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Ohio Factory Uses New 5-Axis Machine to Cut Production Time on Rotor Shafts from Several Weeks to One Day

Siemens Large Drives motor factory in Norwood, Ohio recently made an investment to upgrade their manufacturing capabilities at the 117-year old facility. A new and highly advanced machine from WFL has aided in the manufacturing of steel rotor shafts. In turn, Siemens Norwood has been able to provide a new product to fill a major gap in the market.

The key advantage of the Norwood factory's new WFL 5-Axis CNC machine is its ability to save time and utilize less manpower.

So what does this new CNC machine actually do? Bores, taps, turns, mills and drills. All are performed on 5 axes!

 

 

When shafts arrive in the facility as raw material, several modifications including full-penetration welding must be made before they can withstand the extreme torques inside a motor. The welding procedure for full-penetration welds requires three or four weeks of time-intensive, internal and external labor and quality checking.

Almost all shafts require turning, milling, drilling and tapping procedures which were historically performed on separate machines. The transitioning between those multiple machines immediately adds setup time, creates transportation waste and increases risk of scheduling conflicts.

In addition to those concerns, many of Norwood's existing machines are over 30 years old which typically leads to increased maintenance over the lifetime.

The WFL M80 mill turn is 52 feet long, weighs 58 tons and contains a 72 tool magazine that automatically connects and calibrates to the turning, boring and milling (TBM) unit.

 

 

With the new CNC machine, all of those procedures can be performed sequentially in a faster time and with less supervision, also eliminating former waste and potential risks. The new process coined as "fluting" is subtractive manufacturing that mills out material from a larger starting radius versus the previous additive manufacturing that welds more material from a smaller radius. This process takes less than one day versus several weeks in the previous process.

Meeting Customers' Needs

The need for this new CNC machine follows the recent market change that has required larger frame sizes, higher speeds and, thus, larger and stiffer rotor shafts.

Traditionally, the volume for larger rotor shafts -- the size which is best suited to run on this new machine -- has been low, but increased customer use of variable frequency drives has shifted industrial motor business to invest in new manufacturing technology.

A capital investment team at Norwood discovered a profitable estimation to acquire this new mill turn and the team launched its research on three different mill turn machines in Winter 2013. WFL's M80 mill turn was selected as the best investment in Spring 2014 using a complex decision matrix of both core needs and auxiliary functions. The transportation of the mill turn, the installation into the factory and training by the designers occurred over months, finishing in Fall 2015.

The WFL mill turn is controlled by Siemens Sinumerik 840D controller and HMI, located directly in front of the machine doors.

 

 

Impressive Size and Capabilities

The sheer size of the WFL M80 is impressive, not to mention its vast capability, 20 different machining operations and precise, high-speed tooling. The WFL M80 mill turn is 16 feet wide, 13 feet tall and 52 feet long, weighing in at 58 tons! In fact, the machine is so large that it could not fit through the existing door to the facility, so part of the garage frame had to be removed and then replaced once the machine was inside.

The new CNC machine utilizes 72 unique tool heads, each of which is automatically selected and calibrated by the internal tool measuring system and software. The CNC controller on the machine is a Siemens Sinumerik 840D.

The mill turn does more in less time; it removes 60 percent more material with each pass, than the previous machine. In addition, the length of the capable shafts for CNC milling has increased to 220 inches, over the previous machine's 117 inch maximum limit. All of these aspects make the new mill turn a highly valued asset to Norwood's rotor manufacturing process.

The turning, boring and milling (TBM) unit arm can perform 20 distinct CNC operations across 5 axes. (in the right: one of the two programmable steady rests)

 

 

Improving Lead Time and Reducing Costs

With great technologies also comes great challenges. The Norwood team was faced with learning a WFL proprietary coding language to operate the new machine, requiring intensive training to overcome a steep learning curve.

Not only is the programming new to Norwood, but the logistics of installation and the release to production demanded constant cross-functional teamwork. There were several weeks of preparation and manual labor to finish the installation, followed by machine calibration and training that had to take place before the first production part was created and released.

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