Customer, Challenge & Risks
Our customer was a Technical Service Engineer from global rubber additives business unit. One of the key products they supply to the tire industry is “curing bladders”.
Curing bladders are required in the molding or curing of tires. When an uncured tire (or “green”) is placed in the mold the bladder fills the inside of the green tire and when pressurized drives the tire into the details of the mold thus establishing the tread pattern, sidewall design and final shape.
As the duty cycle for bladders is quite severe a key metric of performance is the number of cure cycles attained before a replacement is necessary. Bladder life can be extended by ensuring the surface has lubricity allowing it to expand inside the green tire in a uniform manner. If the bladder sticks in spots the expansion forces are uneven and this impacts the final tire uniformity as well as reducing bladder life.
Lubricating bladders is achieved by coating them when new and by spraying the green tires. This machine was designed to spray the new bladders before delivery. This adds value to their customers in form of long bladder life and uniform cured tires.
Our customer selected Pioneer to build an automated bladder spray cell. This aligned well with our expertise in green tire spraying and tire handling solutions. The patented Pioneer Precision Fluid Delivery System (PFDS) was utilized to spray the bladders with a uniform coating. The PFDS can adjust the fluid spray pattern and volume based on the bladder dimensions. Bladders were hung on a gripping chuck mounted on a chain conveyor. As the bladders moved along the path a light curtain measured its dimensions sending this information to the PFDS system which optimizes the spray recipe for the bladder as it enters the spray booth. Once the bladder is sprayed it continued around the path to the unload station.
After providing the customer with a proposal that included advantages of our robotic solution and cycle time analysis, the customer was able to sell the tire marking machine to leadership. It was approved within the budget, met the required specifications, and a PO was issued.
Pioneer started its defined Machine Building Process. This process involved detailed engineering kickoffs, where we worked closely with the customer on getting signed approvals for mechanical layouts, electrical schematics, and programming structure. As the project came together on the floor, consistent updates were sent to the customer. Once it was completed, the customer came on-site for a full day of runoff at Pioneer’s facility, putting the machine through its paces and completing both the customer’s checklist, maintainability standards, and Pioneer’s own internal checklist. The customer had the chance to make a few minor tweaks, but due to the communication at the front and throughout the project, minimal changes were required before shipment. After the customer runoff, the machine was disassembled, shipped, and Pioneer’s engineer went on-site to supervise the installation of the equipment. Since the design was modular, the installation was completed in only five days. The engineer then stayed on-site the following week to connect our system to the plant conveyors and higher-level server and a few days of commissioning and training for the operator, maintenance, and plant engineer.
The customer was given machine drawings, a detailed machine manual, the latest copies of the robot and PLC programs, and a spare parts list all on a memory stick. A 6-month complimentary maintenance was scheduled, in which the fluid system was recalibrated, the spray gun cleaned and adjusted, and the system was given a thorough inspection. A trip report was completed and submitted to the customer with a quote for a return service visit and any additional spare parts required.
Outcomes of Success
Following the installation and commissioning the bladder coating machine has been used for production. Its ability to apply a consistent coating of release spray creates bladders ready for high performance use by their customers.