Drive shafts and hitch systems for agricultural machinery: GKN Walterscheid optimises robot connections with Eisele MULTILINE E
Founded in 1919, Walterscheid GmbH is a global leader in the development and production of agricultural drive systems and tractor-mounted systems. At its headquarters in Lohmar, North Rhine-Westphalia the company manufactures drive systems for agricultural technology, such as high-quality drive shafts with overload clutches, tractor-mounted systems and hitch systems. Gearboxes are produced at another German location in Sohland, Saxony, and drive shafts are produced at the US headquarters in Woodridge, Illinois.
New solution sought for connection technology
The production of three-point tractor mounts for implements and machines without separate axles is one of the core competences of Walterscheid. These attachments consist of one upper link and two lower links. The implement-side connection of the lower links features link hooks developed by the specialist and machined on an automated line. The hooks are taken from a part storage unit and inserted in a machining centre, then removed by a robot system after machining and loaded onto a special load carrier that transfers the hooks into a hardening furnace for heat treatment. In times of full use of capacity it is possible to manufacture up to 900 lower link hooks every day on two production lines.
Removal of the hooks in the fully automated line is carried out by eight-axis robots, whose grippers have to execute extreme angular movements during the process. In the past, this caused twisted and defective supply cables and tubes, which resulted in downtimes and forced the decision-makers to find a new solution.
For an optimal connection between the robot and the gripper head, the decision-makers at Walterscheid finally chose multiple media connectors from EISELE GmbH. The German based company has more than 80 years of experience with high-quality solid metal connectors. Eisele’s MULTLINE ADAPTIV + E is a modular kit system for multiple and multi-media connectors. “We were in search of a connector that allows fast disconnection and also enables custom allocation of the plug positions. The versatile modular kit system from Eisele makes that possible,” explains the Production Manager TAS at Walterscheid.
Maximum flexibility with the MULTILINE E
The Eisele MULTLINE ADAPTIV + E is a fully modular multiple and multi-media connector with adaptive inserts. The components, which have a round base body and consist of a plug and socket, are manufactured from chemically nickel-plated aluminum and are also available in stainless steel for use in harsh environments. They are modularly designed and can flexibly integrate various tube diameters, functions and media. In this manner, connections for compressed air, vacuum, gases, coolants, fluids and even connectors for electrical and electronic cables can be brought together in a single interface – and therefore combine precisely the connections that are required for the particular application. The adaptive inserts are available in nickel-plated or dezincification-resistant brass, as well as stainless steel, depending on the medium. Single or double seals provide for a reliable, leak-proof connection on the tube side. Connection and disconnection are therefore possible in a very short time
“We use the round version of the Eisele MULTLINE ADAPTIV + E multiple connectors made of stainless steel. This allows us to integrate multiple media such as electric current and air in one connector system. Especially practical for us was the online configuration of the multiple connector according to our individual requirements,” says the Production Manager. What Walterscheid appreciates most about Eisele components are their precise and robust construction, because the components in the production of the hooks for the three-point linkage systems are subjected to high loads. Their resilience meanwhile minimises system downtimes. The Eisele MULTLINE ADAPTIV + E also features a quick-change system for fast maintenance and repairs. “Expressed in numbers this means that we have been able to reduce the time needed for repair and maintenance from five hours to only one hour,” the Production Manager is pleased to report. This is achieved in part by the capability of fast assembly and disassembly of the round connectors without the use of tools. When the connector elements are disconnected or the supply lines are shut off, the drip-free inserts prevent the uncontrolled escape of media. “With this highly user-friendly system, the operating personnel can now change the tube bundle in the systems. That saves a great deal of time, since the employees no longer have to wait for technicians from maintenance,” the Production Manager explains.