Case Study: Abtex Corporation and an Automotive Gear Manufacturer

October 14, 2016

When an automotive gear being manufactured every six seconds required deburring in two separate locations, this powertrain manufacturer turned to Abtex for a customized deburring system that resulted in enhanced efficiency and productivity.

Since 1980, Abtex Corporation — headquartered in Dresden, New York, the Finger Lakes area of New York State — has been solving deburring problems for some of the world’s most quality-conscious manufacturers. Over the years, the company has become a worldwide supplier of brush-based deburring systems to manufacturers in the powder metal, fineblanking, and aluminum industries. Abtex acts as a creative engineering partner, applying its experience and expertise to some of the toughest automotive, aerospace, and medical-equipment challenges to help ensure that its customers’ reputations for high-quality parts are maintained.

For most customers, Abtex develops a customized deburring system that simultaneously removes burrs (without affecting part geometries), enhances productivity, and integrates seamlessly into an existing production environment, taking up only as much floor space as is necessary and available. Providing such solutions often involves creating customized brushes, innovative parts-handling mechanisms that enhance workflow with robotics, machine vision systems, and other technologies.

For a major automotive gear manufacturer, Abtex recently developed two such solutions. The first led Abtex to create an innovative, robotic parts-handling system, using machine vision to identify parts that needed deburring.

The same customer then received a sizable contract to produce large quantities of a particular gear, and efficient deburring was critical. Based on Abtex’s innovative use of the robotics-based parts handling system in the first challenge, Abtex engineers were tapped to develop a system capable of deburring two sensitive areas of the same gear in one operation, at a rate of no more than six seconds per part.

The part was a powder-metal transmission gear (see Figure 1), pressed, sintered, ground, and case-hardened. The burrs left by the manufacturing process occurred on a flat surface on the gear hub and on the gear teeth themselves. In both cases, part tolerances were critical, so deburring needed to be accomplished with absolutely no impact on part dimensions or contours.

As a company specializing in brush deburring, Abtex’s first concern is always the development of the appropriate brush for the task. Deburring brushes are highly engineered tools that deploy specific formulations of abrasive nylon filaments mounted on a circular substrate, which is spun by powerful electric motors at a calculated number of rotations per minute. The filaments (see Figure 2) are made with specific grit densities, lengths, and styles and are designed to strike burrs at specific angles and with the proper force to remove them without affecting the part surface.

Nylon abrasive filament brushes are a natural match for gear deburring because individual filaments can reach even the most difficult-to-reach part surfaces, like those between gear teeth and splines.

Another advantage of brush deburring is that the systems can be engineered to monitor the gradual wear of the abrasive filaments. On this system, each brush is continuously monitored by an auto-compensation system designed to ensure that penetration remains consistent for the brush’s entire life cycle.

To create this gear solution, Abtex designed and deployed two types of brushes. For the flat hub surface, a radial brush was used. Radial brushes (see Figure 3) are mounted perpendicularly to the part surface with the edges of the brush’s filaments addressing the burr at a similar angle to a toothbrush addressing teeth. Their filaments tend to be long with aggressive action, so they are particularly effective for hardened and sintered powder-metal parts.  

For the burrs nested within the gear teeth, Abtex engineers designed a system of disc brushes, which are particularly effective on V-shaped parts for two reasons. First, the perpendicular filaments can be angled to directly address the burr. Second, the filaments strike the part surface from opposite angles as the brush is moved across the part or the part is moved through the brush.

For this customer’s application, two disc brushes were mounted in line (see Figure 4), one with the filaments down and the other with the filaments up. The gear was to be moved in place under the first brush to deburr the top of the teeth and over the other to deburr the bottom simultaneously.

Since efficiency was paramount, Abtex designed pioneering automation that accepted the part from the upstream process and quickly flipped it for all surfaces to be deburred. The gear was then moved through the disc-brush stations to deburr the teeth. Once through both processes, parts were moved through an air knife for drying before being sent downstream.

The Abtex-developed process has streamlined the deburring operation, leading to higher productivity and more business for both the automotive gear manufacturer and Abtex. 

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