How Custom Stainless Steel Wire Baskets Can Meet Automotive Parts Washing Needs

March 10, 2021 | Custom Wire Baskets, Stainless Steel Baskets, Automotive

This is one of several automotive baskets that was made to accommodate the client's wide variety of parts. The slotted sheet metal portion would hold parts vertically during the wash, while the mesh lid would keep parts from sliding out.Automotive manufacturers have to prepare a wide variety of parts which may have different needs for their parts finishing processes. Recently, one major automotive manufacturer approached Marlin Steel to manufacture a series of custom wire parts washing baskets for their automotive parts.

All told, the client needed five different basket designs to accommodate various sizes of bearing rings, crank pins, closure plate bolts, and various small parts. These parts would range in size from 1” x 3” and weighing a few ounces to being nearly three feet in diameter and weighing over 1,000 pounds. These baskets demonstrate the versatility of custom wire baskets and the expertise of Marlin’s team in designing exactly what our customer’s need.

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Engineering the Perfect Automotive Parts Washing Baskets

Each of these automotive baskets had its own specific needs. For example, the bearing rings and crank pin baskets needed to hold their parts vertically to save space in the wash tank (and to ensure a thorough wash). Because of the sheer weight of these three-foot diameter parts, there was virtually no risk of the parts being shifted around by the aqueous wash process. So, complete enclosures were not necessary.

However, the smaller parts washing baskets needed a different design philosophy. These tiny parts would likely move during the wash process, potentially knocking parts out of the basket and onto the floor of the wash tank. To prevent this, Marlin’s engineers used a fine wire mesh and a lid to create a complete enclosure that would hold the parts securely in place.

Each basket’s design would be tested using  finite element analysis (FEA) software. Any flaws in the design, which could cause the basket to prematurely fail,  would be identified by the software and highlight the cause of the failure. The engineering team could then rework the basket’s design and test it again. This process of iterating new designs and testing them continues until all of the basket variations pass the test. Only then would the designs be handed off to the manufacturing team for final assembly.

Ensuring Consistent Custom Stainless Steel Parts Washing Baskets

Custom parts washing baskets for automotive applications can help vehicle manufacturers improve their ability to meet production tolerances, reduce scrap production, and minimize production delays. To achieve these benefits, the parts washing basket has to be specially designed for the needs of the automotive manufacturer’s production process.

Creating the perfect custom parts washing baskets for automotive applications is a multistep process that requires:

  1. Specific knowledge concerning the manufacturing application;
  2. Rigorous testing of design concepts;
  3. Extremely precise manufacturing techniques; and
  4. A commitment to meeting rigorous quality standards.

To eliminate the risk of deviations in the custom wire baskets, Marlin’s manufacturing team used a variety of robotic manufacturing tools to assemble each custom wire basket:

  • Trumpf laser cutting machines seared holes into sheet metal plates to create the sturdy slots required to hold the client’s heaviest parts.
  • Various wire bending robots pulled stainless steel wire from the spool to straighten, bend, and cut with precision to create consistently-shaped wires.
  • Wood routering machines created guide blocks that could hold steel wires in place for welding processes.
  • Automated welding machines ensured that every weld was completed with precision to create consistent results.
  • CNC press brakes bent sheet metal pieces or large assemblies of welded wires to ensure consistent edge shapes and bend angles.

This same rigorous process is completed for every custom wire basket order. Here’s a glimpse into how Marlin Steel makes the perfect custom parts washing basket for almost any automotive application:

Step 1: The Custom Basket Questionnaire

Every custom basket design begins with the Marlin Steel team sending the client a questionnaire asking for the salient details of their manufacturing process. These questions cover a range of stress factors such as temperatures, chemicals used, part weights, and total process times that the engineering team can test the final basket design against later.

Other questions include specifics about any equipment the basket will come into contact with, such as the dimensions of the washing tank where the basket will have to fit, the dimensions of the parts to be held, and any conveyor or hoist systems the basket will have to work with. Also, the questionnaire asks the client for any specific features they want/need the basket to have, such as handles, lids, hoist hooks, etc.

With this information, Marlin’s engineering team can be confident that the custom basket design will not only meet the client’s minimum requirements, but also exceed them to be as efficient and effective as possible.

Step 2: Rigorously Test Various Designs

After collecting all of the critical details about the manufacturing process and the environment where the basket will be used, Marlin’s engineering team creates a few different design concepts for testing using a Finite Element Analysis (FEA) program. This program breaks up the CAD file  into countless tiny pieces based on the shape and characteristics of the materials chosen  (often a type of stainless steel) and checks the effects of all the stress factors revealed in the questionnaire on these pieces of the basket’s design.

This produces an incredibly reliable simulation of the effects of years of use on the basket design in mere moments. If there’s a deficiency in the design that would cause failure, the computer program makes a note of the failure and its cause so the designer can refine the design to address the cause and rectify.

Why computer simulations instead of physically making a basket prototype? First, software simulations are much faster than physical prototyping tests—taking minutes rather than months to complete. Further, these tests can reveal flaws in a design that would not be apparent even after a month of rigorous real-world tests because they simulate years of use in minutes. So, problems that might only arise after prolonged use can be easily found. Finally, it saves on tooling, shipping, and materials costs for physical prototyping, helping clients save money as well as time.

The design is tested, refined, and tested again and again until it is able to pass the FEA testing without failing.

Step 3: Using Factory Automation to Achieve Precise Tolerances

In many automotive parts manufacturing applications, the tiniest error or flaw can compromise the safety and effectiveness of the final product—leading to safety recalls and bad press. When the integrity of a parts washing baskets for an automotive manufacturing process is compromised, it can interfere with equipment or allow parts to become damaged during processing, ruining delicate surfaces which then have to be rejected or reprocessed.

To ensure that Marlin’s custom automotive baskets meet the millimeter-tight tolerances of its clients, the Marlin production team uses a variety of advanced manufacturing automation tools, including:

  • Wire bending robots
  • CNC press brakes
  • Laser cutting machines
  • MFDC welders
  • Stamping machines

Each of these machines produces incredibly consistent results without getting bored, tired, or stressed into making mistakes like a person would after hours of backbreaking work. Instead, they keep putting out consistent results in a fraction of the time it would take to do the same work with manual tools.

Marlin’s ongoing commitment to delivering “Quality, Engineered Quick®” is the real secret sauce to the company’s success. This commitment to quality informs everything the company does—from its never-ending search for the best tools for the job, to the constant ongoing learning programs the company uses to keep employees on the cutting edge of manufacturing technology and knowledge.

Case Study: A Custom Automotive Basket Manufacturing Process

Marlin once received a request to make a custom parts washing basket for very small hardened steel gears. Before designing a basket for the gears, Marlin’s team again used the multi-step process discussed above to determine the client's needs and then design and build to meet them.

The Parts

The parts to be washed in this process were a series of small gears made of hardened steel. The gears were 2.5” in diameter and 1.5” thick, with a 0.75” hole in the center. This arrangement could allow the gears to be held in several different ways.

For example, a set of vertical wire tines could be used to hold the gears in place by their holes as they laid flat, or the gears could be kept separate by a series of wire inserts that operate similar to the ones in a dish rack.

In this case, the client needed to be able to hold 20 gears at a time fully separated from one another, so the rack design was deemed the optimal layout, since it used less space.

Additionally, the parts had a strict no-scratch requirement. So, to keep the parts safe through the entire washing process, the basket would need to be coated with a layer of soft, thick polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coating to absorb shocks.

The Cleaning Machine

The cleaning machine in this process was a type of powered wash conveyor system with an opening about 15” wide. Because it was a conveyor system, the width of the basket might be limited to that opening’s width, but the only limit to the length of the basket was what would be easy for the automotive manufacturer to handle and what could easily support the distribution of weight from the held gears.

By using the rack design concept, the baskets could be made smaller and easier to handle while holding at least 20 gears. This would make it easier for the automotive company’s workers to load and unload the baskets, which would also help to save time during the production process.

The washing machine would use a variety of different surfactants and other chemicals in an aqueous wash process. In this regard, the PVC coating, which was meant to prevent the gears from getting scratched, would also be more than sufficient to withstand exposure to the various chemicals specified by the client.

As an added bonus, when the coating does start to wear thin, it is easy enough to reapply for a fraction of the cost of building a whole new basket. This would help to maximize the useful life of the basket and keep the total cost of ownership down.

Testing the Design

Before a single piece of wire for the basket was ever unspooled and shaped, the design of the basket needed to be thoroughly verified against the use conditions specified by the client. Yes, the PVC coating should be able to hold up, but that needed to be verified before time and materials would be expended.

Marlin’s engineering team put the basket’s design through a battery of virtual physics simulations. Our FEA software studied the effects of various stresses on the basket’s design—simulating years of use in seconds. If there was any damage or bending—even as little as the width of a human hair— it would be logged as a failure, with causes noted.

Using the data from these simulations, the engineering team would identify issues in the design and fix them. Only once the design could pass through a simulation of years of use was it considered ready for production.

Building the Baskets with Factory Automation

Production itself was carried out using extensive factory automation, which helped to ensure that each and every basket would meet the client’s exacting tolerances—from the first basket to the 100th basket.

The end result was that, in a span of less than two weeks, the client went from placing their order for custom parts washing baskets to having the kind of top-quality baskets they needed to keep production on-schedule in their factory.

It's pretty clear that custom stainless steel wire baskets for automotive parts washing often have a variety of needs and specifications and, regardless of the challenge, the Marlin team is ready and prepared to design and produce to even the most stringent requirements.

Need a custom parts washing basket ASAP? Contact the Marlin Steel team for a custom basket quote now.