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MicroMag Boosts Tool Life by 50% for Gripple

Company Name: Gripple

Location: Sheffield UK

Process Type: CNC Machining

Machined Material: EN1A (Leaded) Steel

Our Client

Established in 1989, Gripple is a globally recognised manufacturer; delivering innovative, value-added solutions to construction and agricultural markets. Employing over 800 people across 15 locations throughout the world, the company manufactures at four sites in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, with additional sales hubs located in Chicago, Obernai, Warsaw, Toronto, New Delhi and Kobe.

Gripple is a 100% employee-owned company with a unique approach to business, characterised by investment in people, innovation and sustainable growth. One of its most iconic products, the Gripple wire joiner, is a device used to join and tension wire, to terminate and suspend wires and wire ropes, and also to support false ceilings, cable baskets, and similar items.

As a global manufacturer, Gripple takes its responsibility to reduce impact on the planet very seriously. In recent years, the company has maximised energy efficiency, decreased electricity use, reduced landfill/incinerated waste, increased recycling, conserved its use of raw materials, and minimised packaging. Gripple's commitment to ‘greener’ long term investment is also characterised by the recent renovation of its Riverside Works factory in Sheffield, UK, which features over 400 solar panels, the first river water heating system in the region, the world’s largest aquaponics green wall system in a factory, and an evaporative cooling system.

The Challenge

Gripple uses a Star sliding head CNC machine as part of its manufacturing process in Sheffield. In order to satisfy its’ environmental commitments, Gripple was keen to maximise efficiency and reduce waste on the machine, which included exploring ways to prolong coolant life, and enable the coolant flow system to work as efficiently as possible.

However, a significant amount of swarf metal regularly built up in the bottom tank of the CNC machine, which needed to be cleaned on a regular basis. The cleaning process required the machining process to be stopped and manually cleaned out by operatives at Gripple, resulting in downtime and frequent exposure to the contaminated coolant. In addition, small swarf chippings were making their way into the coolant flow system and compromising tool life. Gripple was, therefore, looking for a way to improve this.

The Solution

A solution was found in the MicroMag magnetic filter from Eclipse Magnetics, which was fitted to Gripple’s Star sliding head CNC machine. Suitable for a variety of machining applications, the MicroMag magnetic filter allows contaminated coolant to enter the inlet port where it is dispersed by the unique tapered radial flow channels. The coolant then passes down the outside of the centrally mounted rare earth magnetic core which captures the contamination particles.

The geometry of the magnetic flux circuit means that contamination builds up in a controlled way, ensuring that the filter can never block, regardless of how much contamination is held. Channels remain open allowing the fluid to flow freely, with filtered fluid flowing through the return slots located in the upper section of the magnetic core, down through the centre, and then exiting through the outlet port. The MM10 installed on Gripple’s CNC machine has a max flow rate of 100 litres per minute and a capacity of 2kg.

The MicroMag has delivered many advantages to Gripple. The build-up of swarf material in the bottom tank of the CNC machine has been significantly reduced, and the machine and coolant flow system is working more efficiently due to the reduction in swarf circulating in the coolant.

Before the addition of the MicroMag, the bottom tank of the CNC machine needed to be cleaned approximately every month. There has been such a significant reduction in swarf collecting in the tank that it now needs to be cleaned out every 50 days. This has allowed Gripple to reduce the frequency of cleaning from 12 times per year to just over 7 times per year. In addition, the bottom tank used to take approximately 45 minutes to clean, and has since reduced to just 25 minutes. This equals a 44.4% reduction in downtime.

The tool change data is also impressive since the installation of the MicroMag. For example, on some tool locations, the number of components produced has increased by 50% before the tooling is required to be changed; from 10,000 to 15,000 components.

Comment

Gripple employee Jerome Whyte said: “The MicroMag is very effective. During the trial run we conducted on one of our machines, we noticed a significant difference to the coolant quality that was being pumped around the coolant flow system. Obviously, this is great for prolonging the life of the cutting tools because it means that we are cutting the raw material using a much cleaner, and more consistent coolant flow.

Since the installation of the MicroMag, we have seen a big reduction in the amount of swarf being deposited in the bottom tanks. This allows our yearly production value to be more efficient because we don’t have to empty the bottom tank as frequently.

When we clean the bottom tank, which we would usually do every month or so, the machine can be down from between 30 minutes to 1 hour. Since we installed the MicroMag, which was just 3 months before our big clean at Christmas just before shut down, we noticed a huge difference in the volume of swarf accumulated in the bottom tanks of the machines compared with the machines that didn’t have a MicroMag fitted.

The magnet is also very easy to clean. All you have to do is stop the machine to allow the coolant to drain, and then simply unscrew the cover to expose the magnet. Once the cover is off you can easily lift the magnet out of its case, put into a non-magnetic box, and use the tool provided to scrape off all the swarf it has collected. Once the magnet is free of swarf you can then quickly put the magnet back into the centre of the base, and screw the cover back on. It only takes 5 minutes to clean the swarf collected off the MicroMag and re-attach the magnet back into place.”

Gripple employee Jake Slaughter said: “The MicroMag is a great addition to the machine and really improves the way it runs. In the long term, I estimate that the company will be able to produce a lot more components with MicroMag units installed on all of the machines. We’ll also be able to cut labour hours drastically; reducing the time that production is stopped due to changing tools or cleaning the bottom tanks.

Because the MicroMag cleans the fluid by removing ferrous parts, it doesn’t have an effect on brass, and therefore doesn’t stop it from getting into the coolant flow system. This is something we had accounted for, and we still believe the MicroMag is a great thing to have installed on the machines due to the amount of steel we use compared to the brass material. Brass is much lighter and far easier to remove from the bottom tanks.

On another positive note, the MicroMag effectively separates the steel from the brass. This means that when we change the machine production to different components and materials, we can keep all of our waste material separate and not mix the steel with the brass. This saves us even more money due to the difference in value between steel waste and brass waste.”