MIND-M Plus from Eldec: Extra Performance for Extremely Productive Induction Hardening Processes
The automotive industry is facing radical changes including increasing global competition and rapid technological development which are drastically transforming the demands placed on OEMs and suppliers. Reduction in production costs and increased flexibility to effectively respond to changing component requirements are necessary to remain competitive in the market.
Hardening is essential to ensure the stability and quality of many components required in the automotive industry. The traditional technique of case hardening, however, tends to be inflexible and energy intensive because it involves grouping the components together and heating them for hours in a furnace. Induction Hardening, due to its improved flexibility, is continuing to grow in popularity comparatively. It offers precisely timed cycles, extreme precision, and (unlike case hardening) comprehensive integration into the production flow. Eldec, a company specializing in induction hardening, has been refining this technique for decades. With their new modular hardening machine MIND-M PLUS, they’re continuing to meet the market demands. Its compact technology, high generator output, and low capital outlay all contribute to a reduction in cost per unit. This decrease in cost opens up possibilities for increased productivity in many applications.
Technological developments in the automotive industry are changing the geometry of many car parts, making them smaller and more complex. These changes have an enormous effect on production of the parts, particularly the traditional hardening process. This process is a crucial factor in ensuring that parts can withstand the stresses they are subjected to in the transmission, chassis, or engine, while maintaining the parts dimensional accuracy. The induction technology from eldec is perfectly suited to meet these challenges: The process is completed in seconds with high precision and minimal expansion in the workpiece. Additional benefits include the high process stability and low overall power consumption of the machines.
Eldec’s specialists in Dornstetten, Germany, have been working for years on opening up new areas of application for their technology. The development of the MIND-M series in 2011 was an outstanding example of this. At that time the goal of the eldec design engineers was to integrate their innovative induction technology into a remarkably compact machine without any compromise in part quality, while simultaneously reducing capital outlay for users. They succeeded in doing both in impressive fashion.
The MIND-M models, with the generator and cooling system included, have a footprint of just 2.3 by 0.8 meters (7.5 x 2.6 in). All the components are located within the housing. A practical, modular “building block” system allows each machine to be put together from modules chosen according to the workpiece dimensions, desired hardening finish, and all other production requirements.
Building on a Successful Strategy
In recent years, eldec engineers have continuously taken their successful modular strategy further. For instance, the machines can be supplied with a dual spindle drive if requested by the customer. This brings a considerable reduction in idle times and processing times, as multiple parts can be machined in parallel. “Nonetheless, we were running up against certain practical limitations when applying this strategy with our MIND-M models,” said Andreas Endmann, Head of Technology Sales for Hardening Systems at eldec in Dornstetten. “You also need greater generator power for the induction hardening of large parts. And if you’re trying to machine two large parts in parallel on a dual spindle machine, its output has to increase even more. But the maximum power output on our earlier MIND-M models was only 37 kW in the high frequency range and 100 kW in the medium frequency range. That’s not always enough for parallel machining of large parts.”
High Power Output—High Production Output
eldec has now closed this gap in their range of possible applications with their new MIND-M plus induction hardening machine. It is available in two sizes, one for workpieces up to 250 millimeters (9.8 in) in length, one for workpieces up to 1,000 millimeters (39.4 in) in length. The “plus” in the name refers to the increase in power up to 150 kW (high frequency range) or 300 kW (medium frequency range). Models are also being offered for the first time with dual frequency generators (DFG) and simultaneous dual frequency generators (SDF). They allow even more accurate surface hardening on especially complex shapes and contours, and perfect adjustment of the heat penetration depth.
But one thing is true of all the different generator and machine versions offered: MIND-M plus, in combination with innovative drive and clamping solutions, provides its users with huge increases in productivity. Take for example the indexing table with two workpiece holders: Two parts can be loaded onto it, with a narrow separation between them. This allows one half of the table to be loaded or unloaded by a robot while a part is being hardened on the other side of the table. If a machine has a dual spindle, then two of these indexing tables can be used, with the result that parallel machining and loading of two parts is always possible. This means a huge reduction in processing times and idle times during production. “The same technology can also be used on the MIND-M, of course. But the more powerful MIND-M plus now makes it possible to fully machine large parts in this way, with shorter cycle times. That’s exactly what we were aiming for,” Endmann said.
The use of the multiple clamping column has a similar effect. Six clamping fixtures for smaller workpieces are located on each of the two opposing sides of the column. In operation, it works much like the indexing table: While a robot inserts six workpieces on one side of the clamping column, another six are hardened and quenched on the other side at the same time. This results in a veritable explosion in production output volume.
A Wide Range of Options for any Application
What market potential does induction specialist eldec expect for this flexible, modular system, which can be configured with dual spindle drive, heavy duty machine bed, multiple clamping column, and indexing table customizable to fit any application task and desired output volume? “We started by taking our successful MIND-M strategy further toward specific objectives. Now the technology is available for a considerably wider range of applications,” Endmann said. “And the use of the DFG and SDF generators boosts flexibility and precision in production even more. As a result, we have a very comprehensive and powerful package that significantly improves the cost-effectiveness of hardening processes in many industries. We have no doubt that our strategy will continue to advance the market penetration of induction technology.”
The success of EMAG’s strategy lies in the fact that a medium-sized corporation can still react to customer requirements with flexibility and attention to the long term prospect. After all, clients are looking for answers to the crucial question of how to improve their output and the quality of their production – and to do so with space-saving machinery that will not let them down, even after many years of use. EMAG is the world’s most important manufacturer of CNC vertical turning machines.
For more information, visit www.emag.com.