Surface® Combustion Is Building a Smarter Charge Car

Surface® Combustion charge cars are proven, rugged material handling machines for batch heat treat lines. The cars transfer loads from washers to Allcase® furnaces to Uni-DRAW® temper furnaces. Our standard charge cars include single or double ended, Extended Reach™, System #1™, push/push, automation ready, and fully automated designs.

The AP™ Torque system is now available on Surface Combustion Charge Cars and can transform an ordinary means of transport for workloads into a Predictive Maintenance Machine for an entire heat treat line. At minimum, the AP Torque system will eliminate the headaches of maintaining a mechanical clutch. Under the fullest utilization, the system can be used to track worn alloy in furnaces and alert users when replacement of alloy is required, before larger problems occur.

The AP Torque System utilizes a Variable Frequency Drive to control the handler motor. The drive monitors and records the power required loading and unloading equipment. The VFD is set-up to protect the handler motor in a manner similar to a mechanical clutch, in that they each disengage power from a the motor when the drive shaft requires too much power. Unlike a mechanical clutch that will erode and eventually require replacement, the VFD will not wear out.

The AP Torque system also utilizes a PLC and programming to communicate with the VFD. As the motor’s measured amps reach a set level, the drive stops the motor and PLC programmed alarm notifies the operator of a load stoppage.

Applied during installation of new equipment, a baseline can be created for power needed to transport a fully loaded tray through each piece of equipment. The AP Torque can be used to assure chain guides and roller rails are aligned to optimum locations and elevations. Misalignment can be spotted by an increase in power required to pass through a transition point.

Over time, as normal wear and tear occurs on internal furnace alloy or as trays become warped, the power requirements increase. The AP Torque system can measure the amount of power required and a direct comparison can be made to the initial baseline to determine where and if maintenance is needed on the internal furnace alloy. Alternatively, multiple trays can be tested through a furnace to determine if one tray may require more power than another, suggesting a new hardware may be required.

As part of the AP Torque system and with the inclusion of a PLC and Human Machine Interface (HMI), Surface has also included a multi-turn encoder for tray positioning to replace the mechanical rotary limit switch. The HMI allows for easy set-up of tray positioning without opening access doors inside the charge car.

Since a charge car is arguably the most integral part of a batch heat treat line, the addition of the AP Torque system will increase reliability of not only the load/unload of furnaces but also predict maintenance intervals of batch furnaces before an unscheduled shut down occurs.

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