Traditional press puller systems typically use hydraulics and chains to transmit power and pull extrusions down the leadout table. These aluminum extrusion systems tend to run into trouble from chain-stretch (slack), and process control issues. As they age, maintenance issues surrounding the hydraulics also become increasingly troublesome.
With the growing use of electro-servo motor technology in bending and fabrication machines, manufacturers are seeing more precise, repeatable, and reliable electronic machinery, compared to their hydraulic counterparts. With these advancements and increased use in fabrication equipment, electric machinery prices are falling, making adoption of the new technology in other applications more do-able.
This is great news for aluminum extruders. Newer electronic extrusion puller technology (ePuller) eliminates hydraulic systems traditionally located on the puller, and instead uses a brushless servo motor for its motion power. The electronics-based puller offers significant improvements in seamless motion, repeatability (process control) and reduced maintenance.
A Direct Drive System
For our Indianapolis extrusion press equipment upgrades, we needed to replace the extrusion pullers due to their increasing maintenance and process control issues.
After evaluating a number of suppliers, we selected OMAV (Italy) for our first ePuller, and OMAV’s first system application in North America. OMAV, a mid-sized, privately owned company, gave us the assurance we needed to move forward because it focuses solely on extrusion press technology, while providing
responsive, hands-on support.
The OMAV ePuller system was a perfect match with the configuration we required for our press upgrades. The ePuller eliminates the drive chain by placing the drive motor directly on-board the puller, making the entire system smaller and a better fit with our space constraints.
The direct drive allows for faster synchronization of the puller. It also eliminates chain slack because the system’s direct drive pinion wheel runs on a stationary traction chain instead. This improves pull force precision, and consequently, extrusion quality.
The simplicity and robustness of the mechanical design and self-aligning system also minimizes puller vibration. With less moving parts and I/O devices, and its remote monitoring capability, maintenance and downtime will be minimal, giving us the confidence we needed in the puller system’s long-term performance.
With the on-board electronic puller drives, we have additional available space we can use for more holding table area rather than for the typical hard-to-relocate puller drive machine. With our plans to expand the extrusion lead-out and holding table in the near future, the ePuller system assures us that any future downtime and costs will be minimal.
We planned for a 10-day installation schedule to best accommodate our customer production requirements. To achieve this goal, we needed to install the cantilever puller rail-support columns before shutting down of the old puller system. The system design spaced the columns to allow this to happen, but unfortunately, this was not possible and we lost a few days of production.
Because of this miscalculation, we needed to cut the old system into smaller pieces than planned due to the tight space available during demolition.
We also encountered some minor challenges during installation with the controls integration process, along with unexpected Wi-Fi communication issues that required an additional antenna.
Other learning experiences included determining the puller-profile release mechanism to confirm release and position of release after the extrusion saw cut. This included tuning the flying saw for maximum speed with a shorter-than-typical leadout area, as well as integrating the puller with a walking beam table with limited I/O capability.
Fortunately, with the installation experience of OMAV’s crew, mechanical pre-assembly, and using an electrical trough/raceway instead of conduit, mechanical and electrical installation proceeded faster than scheduled.
With the technology change, our maintenance technicians needed to acquire a different mindset and skillset, which includes excellent communication between OMAV’s technical support team and our maintenance staff. Our technicians know not to tamper with the performance or settings of the system on their own, as is regularly done with hydraulics. Rather, they need to be diligent in noting changes in the system that can be indicators of a problem, and share this with our OMAV team.
We decided a service contract would be the best way to ensure any system tuning after the break-in period, and a regular preventative maintenance schedule will keep us on the right track.
Better Than Ever
One year after installation, we are completely satisfied with the performance and robustness of the ePuller system. We have doubled our extrusion production rates and increased the maximum flying saw cut speed by 10%. The Wi-Fi communication system is performing well with the added antenna, and we are pleased with the quench cooling system improvements. Our Indianapolis team is thrilled to have the ability to serve our customers better.
With the new ePuller, we are able to maximize the Indianapolis facility’s space and have room to add another table.
The ePuller is one of the most exciting innovations in extrusion technology. Compared to the traditional operator-intensive hydraulic systems, the ePuller’s programmability, torque monitoring, feedback, and ease of integration with the leadout table, puts us in perfect position for future expansions.
We are excited to see what the next generation of electronic control technology for extrusion press lines and handling systems will bring.
Give us a call if you would like to visit our facility in Indianapolis to see the ePuller and other extrusion press upgrades. Our doors are always open.