Detroit Shop Has Cost-Saving Approach To Chip Removal And Coolant Recovery
Founded in 1885 in Detroit, Michigan, as a manufacturer of industrial knives for the lumber, woodworking and growing metalworking industries, Detroit Edge Tool Company has expanded into a major supplier for machine tool builders worldwide.
In recent years, Detroit Edge Tool has added the machining and assembling of moving components for a range of machine tools and manufacturing systems. Many of these components are sizable, such as 2,000 lb machine bases and 1,000 lb columns and platens that require extensive machining before assembly.
Among the many operations is the milling of deep core cavities in the undersides of these components. A base unit can have up to 16 such cavities. A major problem was the high volume of chips and coolant collecting in the cavities during machining. Typically, the operator would use an overhead crane to lift the massive component, tilt it to pour out the chips and coolant, then refixture the part on the table to continue machining.
The process was time-consuming, taking up to 40 minutes. It was also messy, with chips and slippery coolant on the floor area around the machine posing a safety threat. Clearly, there had to be a better way. Vacuuming out the chips and coolant looked like the answer, but several brands of conventional shop vacuums repeatedly broke down under the heavy load demands.
A mention in a trade magazine led Ken Wojcik, plant superintendent at Detroit Edge Tool’s East Nevada Street facility, to check out Goodway Technologies Corp. (Stamford, Connecticut) who manufacture a line of air and electric powered industrial vacuums. One, a VAC-2 electric wet-dry vacuum with two 11/3 HP suction by-pass motors, 83" static water lift capability and an air displacement of 198 CFM, seemed to fit the bill. Further, it was available with rolling 15, 30 or 55-gallon tanks for maneuverability and job-matched capacities.
Mr. Wojcik bought his first unit and it solved the deep cavity problem. The operator vacuums chips and coolant out of completed cavities while others are being machined. There is no loss in production time ï¾– no more unfixturing, dumping, and refixturing. The floor stays clean, dry and safe. The chips, often "stringy and clumpy" according to Mr. Wojcik, are vacuumed into the tank without difficulty.
A second benefit is the recovery of the costly coolant, a water-soluble synthetic with a rust inhibitor. The operator simply siphons the coolant from the vacuum tank through a chip-screen into the machine tool’s sump tank. Recovered coolant is reused rather than become a disposal problem.
With components such as the platens, heavy metal removal creates virtual "mountains of chips" on the table. Here, the new vacuum has proven to be a highly effective chip removal system where there are no automatic chip conveyors. From machining centers throughout the plant, chip-filled 55-gallon tanks are routinely recycled. When a tank is filled, the VAC-2 unit is unclipped, the tank is removed from the rolling dolly, a new tank is placed on the dolly and the vacuum unit clipped back on. The whole transfer takes less than a minute.
Citing other examples of the vacuum’s versatility in the machine shop environment, Mr. Wojcik includes machine and control maintenance as an important facet of Detroit Edge Tool’s overall quality control assurance. Routine vacuuming of the machine tools and surrounding floor space helps maintain the integrity of the electrics and CNC units, reducing the chance of system failure. Vacuuming, as opposed to brushing or wiping has proven far superior in dust, dirt and swarf removal. Foreign matter is not accidentally pushed into sensitive areas; it is safely sucked away.
At Detroit Edge Tool, the VAC-2 wet-dry vacuum is also used for "general maintenance." That term, in a machine shop, covers everything from scrap pickup to oil spill cleanup. Here, it also includes wood chips and sawdust. Detroit Edge Tool has a complete woodworking facility for manufacturing special crates for shipping their large precision components to machine tool customers around the world. Based on the performance of their first VAC-2 wet-dry vacuum, Detroit Edge Tool Company has since bought a second and, according to Mr. Wojcik, plans to purchase more. They have found, it seems, a unique "tool" that serves a variety of production and maintenance functions, is efficient, and saves money.