While many Marlin Steel customers are looking for either a wire basket or a sheet metal product for their material handling and parts washing needs, sometimes a specific customer process requires a more creative approach than simply using one material or the other.
In a recent job for an automotive parts washing process, the customer had a very specific set of requirements for washing their parts. The part in question was for the rebuilding of injectors, and the washing process involved placing the basket in a tank with various chemicals at 150 °F for ten minutes at a time.
Not only that, but the cleaning process also involved the use of ultrasonics, so the basket needed to be designed to withstand the stresses of such high-frequency vibrations.
Movement of the basket between phases of the process was to be done by hand, with operators wearing protective gloves for safety.
With this information, Marlin Steel’s engineers were able to pick the right materials for the basket, but the hard part was designing a basket that could hold 322 cylindrical parts in place without allowing them to move around, and still be able to release all parts quickly at the end of the wash process. Not only that, but in order to ensure the best cleaning performance, there had to be as little material between the part and the cleaning medium as possible, so the final design needed to be as “open-air” as possible.
Holding Narrow Cylinders in Place without a Mesh Cage
The final solution was relatively simple, but elegant. Instead of making a wire mesh basket with a lid, or a straight sheet metal box, Marlin Steel’s engineers used a wire frame with several custom-cut sheet metal plates to hold the parts in place.
Since each part had a slightly narrow “neck” just below the head of the unit, the basket was designed as a plunger basket. Two layers of sheet metal were precision cut to hold the hundreds of narrow cylinders in place securely. One layer is cut in such a way as to form hundreds of “L” shapes, and the other layer has hundreds of corresponding keyhole-like shapes with a wide and a narrow end cut into it.
The part would fit into the larger circle portion of the keyhole shape, then slide up into the narrower part of the shape. Once all 322 parts are in place, the lock sheet slides over, covering the large holes with the other piece of sheet metal and securing all of the cylinders in place.
This gave the parts maximum exposure to the cleaning process and coatings that they needed to be ready for final assembly, while keeping them in place so that they would not get lost inside the parts washing machine.
Making it Easy to Load and Unload
Of course, the speed at which this basket could be loaded was a major concern. The basket had to be designed in such a way as to allow an operator easy access to load and unload the parts. To this end, the frame of the basket is designed to be open and hold the parts far enough from the base to comfortably fit a forearm underneath. This allows operators to load the parts from the underside of the basket as well as from the top.
To facilitate the quick release of parts once they are finished going through the wash process, a quick-release pin was added. This pin holds the lock sheet in the closed position during the wash, and can be used to keep the sheet in the open position during the unloading process.
Using the Perfect Materials for the Job
When Marlin Steel’s engineers were first given the task of making this basket, the customer’s initial request was for plain steel. However, after a review of the washing process, it was determined that plain steel would not last long enough to be cost-effective, as it would require frequent replacement.
Grade 304 stainless steel, on the other hand, was found to be much more compatible with the client’s wash process while still being cost effective. Marlin’s engineers brought this to the customer’s attention, and talked them through how using 304 SS would save money in the long run.
The change was made, and this customer was spared the expense of having to re-order new baskets a month or two down the road. Instead of simply giving the customer an inferior product that would not have met their needs, Marlin Steel’s engineers identified a potential problem and offered a solution.
By consulting with clients and making them aware of issues that can affect the performance and longevity of their products, Marlin Steel’s engineers strive to ensure that their clients get the perfect parts washing baskets to meet their needs.