Sanding structural aluminum is impossible
“That’s impossible! Everything has to be done by hand!”
This is what I always hear when I talk to a customer about a new solution that I have just developed …
To be honest, I too had the same opinion as these customers, until recently.
Perhaps you already know this, but before this I need to go back a step: When we talk about structural aluminum, we mean all of those components of a modern automobile body that make up its structure.
Until a few years ago (and it is all the more true today for low-end cars) the car’s body was made of electrowelded steel. This solution is about to become outdated by a functional body that is made from cast and extruded aluminum.
The body of these new designs is made with aluminum components that are bonded to each other.
Aluminum has the great advantage of being light and automobiles consequently use less fuel while maintaining the same performance (because the car is lighter).
However there is a problem that arises from all this.
These cast aluminum components must be of very large dimensions as well as a limited thickness (the thinner the piece the greater the weight reduction is) … and this creates a problem.
The moulds quickly wear out!
And so what is the result?
Anyone who produces pieces of structural aluminum needs thousands of workers who fix the pieces: they deburr them, they sand them, they round the edges.
It would not be so serious if this were the only problem.
The problem becomes serious because this work is exhausting, challenging and difficult.
We just don’t have the workers who are willing to do this!
It is not enough to find a platoon of a thousand workers to wage a battle, they must not fall … you need them to win your daily war.
When you have to deburr and sand structural pieces your workers must:
- Handle unwieldy and sharp-edged pieces
- Use vibrating tools
- Literally eat dust all day, because no effective ventilation systems have yet been made
- Change the abrasive material often because it easily becomes worn out
- Guarantee a spatial quality, because it concerns automobile components
You can easily understand that finding so many workers who are competent for this profession is an arduous task.
Then you have to consider it is not enough to find them, you also have to train them.
It’s a total mess.
All the same, if you want to get involved in this booming sector, until yesterday you had no alternative.
Until today, no one has managed to automate this process because it was too complex.
Some have tried, but with poor results.
I have seen robots that do the simple part of the job (perhaps only 20%) and a lot of workers who end up by repairing the damage done by the robot.
Finding a solution has not been an easy, flowing, highway for me either. I am never overly fond of mentioning setbacks, so I will not delve into them, this time either.
But to be honest, there have been more than a few in this project.
However after 10 years of development, of attempts and experience I can say that we have come up with an unbeatable solution.
But why was it so difficult?
The structural piece is complicated to work for a myriad of reasons.
There are a great deal of issues that need to be solved:
- the piece is large
- the piece is deformed and each one in a different way
- you see withdrawals of material
- the quality requested is high
- you have to change the sanding paper often
You have to apply a special finish that does not show any defects after it is has been painted
No one had ever found any solutions for all of these problems.
But with dedication and growing experience I managed to find my way.
I sorted out the problems and one by one I found a solution.
Today I have a machine that solves all these problems involved in working structural pieces.
I am not sharing any information here on how this machine is made. If you want to see it, touch it and understand it, you must come come and see it with your own eyes.