Heavy equipment manufacturing has become more and more high-tech. Reliability, safety and quality output were once reserved for critical applications like automotive assembly. Now, heavy equipment manufacturers need traceable, reliable and accurate tools to achieve strict quality and safety standards. Customers demand it to ensure the products they use are safe for the operators using the equipment.
Manufacturers have many options available when it comes to the tools they use in heavy equipment assembly. Tool options range from a basic tightening strategy to high-tech assembly. Here is a look at the fastening options available to manufacturers today.
Impact Wrenches: An impact wrench tightens a bolt and is the fastest type of fastening tool. Impact wrenches are great for removing stubborn bolts and commonly used for heavy equipment maintenance and repair. The tools offer tremendous value for the investment. To measure the torque an impact wrench achieves during fastening, operators need to test each bolt with a clicker torque wrench. However, clicker torque wrenches measure only the minimum torque threshold, so there is risk of inaccurately measuring over-torqued bolts with this method. Impact wrenches tend to be louder than more advanced tools.
Direct-current (DC) fastening tools: A tool controller powers these “smart” fastening tools, which transfers the current through a power cord. DC tools provide an exceptional level of accuracy and traceability. The downside is that they are tethered to the power cord and typically have a slower fastening speed. They also come with a costly initial investment. Integrating DC tools to a manufacturing facility requires outside experts and technical training for the operators using the tools.
Finding the torque and accuracy “sweet spot”: Heavy equipment manufacturers find that high torque cordless fastening tools are highly accurate and traceable. The QX Series™ Cordless Torque Multiplier from Ingersoll Rand® is a cordless fastening tool with advanced torque control. The closed-loop transducer delivers precision, accuracy and traceable results. Operators can program the tool can to achieve multiple speeds throughout the rundown process. This advanced setting is simple to implement. It alleviates over-tightening bolts and delivers better accuracy. The tool records data for up to 1,200 fastenings in the onboard computer, which eliminates the need to manually record torque values with paper and pencil. With the cordless tool, operators are more mobile and worker safety increases due to lack of an air hose on the line.
Pneumatic Fastening Tools: A pneumatic fastening tool is typically more powerful than an impact wrench. An air-powered fastening tool isn’t highly accurate either because its torque output corresponds with air pressure, which can vary greatly due to several factors. Compressed air that isn’t clean or air funneled through a long hose can create a loss of air pressure to the impact tool during tightening. Impurities in air delivery can also decrease the final torque output. Since air pressure is correlated to torque, and they can’t see the quality of air going in, operators can be unaware that the torque is being compromised during the fastening process.
Operators use pneumatic tools for applications that require high torque. They are often used for larger bolts affixed to heavy equipment and agriculture machinery. To avoid injury, people who use air tools also need to use a reaction bar to offset the force of the torque applied to the fastener. Yet, the power of pneumatic tools comes with compromises. Pneumatic tools don’t have a transducer to track traceability or to measure the torque being applied in real-time. Pneumatic tools only fasten bolts with one speed and can’t be programmed to achieve multiple speeds during the rundown process.
For example, an east coast utility company had been servicing its fleet using impact wrenches. The company had an issue ensuring bolts on its trucks were fully tightened before they left the service garage. The company selected the Ingersoll Rand® Cordless Torque Multiplier to make sure it could track and prove bolts were fully tightened. While the company bought the tool for quality control, the operators in the shop discovered other benefits. The noise level in the shop dropped, which reduced the company’s insurance premiums due to the decrease in net decibels workers were exposed to on a daily basis.
When evaluating new tools for a facility, here are questions to ask to determine which tools are best for specific operations and how the new tools will integrate into manufacturing lines:
- What is the current facility infrastructure? What changes need to be implemented to accommodate the new tools?
- What type of impact tools are currently being used to meet fastening requirements?
- Is the equipment and machinery under repair regulated for safety? Do you need to track quality and fastening data to demonstrate the products meet regulatory guidelines?
- Are current tools fulfilling the company’s traceability requirements?
- What aspects of the fastening process are manual? Could these processes be streamlined by adding “smarter” tools?
- How can a new type of fastening tool integrate with the current tool systems and with the IT department?
- Are operators requesting improvements to increase ergonomics?
No matter how bolts are tightened, one thing remains the same – safety is paramount. Bolts need to be tightened to torque every time to ensure bolt integrity and to prevent injuries to manufacturers and end-users.
By: Steve Diacumakos, Global Portfolio Leader, Industrial MRO and Applied Power Products and Director, Product Management and Marketing
Ingersoll Rand® Power Tools