About two years ago, Mark* (not his real name), a manufacturing engineer at AutoTrim* (not his actual company), was researching equipment to assemble a new, high-volume door panel they were hoping to win from an OEM. Mark recalled seeing a demo of Extol’s InfraStake technology a few months prior and was drawn to InfraStake’s built-in clamping feature that ensures tight stakes. Mark was hopeful that InfraStake would be a good fit for the door panel line, but wanted confirmation that the technology could meet the cycle time, strength, and assembly tightness requirements. That’s when our Applications Lab, the first of Extol’s wide array of customer-supporting service groups, stepped in to help.
Before investing in a full door panel assembly line, AutoTrim needed to be sure that InfraStake was the right technology for their application. To do this, they first sent CAD data to the Extol Applications Lab. Then, Lab engineers placed InfraStake modules into the data to be sure that the modules fit at each boss location on the door panel. Had another technology been a better fit, the lab engineers would have made the recommendation to switch technologies. In this case, InfraStake was the best technology solution and testing was the next step.
AutoTrim needed to make sure that the InfraStake process could achieve both the desired strength and cycle time. To do this, Extol created single-boss prototype plaques with boss geometries that matched those of the actual door panels. Then Extol staked these plaques in the lab using an InfraStake module mounted on a robot. From these trials, Mark proved that InfraStake could beat the required cycle time and he had samples to show his customer.
After the prototype plaques were staked, Extol’s lab performed pull testing to ensure that the bosses would hold up to the requirements set forth by AutoTrim’s OEM customer. Whether staking or welding, Extol is able to perform many common tests such as tensile and compression testing, burst and leak testing, and microstructure analysis.
If AutoTrim would have required any fully-staked door panel assemblies prior to the completion of their production equipment (typically to either do their own internal testing or to provide to their customer), Extol could have accommodated them using prototype tooling and InfraStake on a robot.
Process and Equipment Training
At multiple stages during the AutoTrim door panel project, Extol provided hands-on training sessions for the customer. As the machine was nearing completion, Extol gave both process and maintenance training to AutoTrim’s technicians to help them understand and maintain their equipment. Furthermore, Extol came on-site and taught InfraStake process and design training to AutoTrim’s engineering groups to further improve their understanding of the technology for future projects.
Preventative Maintenance and On-Site Service Support
Most recently, after Extol shipped the equipment line to AutoTrim’s manufacturing plant, Extol’s support team helped on-site to ensure that the equipment was running as expected and to quickly resolve any issues that arose.
Extol’s Service Team provides assistance with troubleshooting, process optimization, spare parts, and machine upgrades throughout the life of the equipment. To proactively avoid issues and maximize performance, Extol also offers an E-FIT service maintenance program which includes periodic equipment check-ups, calibration, quality checks, and optional training or process review.
By making use of many of the services that Extol offers, Mark and his team at AutoTrim had confidence that the technology and equipment they were purchasing were right for the job. They were able to prove to the OEM that the door panels staked with InfraStake could meet the required specifications. After installation, they felt secure in the fact that should an issue arise, Extol would be available to quickly assist them. AutoTrim’s equipment is now producing door panels every day and will continue to do so for some time. Eventually, it will be time to replace or upgrade for the next program, and Extol will be here, ready to assist.
We hope that we can serve you well in your future projects too. Do you see value in these services? Are there other services that you would find helpful? Get in touch and let us know.
*Names changed for confidentiality
Kelly is a mechanical engineer and plastics joining aficionado who works directly with Extol customers to determine the best welding or staking process for their specific application. Kelly is also an avid baker and has perfected the art of cookie baking in a hot-plate welder.