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Lou Kren Lou Kren
Senior Editor

Why Automated Deburring Works in Fabrication

March 30, 2023

Need quicker throughput with fewer rejects—and safer employees doing more rewarding work? Then automated deburring might be right for you.

In fabricating operations, where sheet metal parts off of cutting, bending and punching machines often route to assembly, painting and other operations, clean edges are a must. This is crucial to aid in fitup, downstream processing and safe handling. Automated deburring offers big gains here, providing consistent performance, reducing bottlenecks and freeing employees from the dangers and monotony of hand grinding to focus on more value-added tasks.

So says Denis Weinfurtner, North American marketing manager for Arku Inc., with U.S. headquarters in Cincinnati, OH. In an interview with MetalForming, he outlines the advantages of automated deburring in fabricating operations and provides an update on technology developments. 

“Grinding fabricated parts and components removes slag or burrs, or rounds out edges to increase handling safety, provide better fitup for assembly, and enable improved paint adhesion,” Weinfurtner offers, commenting on the importance of such deburring.  

Addresses Labor Scarcity, Manual-Grinding Safety Issues

The recent pandemic aggravated an already scarce labor pool and brought new life to automation efforts on the part of manufacturers, with the labor-intensive process of deburring an ideal candidate, according to Weinfurtner.

“Many fabricating operations employ people solely to hand-grind parts after laser, plasma, oxyfuel cutting or punching,” he says. “Perhaps three to four employees, maybe across two shifts, spend their workday at a bench with a grinder and a vice. Automation in this area provides an ideal solution. At the push of a button, a machine provides safe, secure and consistent high-quality deburring results.”

Manual grinding subjects employees not only to a monotonous task, but also to risk of repetitive-motion injuries, cuts from unfinished-part handling and the breathing in of grinding-abrasive and metal dust, Weinfurtner explains. 

Finishing-Arku-before-after-deburring-EdgeBreaker“On top of all of this, manual grinding is time-consuming and will not provide consistent high-quality products,” he says. “You can have the best hand grinders in the world standing there for 8 hr., but they’ll cut into one part a little deeper, or grind too light on another, or round off an edge not quite perfectly. Sometimes, personnel can forget to grind a particular part feature.”

Grinding creates dust, from the abrasive and the workpiece, often a significant health hazard in manual grinding. Dust-collection apparatus in such operations may not provide adequate particulate removal. Automated deburring units, according to Weinfurtner, can be outfitted to collect any dust created by the process. 

“The machines remove dust and debris and send it through a set of filters,” he says. “And, when deburring aluminum or titanium for example, dust can become flammable and explosive. Arku’s dust-extraction system sucks the dust through a wet bath to eliminate risk of sparks or smoldering. If grinding carbon steels, dry dust extraction will work. Fabricators wanting the flexibility of automated deburring of combinations of materials will want to select wet dust extraction. This involves separate sets of consumables that can be swapped out depending on the material undergoing deburring. Thanks to the intuitive quick-change system, these consumables can be changed quickly and with no tools. This eliminates the risk of cross-contamination.”

For fabricators needing to deburr large quantities of titanium, aluminum and other materials, Weinfurtner advises installation of a dedicated automated-deburring machine with a wet dust extraction. 

Finishing-Robot-Deburring-ArkuAs for consumable use, “a deburring machine is no different than an angle grinder, where the disc must be changed to keep up performance,” Weinfurtner says. “To maintain productivity, look for the ability to rapidly change consumables. Spending a couple of hours or even half of the workday on consumable changeout should be unacceptable.” 

Automated deburring technology, according to Weinfurtner, has advanced to where consumable changeout takes only minutes.

More to It Than Part Volume

Given the importance of proper deburring and the advantages of automating the process, when does automated deburring make sense for fabricators? There’s much more to it than simply part volume.

“Look at your operation,” advises Weinfurtner. “Are you drowning in grinding work? Are reject rates high? What are the reasons for rejects? After the painting of parts, for example, products may be rusting out in the field. This may indicate inconsistent or poor-quality edge rounding as the culprit.”

In fact, Weinfurtner recommends a deep dive into any part-quality issues related to painting or coating.

“Look at how the parts are cut,” he says. “Perhaps parts require better cleaning. Do the parts require full deburring on both sides? What can be done to make downstream processes more effective? 

“As for painting and coating, which, of course, comes at added costs, we’ve seen fabricators that eliminate these processes and choose to, instead, surface-finish the parts via automated machines,” Weinfurtner continues. “This works well with stainless steel, for example, and provides a nice grain finish that they desire.

“At the end of the day, this all obviously depends on a fabricator’s customer requirements,” he adds. “Customer requirements in job shops change all of the time. For automated deburring, job shops will want flexibility and simplicity in changing consumables to different grits, turning units on and off, and choosing between single-sided and double-sided deburring, for example.”

As for feeding parts into an automated deburring machine, robots can be added to pick parts off  the cutting table and transfer to a conveyor for transport to the machine. Another option, according to Weinfurtner, involves a vision-guided robot picking parts from a skid for machine feeding, and then restacking the parts after deburring. Automatic deburring machines also benefit from Industry 4.0 advances, he adds, with the ability to connect machines to other line components for full line control from a centralized point. It also adds the ability to connect numerous deburring machines together. Another machine option: deslagging, which comes in handy for torch-cutting operations such as plasma and oxyfuel cutting.

In order to achieve the ideal final results, the tool storage ensures rapid setup and consistent performance for repeat jobs by saving previous used processing settings.

A Word on Post-Cut Leveling

With Arku’s long history in part, sheet and plate leveling, Weinfurtner also has something to say about leveling in fabricating operations—both before and after cutting and punching—that also can affect part quality.

“Leveling sheet prior to laser cutting, for example, results in greater cut accuracy due to exceptional flatness and the removal of residual stress, so that the material doesn’t bounce up during the heat of the cutting process,” he explains. “But the heat from cutting reintroduces stresses, especially when cutting thousands of holes or employing tight nesting, that can negatively affect flatness. That’s why some fabricators re-level parts after cutting. Combining automated deburring with post-cutting leveling will ease downstream work greatly and further reduce rejects.” MF

Industry-Related Terms: Abrasive, Bending, Edge, Grinding, LASER, Nesting, Plate, Point, Stainless Steel, Transfer
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: ARKU, Inc.

Technologies: Finishing


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