new system also freed up some floor space for us because the new equipment had a smaller footprint than the previous system.”

The efficient coolant reclamation of the Mayfran system has helped facilitate another Swagelok upgrade: oil farms within the Highland Heights and Solon facilities each composed of two 1,000-gallon tanks that hold virgin oil as well as the oil reclaimed by the Mayfran system. “The oil is spiggoted to each machine tool, so it’s constantly available,” Mr. Rudary says. “All the operator has to do is flip a lever. This is a huge benefit for us because the less we have to handle oil in our plants, the better.”

Thanks to the new system, the potential for oil spills is greatly reduced, and this has a positive impact on environmental and safety concerns. “Our environmental people love this system,” he continues. “Our associates love it, too, because they don’t have to waste their time traveling across the plant to fetch a barrel of oil. Plus, there is always the possibility that someone will grab the wrong oil. With our system, it’s delivered right to where it is needed.”

The Mayfran systems have successfully met Swagelok’s need for performance, economy and sustainability, and they dovetail with Swagelok’s commitment to lean manufacturing and continuous improvement. Also, there are additional installation opportunities for Mayfran systems in the future.


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