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The System Integrator’s Role in Recovery from Pandemic-Driven Disruption

Thus far in 2021, you have not had to look hard to find a manufacturing business with a “Help Wanted” sign adorning their frontage. Here in northeast Ohio, talk radio has become a sounding board for business leaders to vent on a common theme: “We are unable to fill our demand due to labor shortages bottlenecking our operations.”

"Now Hiring" banner in front of a business

The root cause of our current labor shortage problem is beyond the scope of this article, as well as, outside the influence of the typical business manager. Here at Steelastic, we know through contacts within our automation supply chain, that many manufacturers have reacted to this problem by streamlining labor intensive operations with automation. This is accomplished by integrating sensing technology and/or material handling, including robotics, into their existing production systems.

Steelastic

Keys to System Integration

Over the past 51 years, Steelastic have forged a name for ourselves in engineering and manufacture of high precision, tire component production lines, citing nearly 800 installations in this time span. Eighty percent of these turnkey systems entail integration of mechanical, electrical, and software systems to the end of encapsulating horizontally spaced rows of steel tire cords with rubber in a continuous process.

Steel tire cords

In this experience, we have learned that system integration requires an extensive collection of tools and skillsets. To name a few of these keys:

  • High proficiency in mechanical, electrical, and software engineering fundamentals.
  • Knowledge of industry standards, especially safety related.
  • Intimacy with numerous software interfaces.
  • High skill level in fine tuning of hardware, including troubleshooting.
  • Continual awareness of the offerings of the automation market.
  • Longstanding relationships with the suppliers that serve us the solutions that we make our livings from integrating together.

Steelastic’s reputation is founded in a niche area of tire manufacturing, but we are well equipped to take on the broader challenges of numerous markets.

Automation Integration Examples

Proportional-integral-derivative (PID) control integration

Armored drain cableA drain cleaning equipment manufacturer uses a spring coiling machine to produce their armored drain cable. Part of their process involves induction heating of the cable once it is downstream of the coiling operation.

Historically, part of the operator’s responsibility was to measure the cable temperature, then adjust the heater output as necessary for the cable to achieve the required temperature. As the line speed varies, the heater output must be readjusted to maintain the required temperature. This manual, “open loop” process was eliminated by sourcing a sensor that could accurately measure the temperature of the cables reflective surface, then integrating this feedback into the heater output control.

From the customer’s perspective, this operator task was eliminated. The integration enables the employee to accomplish other tasks, and it reduced the level of “knowhow” required by the position, potentially making it easier to fill in the future.

The first key to getting this done successfully and in short order was Steelastic knew who to call to obtain a sensor that could accurately measure the temperature of this reflective surface. From there, our core skill set of setting up a PID control was deployed.

A typical manufacturing operation contains hundreds of similar labor streamlining opportunities throughout their facilities.

Unloader integration

There are countless examples of industrial production systems that require an operator to stand at the downstream end of the line, perform a “last-ditch” spot check that the product is defect free, and intervene in the event that a “bad one” comes through. This scenario is an unenviable task, filled with potential for errors, and a classic opportunity for automation enhancement.

Automated robot checking for defectsSteelastic routinely develop unload solutions for our production lines. We have hundreds of examples of both integrated “catalog” material handling and vision components, as well as, custom designed gantry and end effector tooling systems. Our broad experience with the non-liner materials utilized in tire production have made us accustomed to handling difficult to manipulate objects and materials.

From the customer’s perspective, this type of integration often eliminates the need for an employee to man the end of the line and will improve the quality level, considering that machine’s minds do not wander, nor become distracted by Instagram posts.

The keys to success here include:

  1. Knowledge of the sensing technology that will best replace the human eye which will net the pass/fail signal. This entails, not only, knowing the options available on the market, but also, how to tune and program these devices. Programing often involves development of complex algorithms that effectively teach the system to interpret what a “bad one” looks like from the data that is output from the sensing technology deployed.
    Cognex
  2. Proficiency with the software technology used to coordinate the servo motors used to power the specific material handling device employed to remove the “bad one” before it is mixed with the “good ones”.
  3. Experience with the design of the tooling necessary to accurately and repeatably pick and place the product requiring handling.
  4. Most importantly, high competency in the practice of implementing this type of integration without putting workers in harm’s way. This requires proper utilization of safety devices in adherence to industry standards.

automated integrations

In closing, the pandemic has clearly disrupted our near-term world; however, it will likely have lasting effects on the workplace, in terms of where personnel do their work, as well as what duties they are charged with out on the production floor.

Is your business ready to streamline labor intensive operations with automation? Contact us today.

Author

V.P. of Engineering, Jack Papes has been a passionate designer of machines and systems for the past 33 years and has enjoyed the pleasure of leading the Steelastic-RMS engineering team since 2014.

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Calenderless Manufacturing Cell Enables Testing of Tire Reinforcement Materials – Tire Technology International

Steelastic's calenderless manufacturing cell in Akron, Ohio, US, facilitySteelastic has built a calenderless manufacturing cell in its Akron, US facility to enable tire manufacturers to test run their own materials for tire reinforcement components. The company’s extrusion-based manufacturing processes for belt/breaker, body ply, cap strip and innerliner eliminate the need for expensive and inflexible calendering and off-line processing equipment.

The compact, single-operator machines used in this cell have been developed in response to a growing demand for more flexible, highly automated and lower capital outlay manufacturing systems. “This dedicated manufacturing cell is a key component of our drive to help manufacturers worldwide convert to more versatile, smaller footprint systems, necessary to profitably manufacture shorter runs of multiple tire types,” said Ian Dennis, president of Steelastic.

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Machinery: STEELASTIC® Introduces Combo Belt & Body Ply Machine – Tyre Asia

Steelastic Belt Body Ply Combo MachineSTEELASTIC, the world leader in extrusion-based systems for manufacturing tyre reinforcing components, has introduced its new Combo Belt & Body Ply Machine. This combination machine, originally developed for STEELASTIC’s own Calenderless Manufacturing Cell, can switch from running steel belt / breaker material to textile or steel body ply in a matter of minutes. The combo machine shares a common extrusion, cooling and accumulation system, with separate cutting and splicing lines for belt / breaker and body ply. Material is produced in one, end-to-end process, from creel to wind-up, eliminating the need for expensive calendering and off-line processing operations.

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Technology: ‘Calenderless’ Manufacturing Cell – Tyre Asia

Tyre Asia Technology Calenderless Manufacturing CellHistorically, calendering machines with secondary offline processing operations have been used to produce steel and textile belt/breaker, steel and textile body ply, textile and steel cap strip, inner liner and other single compound components. Replacing the calendering equipment used in producing these materials with highly automated and versatile extrusion-based systems eliminates WIP and all the associated steps moving material in and out of storage. The added automation and quick-change versatility of these machines also serve to perfectly align the tyre manufacturing process with modern needs. This is the significance of the ‘calenderless’ solution that STEELASTIC recently introduced.

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Steelastic® Introduces Combo Belt & Body Ply Machine

 

Detail images of Combo Belt & Body Ply Machine from Steelastic

CUYAHOGA FALLS, OH – Nov. 6, 2019. Steelastic, the world leader in extrusion-based systems for manufacturing tire reinforcing components, has introduced its new Combo Belt & Body Ply Machine. This combination machine, originally developed for Steelastic’s own Calenderless Manufacturing Cell, can switch from running steel belt / breaker material to textile or steel body ply in a matter of minutes. The combo machine shares a common extrusion, cooling and accumulation system, with separate cutting and splicing lines for belt / breaker and body ply. Material is produced in one, end-to-end process, from creel to wind-up, eliminating the need for expensive calendering and off-line processing operations.

 

“We wanted to make it easy for tire manufacturers to try our calenderless manufacturing process, using their own materials, with the finished product produced to their exact specifications,” said Ian Dennis, Steelastic President. “To achieve this, we invested in our groundbreaking Calenderless Manufacturing Cell incorporating our new generation of highly flexible Belt and Body Ply machines. This combination machine format is very attractive to tire manufacturers, particularly for R&D facilities, where smaller batch sizes and regular SKU changes are the norm.”

 

The new Steelastic® Combo Belt & Body Ply Machine is custom-designed for every application and can even be adapted to add extruded textile cap strip manufacture. The basic set-up includes creels for steel or textile reinforcement cords, which feed into a cross head extrusion die where the cords are fully encapsulated in rubber. The material then passes through a cooling and accumulation unit, before being processed in either the belt / breaker or the body ply machines, and then wound with liner on an in-line wind-up system. In-line hot or cold gum edging of the steel belt can also be added if needed. The machine is operated by a single operator to minimize operational cost.

 

For more information about the Steelastic® Combo Belt & Body Ply Machine, call us today at +1-330-633-0505 or email at sales@steelastic.com. www.steelastic.com.

 

About Steelastic:

Founded in 1970, The Steelastic Co., LLC is the leading designer and manufacturer of extrusion-based systems for manufacturing belt, cap strip, inner liner, and apex components for passenger, truck, bus, off road, aircraft and motorcycle tires. Steelastic is the fuel behind the “Go Calenderless” revolution in the tire making industry, allowing tiremakers to now profitably manufacture shorter runs of multiple SKUs. Today, Steelastic has over 900 systems operating in more than 55 countries around the world. Steelastic has been owned by Heico Companies LLC since 1998. Chicago-based Heico is a privately held, WBENC-certified business with a portfolio of more than 50 companies worldwide representing engineered components, specialty equipment, construction and industrial services and steel products.

 

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Nokian Inaugurates Tennessee Tire Plant – Rubber & Plastics News

Nokian Tire Plant Dayton TennesseeDAYTON, Tenn.—Nokian Tyres P.L.C. has commissioned production at its Dayton passenger/light truck tire factory two years after breaking ground on the $360 million project.

Speaking to an audience of several hundred tire dealers, state, regional and local government officials, local and trade media and other invited guests, Nokian Tyres CEO Hille Korhonen and other Nokian executives declared the factory—the company’s third overall and first outside of Europe—open for business.

Calling the opening a “key milestone” in Nokian’s growth journey, Korhonen noted the Dayton factory will provide the impetus for her company’s ambitious growth strategy—to double sales volume in North America by 2023—as well as considerable career opportunities for residents of eastern Tennessee.

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Technology: STEELASTIC® Introduces Calenderless Manufacturing Cell – European Rubber Journal

Calenderless Tire Manufacturing Cell Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio – Steelastic has built a calenderless manufacturing cell to enable tire manufacturers to test run their materials for the production of a range of tire reinforcement components.

Manufactured at Steelastic’s Akron facility, the cell’s extrusion-based manufacturing processes for belt/breaker, body ply, cap strip and inner liner are claimed to eliminate the need for calendering and off-line processing equipment.

The single-operator equipment used in the cell have been developed in response to growing demand for “more flexible, highly automated and lower capital outlay manufacturing systems,” said the extrusion machinery supplier in a 24 Sept statement.

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STEELASTIC® Introduces “Calenderless” Manufacturing Cell

Calenderless Manufacturing CellCUYAHOGA FALLS, OH – Sept.25, 2019. STEELASTIC has built a Calenderless Manufacturing Cell in its Akron area facility to enable tire manufacturers to test run their own materials to produce the full range of tire reinforcement components. STEELASTIC’s extrusion-based manufacturing processes for belt/breaker, body ply, cap strip and inner liner eliminate the need for expensive and inflexible calendering and off-line processing equipment.

The compact, single-operator machines used in this cell have been developed in response to a growing demand for more flexible, highly automated and lower capital outlay manufacturing systems. “This dedicated manufacturing cell is a key component of our drive to help manufacturers, worldwide, convert to more versatile, smaller footprint systems, necessary to profitably manufacture shorter runs of multiple tire types,” said Ian Dennis, STEELASTIC President.

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STEELASTIC® Introduces Calenderless Manufacturing Cell – Tire Review

extruded steel belt textile body ply machineSteelastic has built a calenderless manufacturing cell in its Akron-area facility to enable tire manufacturers to test run their own materials to produce the full range of tire reinforcement components.

Steelastic’s extrusion-based manufacturing processes for belt/breaker, body ply, cap strip and inner liner eliminate the need for expensive and inflexible calendering and off-line processing equipment, the company says.

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STEELASTIC® Completes Puzzle with New System – Rubber & Plastics News

Ian Dennis Shows Body Ply Splce

Photo by: Bruce Meyer, Rubber & Plastics News

HANOVER, Germany—Machinery maker Steelastic Co. L.L.C. has been a bit cryptic in its marketing efforts in recent weeks.

The Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio-based producer of equipment used in tire component preparation has been urging its customers and perspective clients to “Think Small” or “Go Calenderless.”

Steelastic, part of the Heico Tire & Rubber Group, started the campaign in conjunction with its unveiling of the firm’s Extruded Textile Body Ply System.

The company launched the system at the Tire Technology Expo, and said it is the first option on the market that can replace the textile calender and offline cutting equipment that currently is used to produce all textile body plies, according to Steelastic President Ian Dennis. He discussed the new offering during the expo, held March 5-7 in Hanover.

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