Engineering a Custom Parts Washing Basket for Automotive Applications

In Mechanical Engineering, Custom Wire Baskets, Wire Forms

Marlin Steel on January 30, 2018

The idea for the gear basket was quickly completed, thanks to the Marlin engineering team's extensive experience.Marlin Steel has years of experience in helping clients for the automotive industry meet their needs with quickly-engineered, high-quality solutions. One of the challenges in making baskets to hold automotive parts through a wash process is that automotive manufacturers often deal with parts that vary wildly in size, from tiny ball bearings, to ungainly axle assemblies and large steel gears.

So, when a custom parts washing basket request comes in from an automotive client, Marlin’s engineering team cannot simply make assumptions about the size and composition of the basket. In other words, there is no “one size fits all” solution for automotive parts washing.

Because of this, whenever a request comes through for an automotive basket, Marlin’s engineering team knows that they have to make sure they know as much about the specific application of the basket as possible.

Recently, Marlin got a request to make a custom parts washing basket for very small hardened steel gears. And, before designing a basket for the gears, Marlin’s team sent the client a custom basket questionnaire to verify the dimensions of the parts, their weights, and to discover the specifics of the process.

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 for withstanding 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.

To this end, Marlin’s engineering team put the basket’s design through a battery of virtual physics simulations. The finite element analysis (FEA) software broke the design into hundreds of thousands of “finite elements” and studied the effects of various stresses on each. Any deviation in the design—even as little as the width of a human hair—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.

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.

If you need a quality automotive basket engineered quickly, give the Marlin team a call to get a custom basket quote! We have the experience, tools, and expertise to deliver “quality, engineered quick®” for all sorts of automotive applications.

Download our case study!

Author: Marlin Steel
Marlin Steel
Marlin Steel is a leading manufacturer of custom‐engineered products from steel wire and sheet metal. Its industrial material handling containers serve many industries including aerospace, defense, medical and automotive.

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