HANOVER, Germany—Bartell Machinery Systems L.L.C. came to the recent Tire Technology Expo in Hanover ready to showcase two aspects of its core technology.
One was a re-launched, re-branded version of its top line single wire bead winding system, while the other was a brand new integrated feed inspection concept that still requires some development before being launched into the market, according to Shawn Lawlor, Bartell's director of marketing and new business development.
The re-branding offering is being dubbed as the BeadPro, which Lawlor said basically is a top level consolidation of all of the firm's best innovations bundled into one bead winding system.
"Over the years in cooperation with our customers and partners we've been able to develop different aspects of the machine that have improved efficiency, performance and quality," he said. "What we've done is bundle that into one operational system, making it the best of all worlds."
Lawlor said the improvements combined to give customers gains in productivity of 10-12 percent.
Some of the improvements are new within the past 20 months and specifically have focused on productivity increases and quality control, using the operator interface of the system. Bartell, based in Rome, N.Y., has created more attributes of the bead winding system that are recipe driven and programmable through the interface panels.
"We're removing some of the manual operator functions during production runs," he said. "It makes for a more consistent process and a consistent quality product."
The BeadPro already is in production, Lawlor said, with deliveries of the system ongoing throughout the year. He added there are other manufacturers with systems in the bead winding space, but Bartell believes the BeadPro has properties that differentiates it from the competition.
Bartell's integrated feed inspection concept is so new it hasn't been named yet, according to Lawlor, although internally it's been referred to unofficially as the BEAM System, standing for Bartell's Enhanced Automated Measurement System.
"What we're looking at is how do we make the process simpler, leveraging some of the Industry 4.0 attributes like robotics and intelligence, and really elevate the bead of the manufacturing component," he said.
What the system is engineered to do, the Bartell executive said, is transfer beads robotically from the winder to an inspection station, and then to either a cart or carousel.
"We're trying to provide the tire manufacturers the ability to have visibility into their production much more than they do today," he said.
Today, tire makers perform some variety of batch inspection, he said, and it's generally a very manual process. "Someone has to physically take a bead, put it on a physical measurement tool of some sort or a camera system," Lawlor said. "This would robotically transfer that.
"The ability to do close to 100 percent inspection on all beads coming off production lines is in the near future."
He estimated less than 10 percent of beads are inspected now. When a changeover is made, the manufacturer may do a quality check on the first batch, but it nowhere near approaches the ability of Bartell's concept system to inspect a majority of them.
For Bartell, Lawlor said it's a direct extension of its bead winding technologies and leveraging that with some of the firm's new innovations.
"We've been talking with our customers and various partners and we've continued to see a need for those types of solutions," he said. "We're continuing to grow our capabilities and programming and line integration, and taken that and leveraged it. The robotics is a portion of it, along with the success of our bead view inspection system (launched in 2016)."
There was much positive sentiment at the Tire Technology Expo toward the innovation, he said. "The customers see the need for it. There is a desire for it and a desire from everywhere from legacy older factories to new factories," Lawlor said.
The next step will be internal qualification testing, mostly with the inspection system but also some development testing. And there's likely to be changes as the inspection concept evolves, the Bartell official said.
"The concept delivered to the show may not be the realization of the actual product that will be delivered to customers," he said. "We have to make it practical, and we have to make sure it meets the customers' expectations as an installed unit in the factory."
One item that must be considered along the way is whether customers see it adding value in the factory, something Lawlor said can't really be proven until it's been tested in a large-scale installation.
"If we can help them see that vision and apply it, then they can get a positive return on their investment, an improved quality of the bead, an improved process cycle and, in the end, improved tires and working toward improved profitability for manufacturers," he said.
Another consideration is how to make proper use of the new types of data that would be collected in such an updated inspection system. One of the challenges here, Lawlor added, is there is no standardization across the industry on what the methodology is to analyze data. Bartell can help guide customers based on its experience, but some tire producers may want to capture data a bit differently based on their own downstream processes and how that influences their manufacturing.
"It does make the development more challenging, but that's where we have to be open to and flexible in how we develop these products, and ultimately deliver what the customer needs in their environment," Lawlor said.
He said Bartell believes there is no technology similar to this that it has seen in the bead component sector. Commercialization of the system is expected closer to the end of 2019 or into 2020, according to Lawlor.
Bartell is part of the Heico Companies L.L.C., which also owns Steelastic Co. Bartell's production, design and development work is done in Rome, and it also has aftermarket support and service locations in the United Kingdom and China. It employs 165 worldwide.