Automation of Condenser and Radiator Tube Stacking
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This career episode will focus on my final project carried out to satisfy the credentials required to complete my undergraduate degree. I was able to understand the process of automation cleaning process rather than the standard manual process. I understood the use of CATIA software in designing and developing the models for the project. I was able to enhance my communication and written skills.
Visteon Automotive India Private Ltd mainly concentrates on the quality of their product. The problem criteria related with the post tube milling process that is the condenser and radiator tube cleaning. The present cleaning method is done manually. Limitations of the present method are that the tubes are produces at high speeds (for example 240 tubes/ min). It is not possible to control the rate of production of the tubes, so it requires more manpower for the cleaning process. It leads to many disadvantages such as erosion in tubes, stacking of tubes is difficult, more manpower is required, remains of burrs and coolant, more time is required for the entire process.
This project is aimed to design an automation process for this ongoing issue. A few concepts were modelled in CATIA. Only one concept was accepted by Visteon for which complete modelling, drafting and costing was done. Since the concept meets the requirements it would benefit Visteon in terms of automation, less manpower, customer satisfaction, work accuracy and cost effective process.
The following activities were essential to successful competition of the project:
- Completion of the project within the timeframe given by the professor.
- Have brain storming sessions with project supervisor on how to carry out the work.
- I read books and conducted a literature review on material properties and selection.
- Discuss with lab technicians on the parts required for designing the automation process.
- Carry out the necessary designs using CATIA software
- Calculate the material cost along with its dimensions.
- The project documentation was completed which presented my finding and the results to the project supervisor and the faculty.
The hierarchy of the project is shown below:
- Personal Engineering Activity:
As part of the final project we were formed in groups of three. I along with my team members were assigned to a project supervisor. After a few brainstorming sessions, our supervisor suggested to visit Visteon Automotive and find out a problem criteria. After careful observation and planning myself and my team members decided to develop an automatic tube stacking and cleaning process for the condenser and radiator. This project helped in reducing the overall costs, labour required and better cleaning quality.
This was a challenging project; the first step was to understand the procedure carried out my manual cleaning. I conducted a literature review on the manual process and its advantages and disadvantages along with the material properties and selection. The project supervisor helped in understanding the major requirements:
- Automated stacking of tubes
- Automated loading of tubes in trays/bins
- Automated cleaning process either through blowing process or suction
I suggested the project guide that we use CATIA software as it has better 3D visualization for which the project guide agreed and asked to carry out the design of the automation process.
Myself and my team members carried out different designs which would help in the automation process. I have encountered a few limitations in our designs and approached the supervisor with the findings. The supervisor was impressed with the findings and suggested to talk to one of the employee of Visteon Automotive to help us with the problem. The main limitations encountered while designing are as follows:
- Tubes with different dimensions cannot be arranged.
- Since the tubes are produced at 240 pieces/min (average) it is very difficult to arrange in a single plane.
- Slip of tubes may occur frequently.
- Cleaning is not done completely.
- Frequent monitoring is required. Thereby increasing the labour cost.
After careful planning and taking into consideration the key points myself and my team members were able to produce a design for the automation process and has fulfilled the major requirements. The process begins as the tubes from hopper are collected Tubes get collected in stacker 1 which are balanced by and remains there until a certain amount is filled (approx. 100 tubes). As the amount is achieved, plate A opens and the tubes get into stacker 2. As soon as the certain amount reaches stacker 2, the plate A again closes to hold the remaining tubes. The movable walls lock the tubes in stacker 2 and with the help of a linear rotary clamp cylinder (900 cylinders), the stacker bends down to the bin position. The movable walls retract, then arm A comes in contact, takes the bin to the cleaning area, cleaning process takes place and the same arm drops the bin in the unloading area. Finally, the product is unloaded manually.
Once the design was approved the next step was to fabricate the parts required for the model. I took the initiative to list all the parts required for the model. After which our supervisor suggested the materials required for the parts. I also carried out the material cost for parts requiring fabrication. The costs for other parts were calculated and the entire estimate was made. The Bill of Materials includes the details about the material used; density of the respective material used, dimensions such as length, breadth, thickness, diameter, mass, and volume are indicated.
The following are the key aspects from my analysis:
- The problems in manual cleaning of condenser and radiator tubes are erosion in tubes; stacking of tubes is difficult; more manpower is required; remains of burrs and coolant; more time is required for the entire process.
- Suction unit was provided with an adjustable linear guide so that the unit can be adjusted according to the tube dimensions.
- Cylinder mechanism was provided to transfer tubes from stacker 1 and 2 in order to reduce tube damage.
- L clamp structures were provided for cylinders as holding devices to reduce space.
- The final concept meets all the requirements such as automated stacking; automated loading of tubes in bins and automated cleaning.
- It would benefit them in terms of automation, less manpower, customer satisfaction and work accuracy.
The project was completed within the timeframe given due to proper planning and has met the requirements. I had discussions with lab assistants to understand different tools of the CATIA software. I strengthened my communication and written skills along with analytical ability by working on the design of the automatic tube stacking and cleaning process. The results of the projects were documented and submitted to the project guide.
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