So, you want to know how Marlin Steel builds a better wire basket for parts washing and/or materials handling? What does it take to make the perfect basket to optimize your particular process?
There are a great many things that go into the anatomy of the perfect wire basket here at the Marlin Steel factory. However, it all begins with a design…
Before any wire basket is built, there is a request by one of Marlin’s clients. This request is followed by a questionnaire asking for specific information, such as:
- The purpose of the basket.
- Machines the basket will be used in.
- Chemicals, temperatures, and other physical forces the basket will be exposed to and for how long.
- Dimensions of the parts to be held.
- Need for special functions (hinged lid, hoist compatibility, ease of manual carrying, etc.).
Using this information, Marlin’s design engineer starts work on creating a design for the basket.
Upon completion, each design is stress tested using virtual simulation software. If the design passes the simulation, it moves on to production. If the design fails the simulation, the cause of the failure is logged and the design is reworked to address the issue. This process repeats until the design passes.
From Vision to Reality: Wire Bending
After a design is finalized, from the shape of the basket to the material and coating choice, the work of actually building the basket can begin.
First, the wire bending robots are set up for the task at hand. A robotics specialist programs the robots with the appropriate wire bend patterns, sets up the steel wire to be fed into the machines, and prepares for the collection of the finished lengths of bent wire after they’ve been cut.
Once prep work is done, the robots are activated, and work commences with the consistent precision that only top-rate factory automation can provide. The robots continue almost completely unsupervised from there, working without stopping until they have finished making enough lengths of wire to complete an order or until the factory is shut down.
After the wires have been bent into shape, they are collected and assembled into the wire basket, with welds being made to hold the basket together.
How are wire baskets welded? Many techniques can be applied here, but a Marlin Steel favorite is to use an automated Medium Frequency Direct Current (MFDC) welding machine. This machine can complete a weld of two solid pieces of metal in 1/30th the time it takes a standard automated welding machine, which is, in turn, much faster than manual welding techniques.
By minimizing weld time, the MFDC welder reduces the amount of flashing and deformations from heat stress that the basket experiences, making it so that every basket that gets assembled is able to meet the same tolerances. By automating the weld process, Marlin’s workers are spared the risk of burn injuries and vision damage caused by weld sparks.
Parts Finishing for Baskets
When the basket is finished with the welding phase of assembly, it is then put through surface conditioning to remove any burrs or sharps that may have resulted from the welding or wire cutting processes.
Automated surface conditioning machines such as the Steelmaster wet belt sander help to ensure that every inch of every wire form is thoroughly processed to provide a superior finish.
After finishing the surface conditioning of the basket, any coatings that the basket needs, such as PVC or powder coat, are applied. If the basket has a lid, PVC coatings are often applied to it before it is attached to the rest of the basket, as they may interfere with the operation of the hinges. Likewise, other complicated moving pieces, such as latches, may need to be left uncoated, or coated separately and attached later.
Once the final assembly is complete, the baskets are prepared for shipping to their final destination.
The best part is that, at Marlin Steel, the entire process, from vision to ready-to-ship reality, can be finished in as little as a week. This is because of the speed and efficiency of not only the automation tech used on the factory floor, but the speed at which virtual prototyping with Autodesk software can be completed.
Many U.S.-based clients get their orders within a week or two of the start of work. Compare that to the months-long shipping delays that occur with overseas manufacturers while the baskets wait for available space on a freighter. Overseas shipping delays can wreck a production timetable, but with domestic shipping, that delay is not a factor.
The specifics of a basket’s anatomy might change dramatically based on the specifics of a given client’s process. From the materials and coatings used, to the form factor of the basket itself, and even the use of features such as lids or handles, there are many different options that need to be considered.