Multi-Cylinder Press Enhances Heat-Exchanger Production
The use of several small cylinders in this unique hydraulic-press design allows more precise control of material flow, a must in the exacting work of producing heat-exchanger plates.
As a leading U.S. manufacturer of gasketed, fully welded and brazed-plate heat exchangers, GEA PHE Systems NA, Inc.’s products find use in residential, commercial and industrial applications in sectors as diverse as chemical, food, sugar, marine, power, HVAC, renewable energy and refrigeration. Part of the GEA Process Equipment Division of the international GEA Group, the company maintains production facilities in Germany, Sweden, Canada and India as well as the United States, and distributes the heat exchangers worldwide.
To gain productivity and maintain precise material control throughout the forming process to produce the heat exchangers, the company has employed a new short-stroke multi-cylinder hydraulic press from Schuler Inc., Canton, MI.
Needed Press to Provide Precise Forming
Compact, efficient and cost-effective heat-exchanger designs at GEA PHE Systems depend on precise engineering and manufacturing, with tolerances as tight as 0.002 in. for channels and bevels.
In planning its new production facility in York, PA, the company set out to design-in extremely high precision and productivity. Jean-Pierre Castenetto, GEA Ecoflex head of production and logistics, developed an ambitious wish list for the new production line:
• Encounter very low bolster and table deflection;
• Gain the ability to make a variety of plate sizes in several material types requiring a high press force;
• Develop an automated system requiring a single operator.
“We also needed high levels of flexibility and productivity, including a faster process and the ability to minimize downtime by changing dies quickly to make different-sized plates,” says Castenetto. “Plus, a high level of automation was important for meeting our productivity goals.”
Fully Automated and Flexible
Schuler responded with a concept for a custom hydraulic-press system featuring a short-stroke, multi-cylinder design. This approach allows precise material flow with high final quality—no wrinkles or defects, according to Schuler officials.
The system—Schuler engineered, manufactured, delivered and installed it as a turnkey project—includes a decoiling line with a shear, automatic feeding with a single-rail shuttle into the embossing press and a die-change cart able to simultaneously handle three dies, allowing complete die change in less than 30 min. It also includes a single-rail shuttle that removes formed plate from the embossing press and transports it to a blanking press. The exit side of the blanking press features gantry-type automation to remove and stack the plates.
The press employs many small cylinders rather than one large one, to achieve full force. The small cylinders fill faster and require substantially less compressible oil compared to a press with a large cylinder and longer stroke, resulting in much faster cycle time and higher output. Repair time and expense also are greatly reduced compared to what a large-cylinder design would require, say Schuler officials.
In addition, the multi-cylinder design allows GEA PHE Systems to make heat-exchanger plates in a variety of sizes, providing the flexibility to meet changing production needs and customer demand. The company now produces as many as four parts/min., with one operator handling the entire process. For the 28,000 tons of force provided by the press, the output rate is believed to be one of the best in this industry, add Schuler officials.
John Garrity, production manager for gasketed-plate heat exchangers at GEA PHE Systems, likes the press’ versatility and high level of automation.
“It provides us with the flexibility to quickly change jobs and make a variety of plates,” he says. “Plus, we can provide blanks to other processes within our company, and we can do it all with just one operator. That’s a tremendous productivity advantage.”
Numerous Applications for Multi-Cylinder Technology
Though designed specifically to meet the needs of GEA PHE Systems, Schuler sees numerous other opportunities for its multi-cylinder technology.
“The market for this type of multi-cylinder hydraulic-press technology is fairly diverse,” says Oliver Beisel, director of sales for Schuler Hydrap. “While well suited for complex applications such as that at GEA PHE Systems, it’s also ideal for deep drawing stainless steel in applications such as kitchen sinks.” For deep drawing stainless steel, the system works in combination with an active die cushion and a multi-cylinder plate, which functions as a hydraulic cushion underneath the blankholder. In contrast, in an embossing press the multi-cylinder plate only applies press force.
For stainless deep-drawing applications, the system acts as support in controlling material flow during the draw. The cylinders in the multi-cylinder plate can be grouped together into different circuits, enabling the operator to precisely control material during forming. Areas can be fully clamped where no material flow is desired because of the risk of fracture, while in other areas the blankholding force can be reduced to control material flow and avoid defects such as wrinkling. MF
Information for this article provided by Schuler Inc., Canton, MI. Tel. 734/207-7200; www.schulerinc.com.
See also: Schuler Incorporated
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