"Many manufacturing processes have interchangeable tooling in their machines. These tools require pneumatic, hydraulic, chemical, or electrical connections to operate. Instead of connecting individual connections one at a time, they can be connected at the same time."
Increasing Productivity by Reducing Tool Change time with Multicouplings
Q&A with Bobby Cranford | Stäubli
Tell us about yourself and your role with Stäubli.
I have worked for Stäubli for 33 years. I have a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Most of my career has been spent working with companies determining solutions for their connection issues. My primary focus has been with the multicoupling product line.
What is a multicoupling?
A multicoupling is an assembly allowing the connection of multiple individual fluid or electric connections at one time.
Why would a company need a multicoupling?
Many manufacturing processes have interchangeable tooling in their machines. These tools require pneumatic, hydraulic, chemical, or electrical connections to operate. Instead of connecting those individual connections one at a time, they can all be connected at the same time. This increases productivity by reducing tool change time. There are other applications such as steel and aluminum mills where making the connections is dangerous. A multicoupling not only improves change times but increases safety for a worker.
What industries have used or could use a multicoupling?
We have installed multicouplings in the plastics industry, automotive, metal working, machining, steel/aluminum production, aerospace, chemical, oil, and other industries.
Can you share an example of how a multicoupling system has increased efficiency in a manufacturing environment?
One of the most common applications is in the injection molding process. The molding tools are cooled with water lines that are typically connected via a quick connect coupling. When these are disconnected they are normally just dropped to the ground. When the tool is changed, time is wasted sorting which coupling goes to which connection on the new tool. With a multicoupling, besides making all of the connections at one time, the connections are keyed. The correct connections are made every time without having to sort. A process that can take tens of minutes to hours, is done in under a minute. This means the machine is in production sooner and is more efficient.
What are some of the barriers to entry a manufacturer may encounter when moving to a multicoupler system? Downtime? Maintenance?
The main barrier is figuring out where to start. In a retrofit situation, trying to isolate a machine/group of machines with the matching tools can be difficult. Determining the extent of the investment and with what processes should be considered. There is downtime initially for the install. Maintenance is typically less. One side benefit of a multicoupling is that the individual connections that the multicoupling replaces, can be damaged more easily. They also see more mechanical loading which means they wear out faster and leak. The multicoupling protects the individual lines from damage and wear. Compared to individual connections, the multicouplings require less maintenance.
If a company was interested in a multicoupling, what is involved?
Stäubli engineers work directly with the end user or an OEM to design a multicoupling to meet their need. We offer some standard catalog solutions which meet many needs, but many of our projects are custom. Since we make the couplings, electric connectors, guide, lock and mounting components, we are able to easily compose a final product specifically for our customer. We gather information on what the customer needs to connect, how much space they have for mounting, the environment of the process, etc. in order to design and recommend the best possible solution.
Why choose a Stäubli multicoupling?
Stäubli has been making quick connect couplings for 65 years. We started making multicouplings in the early 1970s. We have couplings designed specifically for the multicoupling use, not adapted to a make shift multicoupling. We have matching guide, locking and mounting components. This allows us to supply a complete package guaranteeing years of use (We have several customers who have used the same multicoupling for 2 decades). We offer several different series of couplings and electric connectors to meet customer’s needs, designing our multicoupling with ease of maintenance in mind.
About Bobby Cranford
Bobby Cranford holds Bachelors and Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering for the Georgia Institute of Technology. He has worked for Stäubli in the connectors division since 1986. He has worked on many applications of multicouplings in companies in the US, Canada and Mexico.
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of ManufacturingTomorrow
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