Smart, cost-effective fastening tools improve manufacturing assembly with simple, accurate control, and data collection to improve product assemblies.
As technological advances have impacted virtually every facet of life, innovations have created an evolution in fastening tools as well. Pneumatic air tools have been used in manufacturing for decades. In the 1990s, electric fastening tools became popular in assembly plants, offering more precision, accuracy and the ability to have multiple functions on a single tool. Battery-driven cordless tools have become commonplace for fastening applications, providing freedom from cords and wires, improving safety and ergonomics for workers, and offering many of the same benefits as electric tools—at a lower cost.
Without question, industry trends show manufacturing plants are taking advantage of cordless tools in new plant build outs. Many existing plants that are adding new product lines or upgrading facilities are acquiring cordless tools, while others are simply replacing older tools with cordless tools through attrition.
Precision, quality control and flexibility are essential for today’s assembly and manufacturing lines. Assembly tools that offer versatility for a number of applications, from simple to complex, while maintaining comfort, accuracy and reliability, cycle after cycle, are in high demand.
Today’s assembly tools with simplicity of design, like the QXN Series from Ingersoll Rand, are easy to use and cost-effective. Instead of making repeated mechanical adjustments, these tools can be easily programmed by connecting the tool to a computer with a USB cord, and can achieve the desired torque with just a few quick programming steps.
Transducer-controlled tools are used for fastening by manufacturers in light assembly, heavy equipment, aerospace, defense, and vehicle assembly to fulfill diverse tooling needs. Because of the cost ramifications from product failures, many industries are taking advantage of capabilities, such as traceability and accountability, to improve quality control and assurance.
Business risk avoidance
One of the best ways to lower maintenance costs, prevent lost productivity, and cut down on product failures is to eliminate errors in the fastening process. This can be achieved by building reliable, consistent and accurate quality indicators into the assembly line.
There are several reasons why manufacturing plants are choosing transducer-controlled, cordless tools for fastening. When it comes to improving product safety, quality control, and reducing costs, the old-school mindset of “tighten to torque” simply won’t cut it. When a product fails and the manufacturer is then faced with product recalls, warranty claims, or litigation, the repercussions can be devastating. A single lawsuit can cost tens of millions of dollars in legal fees and losses, let alone the negative impact on a brand.
These challenges are driving manufacturers to pursue greater quality control over their assemblies by collecting and analyzing production data. A cost-effective measure of predicting process performance is through Statistical Process Control (SPC). Manufacturers use SPC as a means to control their production processes to prevent errors. Engineers can identify the cause of the failure by utilizing the data from assembly tools. The data can then be used to correct and improve the production process and eliminate the failure.
Manufacturers have many assembly tool choices
If you’ve taken your car to a service shop to replace a tire, you have probably heard air impact tools clamoring away. They have a hose attached and can be manually validated on an analyzer. They are known more for their brawn than their brains because they don’t offer traceability. These tools are not transducer-controlled, and therefore, require ongoing validation and calibration.
Transducer-controlled tools are more efficient and produce more reliable results with built-in error-proofing capabilities. They can adjust to torque conditions through simple programming. Manufacturers are deploying cordless, transducer-controlled tools for greater accuracy, control, ease of use, and flexibility.
These tools offer several advantages that make for a worthwhile investment. Instead of repeated mechanical adjustments, the tool can be easily programmed to achieve the desired torque with just a few quick programming steps. Having a single configuration makes it easy to use, without the risk of using the wrong configuration. The quality and consistency of a fastened joint can often rely on how fast the tool is running during all stages of the fastening cycle. If the tool is running too fast, it can lead to galling, stripped threads, dimpled panels, or joints that are not properly relaxed. If the tool runs too slowly, the station’s takt time may not be met, torque reaction may be too strong for the user, or the battery life can be shortened. Programmable control allows the operator to match the tool’s speed with the application. Most clutch tools don’t allow for speed customization and lack consistent and repeatable performance.
Cordless, transducer-controlled fastening tools, like the Ingersoll Rand QXN Series, bridge the feature and price gap between pneumatic air and electric tools. Cordless tools give operators the ability to reach fasteners in confined areas without worrying about air hoses or electric cords. They support quality initiatives using programmable torque control and reducing variance, so fasteners are consistently inserted at the right speed and at the right torque.
Precision tools create precision-built products
Precision assembly tools improve quality assembly processes and help eliminate errors while providing data that makes errors analyzable. For example, they can automatically count fasteners as they are tightened—monitoring and recording that they have been secured correctly. If a fastener is missed or incorrectly installed, the tool notifies the user, and the problem can be addressed before it becomes a systemic quality issue. A red light indicates a high failure, a green light indicates a PASS, and a yellow light indicates a low failure. This feedback allows operators to immediately understand the tightening status.
A case example would be an appliance manufacturer using shut-off torque control tools to tighten freezer lids on upright appliances. Shut-off torque control tools run until they reach the desired torque, but they lack the angle monitoring capability that would identify stripped screws. When the tool strips a screw, workers are forced to spend more time drilling out and replacing it on the production line. Additionally, shutoff torque control tools are susceptible to drops in compressed air pressure. If the required air pressure is not being delivered to the tools, they may shut-off before hitting the torque required for accurate assembly.
This problem is addressed by replacing the shut-off torque control tools with angled precision screwdrivers with closed-loop torque, speed, and rotation to monitor and make dynamic adjustments to ensure proper tightening. This will help eliminate the torque over-shoot issue, and the on-board pass/ fail indicator lights will provide immediate feedback if a failure occurs.
By replacing the shut-off torque control tools with transducer-controlled cordless tools, the manufacturer can reduce re-work by more than 50 percent. With the increased uptime and improved production rates, a customer can expect to recoup the new tool investment in less than three months.
New tool technology improves fastening quality
Business losses from poor quality and inconsistent assembly invariably lead to warranty claims, recalls and customer dissatisfaction. While these problems continue to plague manufacturers, they present an opportunity to improve processes.
Technology advances have made fastening tools lighter, quieter and more durable. Beyond the ergonomic, economic and environmental advances, technology has made these tools smarter, with the ability to automate torque control and angle—and data driven, to provide manufacturers greater control with verifiability over their assembly processes.
Many manufacturers are looking for simple and cost-efficient tools that offer more precision and control, insightful operator feedback, and a higher level of traceability than mechanical clutch tools. Fortunately, there are new and innovative cordless, transducer-controlled tools—that are cost-effective and enable greater reliability, accuracy, and performance—to help manufacturers get the job done right.