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Wheel upgrade transforms Amtrol-Alfa’s bottle blast process


Major blast machine upgrade improves surface quality and extends service intervals

Company profile

As Europe's largest manufacturer of steel gas cylinders, Amtrol-Alfa has millions of gas bottles in use worldwide for cooking, heating or leisure. With 50 years of experience, a long list of patents and a strong commitment to R&D and continuous improvement, the company produces both steel and composite cylinders at its factory in Guimarães, Portugal.

Challenges, Solution and Results

Francisco Lusinchi, EMP & Aftermarket Sales Manager at Wheelabrator, explains: “Wheel upgrades are a really cost-effective way of boosting the performance of a machine. Putting our TITAN wheels on existing equipment can give customers an instant performance uplift - and while we’re there we can tweak a few other things, too, to ensure they get a lot more out of their machine. In this case, changing the position of the wheels resulted in a much more effective blast process and with a knock-on effect on effect on cycle times.”

The challenge: a poor performer

Blasting with steel grit abrasive is a vital step in Amtrol-Alfa’s manufacturing process for new steel gas bottles, preparing the surface before powder coating. 

The company’s existing wheel blast machine from 2011 wasn’t blasting the whole bottle surface uniformly to the required roughness and; in cases of bottle rework or repainting; the machine wasn’t prepared to reliably remove old paint and powder coatings. Besides of the processing issues mentioned before the machine also caused high maintenance costs.

The solution: upgrade to Wheelabrator

Amtrol-Alfa turned to Wheelabrator to design and implement a major upgrade on their (non-Wheelabrator) blast machine, to improve surface quality and extend service intervals. As part of this comprehensive Equipment Modernisation Programme (EMP), the Wheelabrator team devised a new blast wheel configuration and completely redesigned the blast chamber with upgraded internal wear parts.

In the center of the EMP was the replacement of the four existing blast wheels with four TITAN 15.3 EM 7.5kW wheels. Instead of a “spiral” blast result due to the inclined configuration of the older wheels, the new configuration arranges four blast wheels on opposite sides along the direction of part transport, achieving more even and effective coverage as well as faster cycle times.

Upgrading to new TITAN wheels is an easy and cost-effective way of improving blast performance and machine uptime, while also reducing noise and abrasive and energy consumption.

The results: wear part life more than doubled

Installed in August 2018, the new blast wheels have the power and coverage to strip off every last trace of old coatings to give an improved and consistent surface finish with full coverage of the whole bottle at the specified roughness (Rz 30μ) for optimum coating adhesion. As well as delivering improved surface quality, the upgraded machine maintains its previous conveyor throughput speed for new bottles and now processes old bottles more quickly.

On top of this step change in blast performance, the machine now requires far less frequent maintenance due to longer service intervals. Blast wheel blade lifetime jumped from around 420 hours to approximately 1100 hours, control cages and impeller life time was improved threefold and the blast wheel’s top and lateral wear plates now last more than 1800 hours instead of 550 hours. The result are savings on spares of approximately 40%.

Blast wheel upgrades are a really cost-effective way of boosting the performance of a machine.

Francisco Lusinchi, EMP & Aftermarket Sales Manager at Wheelabrator

TITAN blast wheel

watch the 3D-animation here