Browse Month: November 2015

Steelmakers step up services

Cost modeling, tear-downs, technical data, and computerized programs aid the OEM in materials selection.

  • At InlandSteel , Chicago, a computerized “metals vs. alternative” materials program simulates the total cost of a design.
  • At U.S. Steel, a division of USX Corp., Pittsburgh, customer technical service people participate in the tearing down ofappliances to determine how materials utilization can be improved.
  • At LTV Steel Co., Cleveland, engineers in the customer technical service center work “elbow to elbow” with appliance customers to measure properties such as formability and paint adhesion.
  • At Bethlehem Steel Corp., Bethlehem, Pa., a computerized program makes it possible to provide wider, heavier coils that require less set-up time.

These are some of the ways steel companies are strengthening their role in the appliance industry.

Understanding trade-offs

“It’s important for us to help our customers understand which material is most cost-effective,” says Tim Treacy, account manager, appliance materials division, Inland Steel Co.

“We are not going to mislead our customers and point them to steel if their performance criteria say otherwise.”

Inland’s newly introduced computer cost-modeling service aids Treacy and Bob Hudson, also an appliance materials account manager, in providing customers with the information necessary for making sound materials-selection decisions.

“Variables such as tooling, capital investment and depreciation are all taken into account,” says Hudson.

The cost-modeling tool is just one aspect of Inland’s commitment to the appliance industry, says Treacy.

“There are companies out there that truly don’t understand the depth of our capabilities,” he says.

Inland, therefore, is striving to initiate a continuous dialogue with its appliance customers. This effort is being facilitated through a recent reorganization.

“We have research staff, manufacturing engineers, technical service people and quality control staff assigned solely to the appliance market,” says Treacy.

The reorganization, he says, has resulted in helping customers achieve overall improved quality, product and cost performance.

Answering needs

LTV encourages appliance customers to take advantage of its newly opened customer technical service center.

“We have a customer technical staff dedicated to responding to appliance customer needs and problems, and to developing products that will answer their needs,” says James Sprong, director, market development division.

Sometimes it’s a matter of working together on testing methods.

“Some of our customers will send manufacturing engineers in here to work `elbow-to-elbow’ with our engineers and technicians on testing specific properties,”

These capabilities have spurred interest in prepainted steel among OEMs in the home-laundry segment, says Sprong.

“Until a couple of months ago the attitude of the OEMs was `When you drive by, toot and say hello, but don’t bother us with your prepaint program.

“Now the OEMs are very interested in prepaint. We’re taking them through a lot of testing to prove that the product is acceptable in terms of standing up to bleaches and detergents.” Sprong says LTV also offers customers seminars in specific problem areas.

“One of our customers expressed concern about its welding operation. It didn’t realize we had such a large staff of welding engineers.”

Sprong says if a customer has the need, LTV will conduct an in-plant seminar on a topic such as welding.

“We’re able to go into the customer’s plant and discuss the vagaries of steel and why their welding sometimes doesn’t come out the way they would like.”

Upside of teardowns

“We’re working closer with appliance customers at a grass-roots level to reduce cost of manufacturing,” says Kevin McCarthy, industry manager, appliances, U.S. Steel.

One method for accomplishing cost reductions is to participate in the teardown of an appliance, he says.

“We will watch a customer take apart a range, for example. The customer defines for us the function of each piece and its specs.

“This practice allows us to recommend areas in which we can reduce the gauge, eliminate parts or go to a lighter coating weight.”

Win-win coils

Bethlehem Steel has introduced a computer program designed to “produce the heaviest and widest coil possible, depending on the customer’s slitting requirements,” says Otto Ehrsam, market development engineer -industry marketing.

“This is a win-win situation. It provides the customer with master coils that require less set-up time. And because we’re able to produce wider, heavier coils, our efficiency is increased.”

Ehrsam says the program takes into account the customer’s slit widths for any given thickness and grade.

“The data are put through the program. Based on the maximum weight the customer can handle and how much edge trim is needed, the size of the coil is determined.”

Ehrsam says the program is a good planning tool for purchasing.

HVAC molded in plastics

Carrier and GE Plastics in joint effort develop components. GE Living Environments house is the showcase. In a three-phase developmental program, Carrier Corp., Syracuse, has joined GE Plastics, Pittsfield, Mass., to determine the extent to which plastics can be used in HVAC applications.

GE’s 3,000-sq.-ft. Living Environments concept house in Pittsfield is the testing ground for the program. (See “Is an All-Plastic House in Your Future?” in December’s Managers Update.)

“Carrier is working with GE Plastics on this project to develop low-cost heating and air-conditioning components that are high in quality and reliability,” says Ian Shapiro, Carrier senior engineer.

Carrier supplied and helped install state-of-the-art equipment in the house.

Phase I of the program embraces applications that are in production or will be within the year.

Applications and material used are:

  • Air-conditioner control boxes–LEXAN [R] resin.
  • Thermostats and controls–CYCOLAC [R] resin.
  • Draft inducers, drain pans and furnace-header boxes–VALOX [R] resin.
  • Flue pipe–ULTEM [R] resin.

Design for Manufacturing

Phase II projects are still in development, with commercialization anywhere from one year to four years away.

The Phase II gas furnace uses engineering thermoplastics for styling, performance, and design-for-manufacturability advantages.

The added efficiency that tomorrow’s furnaces will require is enhanced by the use of corrosion-resistant insulative materials, according to Kevin Quinn, HVAC programs specialist for GE Plastics.

The furnace’s enclosure is of highly styled, impact-resistant structural and insulative panels of LEXAN and XENOY [R] resins. The panels provide thermal and acoustical insulation along with the durability that engineering plastics offer.

Several new applications for the working (internal) components are also under development.

Five comfort appliances

Phase III projects are conceptual applications in the early research and developmental stage. These projects aren’t targeted for commercialization for four or more years.

The heart of Living Environments is the Total Environmental Control (TEC) system. Five home-comfort appliances combine in this residential heating and cooling unit that uses thermoplastics for light weight, easy installation and service, aesthetics, corrosion resistance, durability, and component integration.

The TEC system performs heating, air conditioning, humidifying, water heating, and air filtering, with add-on capabilities for extra functions such as wasteheat recovery and ventilating.

Modularity allows user flexibility and enhances serviceability, explains Quinn.

A basic heat and hot-water system easily accommodates slide-in components. A malfunctioning component is easily diagnosed with a hand-held monitor and can be replaced immediately without shutting down the entire system. Piping and wiring are easily accessed by pop-off panels.

Snap fits and automatic electric power and control connections ease installation.

  • The TEC system includes:
  • Blow-molded panels made of LEXAN and XENOY resins with foam fill for thermal and sound insulation.
  • Primary blower wheel and housing of NORYL [R] resin.
  • Plate fin heat-exchanger components of either NORYL, ULTEM, or SUPEC [TM] resins, depending on the heat resistance required.

High-strength AZDEL [TM] technopolymer structures are under consideration for structural bases and heat shields.

TEC will operate on different power sources, providing versatility for the different systems it comprises.

GE Plastics and Carrier are designing plastics for HVAC to meet UL 746C guidelines and American National Standard Institute’s proposed Standard Z21.

Loudspeaker loses weight due to polystyrene

Molded-in capability of material enhances acoustics and improves design.

Plastic speakers? Precisely.

JBL, Inc., Northridge, Calif., has developed two professional-quality loudspeakers that offer the acoustic quality and ruggedness of high-density particleboard.

The difference is the enclosure is made of a weather-resistant structural foam polystyrene resin from Mobil Chemical Co., Edison, N.J.

Molded by Xytec, Inc., Tacoma, Wash., the new cabinets are found on JBL’s Control 10 stereo loudspeaker and Control 12 professional stage monitor/loudspeaker. Each weighs 17 lbs.–40 percent less than a conventional particleboard-based cabinet.

The design flexibility of plastic also allowed designers to mold-in specific acoustic features to enhance sound and improve design.

“Structural foam polystyrene reduces cabinet weight significantly while retaining the necessary wall stiffness and load-bearing strength,” says Dan Siefert, senior systems engineer. “We also gain by using a waterproof material that enables the cabinet to withstand the temperature and humidity extremes encountered in indoor and outdoor concerts.”

Another plus is cabinet service life, especially when speakers go “on the road.”

“Particleboard cabinets used in professional concert loudspeakers look old very fast after they go on tour,” says Chuck Willard, director, product planning. “Precolored plastic, coated with a durable, black polyurethane finish, helps hide the dents and scratches without revealing the underlying material. And the high melt viscosity of the resin results in a very smooth, high-quality surface.”

Polystyrene vs. engineering materials

After the initial decision for plastic construction was approved, JBL audio engineers conducted an extensive cost/benefit analysis on a number of materials.

“While ABS and polycarbonate have higher strength ratings, we determined they would have cost 30 percent more without offering any needed properties,” says Willard.

“It wasn’t a contest to build the strongest possible cabinet. For the cabinet to work economically, as well as acoustically, we wanted it to have the best cost/performance profile. We soon realized polystyrene would meet our needs without the expense of engineering materials.”

Wall thicknesses in the trapezoid-shaped cabinet vary from 0.125 in. to 0.025 in. Cabinet dimensions are 24 in. x 17 in. x 12 in.

About 20 ribs, ranging in width from 0.75 in. to 2 in., stiffen the cabinet to limit resonances from sustained low-frequency sounds. Further stiffening is accomplished with a hollow PVC tube as a transverse brace and a lateral brace of hard wood.

A proprietary sodium borosilicate-based coating, Aquaplas [TM], is also applied after molding to dampen high-frequency resonance.

The front panel and enclosure for the L-Pad volume controls are the only parts of the cabinet that require added heat resistance to withstand temperatures of 275 [degrees] F or more. These components are molded from polycarbonate.

Supports molded in the rear of the cabinet accommodate hardware for wall-mounting, and are conservatively rated to handle the 44-lb. weight of the system with a 4:1 safety factor.

Future system enhancements include plans for a rear-mounted integrated amplifier to make the speakers self-powered for simplified use during concerts.