At GKN Wheels’ plant in Telford, components for worldwide vehicle producers are manufactured, with one production line making wheels for brands of agricultural and construction vehicles, including Caterpillar and JCB. One part of the line involves a walking beam, which uses a system of reciprocating parallel bars to pass rolled and welded wheel rims from an oil dip to a flare press. However, as the beam reaches top dead centre, the larger wheel rims can cause the beam to over speed and the momentum carries them too quickly towards the press, resulting in the system jamming. This would then take around two hours to remedy, with total losses equating to around £25,000 per year.

To overcome this problem, system integrator Estil and ABB developed a system that employed a 1.5kW ABB standard drive. At the beginning of the walking beam’s cycle, the drive is started and the internal timer runs it for one second at full speed. After this time, the drive is switched to two thirds speed and is then gradually decelerated. The beam, carrying the wheel rim, is slowed gradually as it approaches the press. As the wheel rim reaches the press, the beam

triggers a limit switch that stops the drive to complete the cycle.

Phil Lampitt of Estil designed the control system for the application. He said: “We worked closely with ABB to fine tune the application to get a steady positioning of the wheel rims.  ABB also helped us size the drive, particularly critical in view of the need to cater for the heavier rims in the range.”

Due to the limited space the drive had to be mounted externally. So, an IP54 rated drive casing was used to resist the ingress of oil in this harsh production environment.

Since the system was installed there has not been a single stoppage, explains the company.


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