Manufacturing Solutions, From Start to Finish.

David Strong

Cleveland Vibrator recently added a new employee in the Fabricated Equipment area of the company.  At the end of 2015 our CEO declared that 2016 would be a “year of investment” here in terms of both people and equipment.  It’s exciting to see this sort of thing happening, good people coming on board as well as some new CNC equipment on the immediate horizon.  It all makes Cleveland Vibrator a better company.  While getting to know a bit about our new guy in the Fab area, we talked some about his work experience and the opportunity at Cleveland Vibrator.  One of the things he already likes about the position is that he gets to see a piece of equipment completely manufactured, start to finish.  I told him that’s one of the things that I’ve always enjoyed about my job, getting to be involved with the complete process often starting with the solution concept generation phase to final testing of that solution prior to it shipping out to the customer.

I think most engineers are problem solvers and that’s one of the aspects of this profession that they find interesting and rewarding.  That’s certainly the case for me.  I’ve always found the diversity of Cleveland Vibrator’s customers and their problems very interesting.  Plus, I feel that we have a very “intimate” manufacturing process, it’s all here in one location.   Whether it’s the manufacture of a pneumatic piston vibrator, as an example the 1300 VMSAC, air cushion vibrator piston vibrator or a large vibratory feeder such as the recently completed EMF-T-16176 RE45-6(2), electromechanical tube feeder, a sixteen inch diameter tube feeder over fourteen feet long, it’s all done under one roof.  You get to see a design come to life before your eyes, even after 20 years here I still love that piece of the job.

As for as diversity of problems looking for the appropriate solution, we certainly have that here.  Looking at the equipment jobs that we currently have in house, we go from conveying corn and soybeans to compacting specially blended powered metals to vibrating automotive engine heads to remove foreign objects to densifying frozen blueberries.  Maybe I don’t get out enough, perhaps too much guitar building on the weekends, but I don’t know too many folks that get the opportunity to see so many different applications in such a wide range of industries as I get to see and get involved with on a weekly basis.  If you like something new and challenging, there’s usually a problem right around the corner looking for the right solution.  Solutions, that’s what Cleveland Vibrator is all about, listening to the description of a problem or difficulty in a process and working with the customer to provide The Solution.  The Solution could be as simple as selecting the appropriate pneumatic Single Impact vibrator, SI, to help move a moist and sticky product out of a hopper.  Or it might be more complex, such as vibrating a table and mold during a filling process where we’ve integrated weigh modules and a PLC to monitor the varying load and as the load increases, increase the force produced by the rotary electric vibrators to provide a constant level of vibration.

Another aspect of the “intimate” manufacturing process is that I’m often involved early on in a project is having the opportunity to meet with potential customers, discuss their problems and goals for The Solution is always fascinating.  Typically, people are very passionate about what they’re doing and want a partner that will share that enthusiasm and help develop a viable solution.  Recently, I had the opportunity to assist one of the Sales Team members with an application.  He has been working with the potential customer for some time now, a fair amount of back and forth, discussing possible options and trying to get a better understand of the customer’s process and challenges.  The basic problem is that the customer wants to fill a number of different sized trays with a certain amount of seeds.  The Solution needs to be flexible enough to adjust to the varying sizes of the trays; deposit a consistent amount of these seeds into the tray regardless of the tray width and must be able to convey the material via vibration even if the material is slightly moist.  Talking with the customer it was easy to pick up on his enthusiasm for his process and product and really want to assist him in accomplishing his goals.

One of the customer’s goals is to be able to fill a number of these trays one after another without having his employees deal with the issue of constantly providing more seeds to the process.  It seems like an excellent fit for a vibratory hopper feeder.  The hopper could be sized to hold a larger quantity of the seeds and be able to supply a steady consistent amount of material to the vibratory feeder/s.  One of the first things we wanted to confirm was the flowability of the moist material, the Sales Team member and I were very confident that the dry seeds wouldn’t be a problem to move but we really wanted to test the moist seeds before moving forward with The Solution generation phase.  We asked the customer to bring in a sample of the moist seeds so that we could test them on a smaller air powered hopper feeder in our test lab.  Here’s a link to a recently taken video of this hopper feeder, RFM-A-419-125, moving a reground plastic material. – After loading the hopper with about five gallons of moist seeds we started the unit and observed the material flow.  No problem at all, the moist material was easily conveyed via the vibratory motion of the hopper-feeder tray.  During the testing the customer moved a tray under the discharge end of the feeder so that he could observe the distribution of the seeds and see how the thickness of the seeds deposited on the tray could be controlled by the speed with which me moved the tray relative to the discharge end of the feeder.  All positive results, more pieces to The Solution where falling into place.

The final piece of The Solution was left to me to figure out how to accommodate the varying tray sizes and keep a steady flow of material to each of the trays.  Using a hopper feeder concept seemed like the route, testing had shown this to be an acceptable answer.  The last outstanding piece for me was to build in the flexibility to handle the different tray sizes.  Being sensitive to energy requirements and building in robust flexibility, it made sense that The Solution should utilize rotary electric (RE) vibrators as the motion inducing piece of the puzzle.  By selecting rotary electric vibrators I was able to choose from four different speeds of vibrators, 3600, 1800, 1200 and 900 rpm.  The 1800 rpm (four pole family of RE vibrators) seem well suited to this application.  The 1800 rpm vibrators will provide plenty of energy to move the material; the speed of the vibrators will produce a relatively small amplitude of vibration or stroke.  The smaller amplitude of vibration provides good control of the material flow and prevents the dry seeds from “bouncing” too much, which might happen with a larger amplitude unit.

We want a consistent, steady flow of material, this steady flow off the end of the vibratory tray helps provide a controllable buildup of seeds on the trays.   The Solution I 3D modeled uses a rigid frame work on which I’ve mounted multiple smaller feeder trays with adjustable mounting holes.  To the framework I’ve attached a pair of RE 1.5-4 vibrators.  These vibrators will supply plenty of energy to produce the requirement vibratory motion, plus with the use of a variable frequency controller the customer can supply 110V to the control box and let the controller step the voltage up to 230/3/60 power required by these vibrators.  This makes the installation and utility requirements very easy plus the variable frequency controller will enable the customer to “dial in” just the right setting to deposit his target amount of seeds onto his moving trays.  My vision of The Solution is to have a larger hopper, with multiple outlets each with an adjustable gate, mounted above the feeders.  The hopper would ensure the steady flow of material to the feeders required to give a consistent flow off the feeders and onto the trays, the gates would give our customer yet another means of controlling the flow of seeds so that just the right amount would be deposited on the tray.

This Solution hasn’t reached the purchase order phase just yet, but I’m hoping to see this project come into engineering as a “Sold” job before too long.  It will certainly be fun and interesting to watch it work its way through our manufacturing process and provide the customer with The Solution he needs to meet his company’s goals.


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