Control Retrofit Powers Servo-Feed Improvement

By: Louis A. Kren

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

For a stamping operation, the decision to go big is not easy, nor is factoring what that means for the equipment needed to feed the larger, hungrier presses. Just ask the folks at Wellington Industries. Founded in 1949 as a major tool supplier to the Big Three, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, Wellington Industries went private in 1971. In 1987, the company established its headquarters in Belleville, MI, with one facility dedicated to metal stamping, and the other to welding and assembly.

A new servo drive and controls package powers an existing coil feed at Wellington Industries in Belleville, MI. This retrofit delivered accurate material feed and improved productivity on an 800-ton-press line used to produce parts for automotive oil-baffle assemblies.
It was in Belleville, in the 1990s, that management decided to add larger-capacity presses along with robotics. Since then, Wellington has enhanced its expertise in advanced metal forming technologies, increased value-added capabilities and targeted new market segments. The capacity and capability boost proved beneficial when GM came calling during the 2008-09 downturn. The automaker asked Wellington to take in a number of large dies from distressed suppliers in the marketplace, with GM subsequently impressed with Wellington’s ability to begin producing parts from these dies within a 24-hr. period.

The mid-sized manufacturer currently produces parts and assemblies for powertrains and fuel systems, thermal and heatshield systems, and body structures—delivered worldwide. And, it has mimicked its homegrown capabilities where needed. For example, Wellington added a turnkey operation in Peru, IL, to be closer to customers, and can duplicate that facility anywhere that OEM and Tier-One customers would require, according to company officials.

Better Servo-Feed Performance a Must

Wellington maintains press lines in capacities from 60 to 4600 tons, the largest for transfer work, according to Chris Richards, director of engineering. The lines gobble up materials ranging from aluminum to high-strength steels to produce seating components, side pillars, B pillars and more, destined for Tier Ones and OEMs. Production of tough components on tough materials for demanding customers continuously tests the lines’ feed capabilities. To ensure continued high-quality production, Wellington has examined feeding, and decided that retrofits were in order.

One example: a ServoMaster Touch drive and control package, from Coe Press Equipment Co., on an existing servo feed for an 800-ton press that stamps parts for an oil-baffle assembly. The feed processes coils to 30,000 lb. in widths to 36 in.

Touch controls enable operators to quickly recall and setup jobs using parameters not available in the old control system.
“On the 800-ton press line, it’s critical for us keep up with the required part volume in order to open up press capacity,” explains Richards. “Prior to the retrofit, we ran more slowly and had accuracy issues that damaged tooling. The retrofit, in turn, opened capacity because we could produce parts more quickly, and enabled us to move some work from other over-capacity presses.”

Prior to the retrofit, the press feed resulted in increased die repair as inaccuracy led to pilot breakage within the dies.

“As we dug to figure out the increase in die repairs, we found that the feeder was coming up short and inaccurately feeding material,” says Richards. “Some days the feed worked well and other days not so well. Unfortunately, the inconsistency caused a lot of press-line downtime.”

After some initial trepidation—Wellington engineers sought to replace the drive/control system with a similar type, according to Richards—Coe officials provided convincing arguments for the new system’s capabilities and performance metrics, and Wellington made the switch. Within days of submitting a purchase order, Coe personnel were onsite installing the new drive and control, Richards recalls.

Advantages Abound with Servo-Control Retrofits

Replacing a feed’s servo control provides a relatively easy way of simplifying setups while increasing functionality and improving productivity, according to Coe officials, with many new servo controls designed for implementation into existing or new lines within a few days.

As is the case at Wellington, many servo feeds operating today were introduced during early development of servo-drive technology. While excellent replacements for air and mechanical feeds, many were built on unsupported hardware and software platforms, claim Coe officials, and stampers may face extended downtime should a critical drive, motor or motion controller fail.

A compact control cabinet, retrofitted on an existing servo press feed at Wellington Industries, greatly simplifies access and maintenance.
Retrofits, as Wellington has found, deliver programmable control, where many original straighteners and reels in coil-feeding systems featured simple drive mechanisms. Programmability enables development of custom parameters that provide the proper torque for uncoiling and straightening functions.

The ServoMaster Touch operator interface is another area where Wellington has found improvement through a retrofit. Older roll feeds may offer only basic setup functions, such as feed progression and speed percentage, thus limiting their effectiveness. In upgrading, Wellington gained new feed-control features such as storage recipes, operator prompts, servo feed diagnostics, multilingual programming and direct downloading of parameters from the host press.

“Since the retrofit,” Richards says, “the feed has performed extremely accurately, to the point that we now are upgrading some of the other feeder components such as gears and rollers, and performing some other repair work.”

That sentiment is echoed by Jeremy Gilbertson, Wellington maintenance supervisor.

“The new retrofit controls upgrade seems to be running great,” he says. “And, the upgrade is compact, with much less in the control panel. It’s not a 10-ft. cabinet with 50 relays or something similar, which makes it easy to maintain.” MF


See also: Coe Press Equipment Corporation

Related Enterprise Zones: Coil Handling

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