By Hunter Golden, Product Manager, Industrial Tools, Ingersoll Rand
Process improvements, operational agility, error proofing and safety are paramount when it comes to manufacturing and the use of tools. Operators and plants reap significant benefits when they effectively address these areas of manufacturing.
Innovative products such as cordless torque multiplier fastening tools provide several tangible advantages that optimize processes. One field that has embraced torque multiplier tools, and in particular fastening tools, is the renewables energy sector and the assembly of wind turbines.
Some critical applications in the wind turbine manufacturing process require the accuracy and process uniformity that a transducerized torque multiplier fastening tool delivers. Substantial pieces of equipment such as turbine towers, motor units and housings and the massive blades that rotate at high speeds all come together in the manufacturing process. Working with this heavy equipment involves assembling items in place and then transferring them for final onsite assembly. Safety is a top priority during the process, because the risk of injury is exponentially higher. It’s here that factors such as the tool form, key features, agility and flexibility all come into play.
Ingersoll Rand worked with an international wind turbine manufacturer who used the Ingersoll Rand QX Series Cordless Torque Multiplier fastening tool for two stages of the wind turbine manufacturing process. Closed-loop transducerized devices produced better results than traditional fastening pneumatic multiplier tools or current-controlled electric tools, which helped operators control and track torque and angle tightening parameters. The versatile closed-loop transducerized cordless torque multiplier reduced the risk of rework and optimized processes in two areas of wind turbine blade manufacturing.
For fastening applications in manufacturing, speed and control are key elements.
Operators must tighten bolts to the precise angle of rotation specific to the individual bolt. Overtightening causes damage, while under-tightening can lead to safety issues. For example, bolts that loosen over time could lead to a blade shearing off and falling, with a potentially catastrophic outcome.
The QX Series Cordless Torque Multiplier is transducerized and comes equipped with a gearbox multiplier that enables customer-prescribed torque and angles that achieve a high degree of accuracy for fastening applications. The tool has multiple user-programmable configurations for control, such as torque, angle and gang count. In advanced tools such as the QX Series, these functions can be programmed via a mobile app or directly on the tool. Multiple fastening strategies can be stored on the tool at the same time, with visual and audible signals that provide feedback as to whether the bolt achieved the proper torque limit, angle and gang count required.
For the customer, the compact nature of the QX Cordless Multiplier meant that operators could move freely without the inconvenience of bulky air or hydraulic hoses, or power packs. The 360° adjustable handle of the tool provided a comfortable grip and provisions for a tethering point. These features allowed maximum flexibility when working on multiple joints and accessing odd angles. Control, uniformity and agility combine to increase productivity and throughput.
Of paramount importance, of course, is safety. A sliding slab reaction arm on the tool eliminated pinch points and provided leverage for the operator. The smaller tool form factor and weight also offered safety benefits in terms of reducing repetitive motion injuries and finger crush injuries.
Data is king
In the age of the industrial internet of things (IIoT), traceable data is essential to help companies identify potential fastening issues and areas for productivity improvement.
With the data recorded and transmitted by the tool, the customer has assurance that every
operation was executed to a set, uniform standard – essential factors when it comes to validation and quality control. Data could be analyzed for actionable insights, and records stored for up to 1,200 fastenings, which could be downloaded to a computer via a USB cable or wirelessly transferred to an INSIGHTqcx controller. This provided reliable data for review, analysis, and record-keeping at any time, replacing the dated guesswork of manually recording fastening torque values
The customer used the QX Series Cordless Torque Multiplier for two main applications during the manufacturing and final production assembly of wind turbines.
1. Stability during manufacturing
During blade fiberglass installation, the operator fastens the blades to a machine that rotates while each wing blade is affixed to the hub. The application process was upgraded from an impact wrench that was over-torqueing bolts and providing zero data. Operators replaced the impact wrench with a QX Series Cordless Torque Multiplier to provide data assurance that the appropriate torque specification is met. A sliding slab reaction arm is attached to the tool at all times to prevent operator injury.
Although there are around 200 bolts that secure each of the three blades during the final assembly, during manufacture, eight secure the blade for transport between different stations. Each station now has a cordless transducerized torque multiplier, further expediting the process. Each blade is moved via a hoist or crane and locked into each station. The blade is then slowly rotated, and materials added on each side. After this process is complete, operators use the same tool for bolt removal as the blade enters the next stage in the manufacturing process, and the next blades are brought into the workstation and the process repeats.
Manufacturers streamline the entire process and increase safety due to the flexibility, maneuverability and programmable parameters of the cordless torque multiplier.
2. Final manufacturer production assembly
Once the blade is completed (fiberglass is hardened), the manufacturers transports the unit to the final stage in the assembly process at testing. Employees will then install all 200 bolts to complete quality assurance testing. This is the final stage before operators put the units onto railcars and ship them to the site, so it’s a critical stage. The 200 bolts are added around the end of the blade while it is affixed to the testing fixture. After quality assurance testing is complete, the blades are prepared for transport via railcar. The operator re-fastens 200 bolts to secure the product for transport to the field.
Since this is a manufacturing facility, the focus is on productivity and turning the blades out quickly, safely and efficiently. One common issue when processing such a large number of bolts is tool heat or burn out; however, the Ingersoll Rand QX Series Torque Multiplier is able to accomplish the task. The cordless QXM offers the flexibility to be programmed with a 3-second delay between every bolt. Ingersoll Rand manufacturers incorporated this into the fastening strategy to prevent the tool from overheating, which increases quality and reduces rework.
Simply a better way
Manufacturing innovations help customers become more efficient, safer and productive while upholding quality. In this case, the customer successfully deployed the QX Torque Multiplier across multiple applications to achieve tangible improvements:
- Greater accuracy and process uniformity
- Increased operator agility
- Elimination of pinch points – reducing the risk of operator injury
- Traceable data – providing direct information for customizable parameters and actionable insights
- Faster cycle time
Hunter Golden is the Global Product Manager, Cordless Tools for Ingersoll Rand Power Tools. He is an expert in bringing new cordless solutions, from ideation to commercialization, to customers to better suit their fastening needs. Golden has spent the entirety of his career with Ingersoll Rand. In his current role, he uses his engineering background and understanding of customer insights to influence product development. He works closely with the global sales team and global product engineers to analyze existing product performance and identify areas of improvement within the electric tools group. Prior to his current position, Golden led the Global Lifecycle Engineering team for the Fluid Management division at Ingersoll Rand. He collaborated with customers to resolve quality issues and increase customer satisfaction. He is a licensed professional engineer in the state of North Carolina. Golden earned his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.
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Fredrick Carter says
Well-written blog, Hunter. Torque can increase the wind force but keeps the rotational speed intact. This leads to better mechanical power generation. Maximizing the turbine’s energy is another significant application of torque control.