Process optimisation can be carried out in countless different ways, but sometimes just one single component can make all the difference. This is what they discovered at Sintex A/S when they wanted to optimise the uptime of a newly acquired grinding machine.
Sintex produces sintered materials for many different industries, including the pump industry, where the requirements are high, for example when it comes to the tolerances of the final products. The sintered materials are produced by compressing and heating powdered metal to create the final basic shape of the material. With sintering technology, it is possible to produce products with very fine tolerances, but a few product groups require post-machining with grinding to meet the end customers' high requirements.
The grinding is carried out with a fully automatic grinding machine. During the grinding process, the sintered materials are placed in transport discs specifically made for this purpose. The transport discs are designed with round holes into which the materials fit perfectly. As the discs are worn, they become thinner, and the holes are stretched, becoming oblong due to the extreme pressure to which the transport disc is subjected by the grinding machine. Once the holes have become sufficiently oblong, and the thickness of the discs has been reduced enough, it is no longer possible to achieve the right tolerances, and the machine could break down because the materials might fall through the disc. To avoid this, the transport discs must be replaced before they get too worn.
The transport disc, holding the sintered materials (not visible in this photo), is exposed to extreme pressure during grinding.
In order for Sintex to meet their requirement for the grinding of sintered materials, the grinding machine runs round the clock and only gets turned off for longer periods during the most significant bank holidays. It is, however, necessary to turn off the machine to replace the transport discs. The efficiency of the grinding machine thus suffers every single time the discs need replacing.
"Once the new machine had been delivered, we began to use transport discs made of plastic. However, these discs were worn down so quickly that we could hardly replace them fast enough, and we needed to replace the disc every single day. This was a major problem, as it required many resources, and it was very far from optimal for our entire process."
The plastic transport discs being unable to meet the production requirements at Sintex, it was necessary to identify an alternative material that could last much longer.
To solve this problem, Sintex trialled discs made of the extremely hard-wearing G-Etronax EP 203. Initially, the discs were machined by a third party:
"When the transport discs were machined by a subcontractor, their quality was not quite as required, but now Elektro-Isola delivers the finished materials to us, and we can really see that the quality is markedly improved and very different from the plastic discs. Where previously we used one transport disc per day, we now only replace the disc about once a fortnight. It makes a major difference, and not only can we grind many more materials per day, we also save on the cost of the grinding discs, since we use a lot fewer than previously."
The G-Etronax EP 203 transport discs, being extremely hard-wearing, have significantly optimised the grinding process.
Once the challenge with the new machine became apparent, it was crucial for Sintex to rapidly optimise the grinding machine operation, which required both effective communication and action:
"Right from the beginning, we had an excellent cooperation with Elektro-Isola and a mutual agreement to quickly find a solution. Particularly in the beginning, we experienced a highly flexible cooperation from Elektro-Isola, enabling us to test the materials before we committed ourselves to a longer term cooperation. The high flexibility during the upstart phase was a major plus, enabling us to quickly begin to solve what had been a major issue for us. At the time, our new grinding machine had just been delivered, and because of the problems with the old grinding discs, the machine operation did not deliver the desired performance. Elektro-Isola helped us solve this problem, and we are very happy with the cooperation."
It is important to Sintex always to have transport discs available, which is why they have entered into an agreement that ensures that sufficient transport discs are always in stock, enabling swift disc deliveries and constant operation of the optimised production process.
Sintex was founded in 1997 by Grundfos A/S and has since then developed and produced sintered metal materials for a wide range of industries.