GURNEE, Ill.—Prosco Inc. is using a new technology to solve an old problem in the rubber roller market.
The firm launched the 3D Way Wiper, a 3D-printed wiper and oiler system, at the Rubber Roller Group meeting in Cincinnati.
"This is a product meant to solve a maintenance issue and prolong the life of machinery by providing a convenient, practical way of keeping debris from getting under the slideways and also providing lubrication," said Andre Kubala, engineering and product development for Prosco.
Many machines include a wiper of some kind that provides a squeegee to clean waste off of parts, but the wipers often end up in poor shape or damaged through use, he said. With older equipment, the wiper can be missing outright because the part is obsolete and unable to be found.
"It's kind of a forgotten thing, because each machine is different, and it can be very inconvenient. Sometimes you can't even source these things," Kubala said. "But they're very important, because that's what protects the critical component of the machine from wear."
Gurnee-based Prosco, a designer and manufacturer of rubber roller production equipment, sought to harness 3D printing to tackle the problem, Kubala said. It seemed like a perfect fit because the printing process allowed for customized shapes to functionally fit many different types of machines, and also it could be customized economically without having to make a mold.
Kubala said the wear parts, a polyurethane squeegee and a felt wiper for additional way surface cleaning, are both replaceable and standardized. The polyurethane wiper is an extrusion and can be cut to length before being fitted to the system. The felt, used for oiling the way, can be pulled out as a rod.
"Both of these wear parts are replaceable and they're standardized, cut-to-length pieces, so easy maintenance," he said.
Because the units are printed as a single piece, they require a few screws to hold them in place, and can often use screw holes from the original wiper part. That also makes them easy to remove for upkeep, he said. If the existing screw holes aren't able to be used for the Way Wiper, Prosco has a grid pattern sticker that can be used to develop a drill template for the 3D printed piece.
Because the felt wiper can spread oil effectively on the way while also cleaning away debris, it can remove the need to apply oil directly, Kubala said.
"With the rubber dust, oftentimes it gets underneath the ways and clogs the whole oiling system of the machine," he said. "So it's common practice for someone to just pour oil on the ways, which is a mess. And if the wiper works, all of the oil gets removed anyway, so it's kind of a no-good solution."
The 3D Way Wiper delivers oil to the wiper behind the scraper, so it cleans but leaves oil behind, he said. That also deals with the need to tear the whole machine apart to clean. It can be used for V-ways, flat ways, slanted ways and tailstocks.