It pays to maintain
Bovone ELB 10/45 Edger from Salem Distributing, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Read the sidebar, Maintaining an edger.
One of the most important investments a glass shop owner can make is in machine maintenance, suppliers say. The return is huge; regular maintenance increases productivity, reduces repair costs, increases the life of a machine and improves product quality.
Machines constitute a major investment for shops, whether it’s an $8,000 edging machine for a five-person shop, or a $400,000 computer numerically controlled machine for a larger company with multiple locations. Repairs and new equipment purchases hurt a company’s bottom line, but regular maintenance takes away many of these costs, says Bob Spears, director of machinery sales for Salem Distributing, Winston-Salem, N.C.
“An inexpensive quart of oil and a tube of grease, coupled with 10 to 15 minutes of daily care, can add years of productive life to your glass machinery,” Spears says. “Even less expensive machines will perform for years when properly maintained.”
Minneapolis Glass Co., Plymouth, Minn., has a beveling machine that is 20 years old, thanks to preventative maintenance, says Scott Mouser, plant manager. “I know companies in the cities that have gone through three of these machines in the time that we have had this one,” he says.
Poor maintenance can impede product quality, lead to expensive repairs and create dangerous working conditions. This photo, a snapshot of a small area on a poorly maintained machine, shows several problem areas: The guards are missing, exposing critical moving parts to corrosive elements; the chain is dry, accelerating chain and cog wear and adversely affecting the edge finish; and the emergency stop switch is broken, posing a potential safety hazard. Photo by Salem Distributing, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Most glass shops will have a cutting table and an edging machine, either an upright belt sander or a straight-line diamond wheel edger, says John Czopek, brand manager of machinery sales for the Sommer and Maca Machinery Division of C.R. Laurence Co., Los Angeles. “Shops usually start with a belt machine, then go to a straight-line edger.”
A shop also would have either a portable tripod drill or a two-sided drill machine. Larger shops with more fabrication capabilities might also have cutting lines, bevellers, sandblasters and even CNC machines.
Well-maintained machines produce better products, Czopek says. “It also helps to maximize the longevity of your investment.”
Poor maintenance can lead to damaged products. For example, if the coolant mixture in a straight-line edger is not changed when necessary, the coolant will become more alkaline and could create dried water rings on the glass or, if the condition worsens, could begin to break down the polymers in a mirror backing, Czopek says.
Spears says that going above and beyond normal maintenance can set a shop apart from competitors. He provided the example of one shop that takes extra care when maintaining its edgers and bevellers. Both types of machines are equipped with internal brushes that require regular rinsing. “Some customers do a token job of this weekly, while others may do a quick rinse each evening," he says. "One of our customers rinses out their machines each evening, and at the end of the week, they even apply a thin film of WD-40 to the internal solution tray to prevent the buildup of hard, abrasive glass fines. It is no coincidence that this customer is well known throughout the glass industry for offering the very closest of tolerances for his line of mirrors, mirror strips and accessories.”
The most common maintenance mistake managers and operators make is simply not performing appropriate maintenance. Spears says shops should have daily, weekly and monthly maintenance schedules to ensure machines stay in proper working order.
In some shops, managers have trouble finding time to stop production. “There are times when management objects to shut production down 15 minutes early each day to allow for proper cleaning, adjustments and maintenance,” Spears says.
Mouser says maintenance procrastination is tempting, especially when a company feels pressure from the customer. “We have to work around our customers," he says. "Sometimes if we don’t have time today, [we think] we’ll do it tomorrow. But it comes to a point where you just have to shut down before you break down.”
Adhering to a strict maintenance schedule can end up saving time, says Richard Walter, owner of the Glass Doctor franchise in Glass Doctor, Lynden, Wash. He uses the example of cleaning residue on an edging machine. Neglecting maintenance can plug the filter, and the machine will stop running entirely. “You don’t want the machine to stop when you’re doing a whole run of mirrors, and then run the risk of burning the motor,” he says.
Another common mistake shops make is neglect to rigorously maintain newer equipment. Newer machines are generally easier to maintain than their predecessors and include features such as automatic oilers.
“Far too often these features give a false sense of well-being to the operators," Spears says. "There is that feeling that lubrication is being taken care of. However, we tell our customers to still hand lubricate the tracks and conveyors at the start of each week. Greasing all the proper movement points must always remain a vital element in weekly or perhaps monthly practices.”
Importance of experience
While maintenance schedules are important, operators should also be trained to keep a close eye on the output of a machine to ensure its working properly. Experienced operators can be a major asset to machine maintenance, as they can often tell if any maintenance is required just by inspecting the glass and listening to the machine.
“Operators should monitor the grinding as they go, make sure the edge is centered, that it’s doing the right amount," Walter says. "Just by inspecting the glass, an experienced operator can tell if the edge starts to look rough. You can tell by listening to it if it’s grinding too hard.”
Mouser agrees about using the senses. “Experience is a really big part of maintenance," he says. "It’s not like working on a car where you can look up and diagnose it. With [these machines] you have to listen for the sounds its making—always tweaking, a lot of adjustments. These guys know, and when it’s running bad, they can tell.”
For detailed maintenance instructions for machinery, contact your machine supplier.