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Intermet Starts Robotic Finishing Cell at Virginia Foundry

April 15, 2008
New River installation improves safety, quality, and productivity
Intermet reports it has started up a robotic press cell at its New River Foundry in Radford, VA, where it handles and cleans light-truck differential carriers. The announcement was made at the Society of Automotive Engineers’ World Expo in Detroit, where Intermet is an exhibitor at the parallel trade show, OEM/Supplier Park. The manufacturer of cast-metal components for the automotive, commercial-vehicle, and industrial markets, says the installation removes casting residue and reduces heavy manual labor, and verifies process results with a laser vision system. "Safety, quality and productivity: in the manufacturing world, those are the big three," observes New River Foundry general manager William Nestel. As described by Intermet, the new operation involves a trimming press to clean the flash from the interior and exterior of the cast parts. Then, a specially designed robotic arm transfers the differential cases from the press and places them on a laser stand, which is used to gauge the accuracy of the casting. Intermet states its new process means its differential carriers are able to meet high quality standards and tighter dimensional tolerances. For example, the lasers verify the width and the height of the differential carrier's cover face (i.e., the large end extending toward the rear of the truck) and the distance from one axle tip end to the other. "The stand has six lasers that verify that the part is correct,” according to Nestel. “The right length, the right height, the right thickness." He continues: "On the pinion end, which is what connects to the drive shaft at the small part of the casting, we have another set of lasers that verify that the carrier is going to sit down in the customer's fixtures correctly." Once the measurements are complete, the robotic arm moves the carrier to a transfer location. Then, the trimming press handles all the detailed filing that had been a manual task, and the robotic arm handles all the lifting of the 50- to 68-lb castings. "By eliminating the manual lifting and handling of the castings, we have a more efficient operation and expect to see a drop in work-related injuries," Nestel says.