Automation in Mechanical Engineering [Mechanical engineering]

Automation in Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering Controls Automation (MECA) Corporation

“Eaton’s hydraulic components are a good match with MECA controls. They enable us to achieve +/-0.005-inch positional closing, which is critical in our molding process.”

Jim Bour
MECA president

Background

Eaton’s products and technical expertise in hydraulic system design have played a vital role in the introduction of a unique, production molding system.

Large-bore cylinders and servo proportional valves from Eaton’s Hydraulics Group have leading role positions on the new automated Self-Aligning Actuating Mold (SAAM) systems, developed by Mechanical Engineering Controls Automation (MECA) Corporation of Elkhart, Indiana.

The Eaton products are providing power and motion control for the SAAM systems that are being used by Plastics Research Corporation (PRC) in Ontario, California. The SAAM units produce large, lightweight, shipping and storage containers for military and commercial use.

Challenge

Empowering a spirit of innovation, MECA began development of the new molding system technology in 2002 to produce products using low-pressure molding compound (LPMC), which has a longer shelf life and lower molding pressure requirements than conventional sheet molding compound (SMC). The industrial machinery manufacturer envisioned a system that would operate at material process pressures as low as 100 psi and incorporate fabricated steel tooling, instead of at 1, 000- psi material pressures with expensive solid steel tooling required by conventional SMC environments.

Although well-versed in LPMC processing and control systems, MECA engineers were unsure of hydraulic requirements for their brainchild, or rules to abide by in terms of hydraulic system design. For this reason, they called on the assistance of Eaton’s Duane Jaros, Application and Commercial Engineering (ACE) Industrial engineer, who became an integral member of the project’s design team.

MECA teamed with Eaton’s ACE Industrial group to offer two SAAM system styles, including a dedicated system with designed-in tooling and a more conventional platen system that allows tooling to be interchanged. Knee-deep into the project, the team faced many challenges in the design phase.

Solution

The system build work began by conducting a detailed analysis of the flow and pressure requirements for the complete mold cycle, calculating component sizing, and verifying the adherence of Eaton products to hydraulic specifications. With parameters set, Jaros and other members of the team designed an Eaton powerunit specifically for the SAAM application. Meanwhile, they worked through multiple hydraulic system designs that used from three to six cylinders to actuate the SAAM units, as well as options for mechanically attaching the cylinders to the press.

With exhaustive design support from Eaton’s U.S. cylinder production facilities, the team finalized on a hydraulic system consisting of four Eaton G-Series largebore cylinders with embedded position transducers to raise and lower the press, as well as Eaton’s Vickers® KBH servospool proportional valves for controlling press alignment. Other Eaton components in the design included pumps, manifolds, filters, accumulators, directional and relief valves, hose, and fittings.



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