Table of Contents
- 1 Process development leads to quality products.
- 1.1 Process Improvements Impacting AirBoss Production
- 1.2 New Technologies Create Cost-Effective and Timely Solutions
Process development leads to quality products.
According to Jeff Auten, AirBoss Engineered Products’ VP of Engineering, process development is just as important to the company as creating quality products.
“I get the feeling, in talking to our customers, that we’ve been a bit more aggressive,” says Auten when asked whether process control and innovation is an industry-wide trend or if AirBoss is ahead of the curve. But it’s a progressive aggression and one that’s paving the way for modern advancements within the manufacturing sector.
As new technologies arise, so too does the need for companies like AirBoss to innovate, adapt, and excel in order to outpace the competition. It’s a challenge AirBoss experts like Auten happily accept.
Process Improvements Impacting AirBoss Production
Sometimes, process innovation is slow and deliberate. Other times, technology sweeps across an industry like a whirlwind and changes everything almost overnight. AirBoss, luckily, has been riding both types of innovation waves for decades. Recent improvements to process development have helped optimize efficiency, safety, and productivity.
Research and Development to Diversify Offerings
In recent years, AirBoss has devoted energy and resources to expanding the company’s research and development capabilities. For an enterprise that got its start focused mostly on rubber mixing and compounding, AirBoss is now an industry leader in custom compound formulation, specialized rubber product design, and global healthcare, defense, and security solutions. This is all thanks, in part, to expanded R&D efforts within the company.
Automation to Increase Efficiency and Safety
Some manufacturers will say manufacturing automation is everything. While AirBoss hasn’t fully boarded the automation bandwagon—partly because process control for rubber compounding is complex and partly because some legacy processes don’t need to be automated—the company has introduced a few new pieces of automated equipment that have been game changers.
AirBoss Engineered Products’ Manufacturing Engineering Manager, Robert Angeles, has only good things to say about the two “auto cells” that work their magic on the manufacturing floor.
The injection molding auto cell units are state-of-the-art in every way. They have two robotic arms, several heating stations, and a molding press all contained inside a safety cage and operated with very little human input.
“It is a very new technology for us,” says Angeles. “The technology itself has been out there for some time, so it’s not brand new for the industry, but it’s super brand new for how we’re trying to do our manufacturing process.”
These auto cell stations have increased efficiency exponentially, leading Angeles and his team to count products produced per minute rather than per batch, as used to be the case. Also, the self-contained automated units make the molding process safer for all involved.
“Now, it’s pieces per minute,” says Angeles. “The auto cell utilizes reduced cavitation tooling allowing for shorter cycle times, ultimately producing more parts per minute or hour than our standard operations.”
3D Printing to Improve Prototyping
3D printing capabilities have made things easier and quicker for AirBoss Engineered Products’ research and development team, and the effects are echoing throughout the company. 3D printing has completely changed the way AirBoss Engineered Products does its prototyping.
Prior to 3D, when AirBoss needed to prototype a new design or alter an updated feature for a client, it had to outsource the prototype creation. This added weeks if not months to a product’s development time because that’s how long it took to get a part back. If that particular prototype had flaws, the process had to start all over again, and R&D had to wait another few weeks.
“In cases where we’ve had to send our models and drawings out to have plastic parts made for us, now we’re printing those in-house,” explains Auten. “We can then use them rather quickly in any assembly we provide to our customers. It’s really sped up some of the prototyping and development processes.”
In fact, the technology has improved the design process so much that a prototyped part might be 3D printed one day, deemed not sufficient for use that afternoon, and a new prototype can be printed overnight and ready for testing the following day.
“It’s great,” says Auten. “I wish I’d had something like this twenty years ago.”
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New Technologies Create Cost-Effective and Timely Solutions
AirBoss has long been a company that focuses heavily on process development, refinement, and improvement. If you ask Auten or Angeles, it’s this dedication to improving processes that leads to design optimization and product innovation.
“When I bring customers in and show them what we do, what we’re developing, and they walk the manufacturing floor and see the kind of equipment we’re using,” Auten muses, “they’re seeing something that’s state-of-the-art that they normally don’t see in facilities like this.”
Prototyping overnight, automating essential-but-repetitive manufacturing steps, and generally refining “little” things has had a lasting impact on the way AirBoss operates. Traditional methods that were costly and time-consuming have evolved to become some of the company’s most efficient and effective processes.