The MFN team recently met with Geoff Moore, Director of Sales of Langhorne, PA (USA) based Empire Abrasive Equipment Co. to learn about their Pro-Finish® line of manual abrasive blast cabinets and re-engineered modified systems.
(?) MFN: What are the benefits of a Pro-Finish® system and how can Empire’s modified Pro-Finish® cabinets be tailored to meet individual work piece and process requirements?
(!) G. M.: We are very proud of our Pro-Finish® line of products thanks in part to their durability and long history in the industry. Some benefits of the Pro-Finish® system include the ability to achieve consistent surface finish quality, reduced finishing time, increased production rates, and reduced maintenance costs. In addition to our standard line of Pro-Finish® cabinets is our modified Pro-Finish® cabinets. “Modified” is Empire’s term for customizing our incredibly durable and productive Pro-Finish® cabinets to meet a customer’s individual work piece or process requirements by blasting either manually or with a certain degree of automation. Modified Pro-Finish® cabinets offer a solution that is affordable and ideally suited for lower production volume environments requiring a robust product. The growth and sophistication that we have seen in this segment have blurred the lines between manual cabinets and automation!
(?) MFN: Can Empire’s modified cabinets be a solution for unique applications or to improve production rates through partial automation?
(!) G. M.: Absolutely. This is always at the forefront of our thought process as we begin the collaboration with our customers. Empire’s modified cabinets can be a solution for unique applications or to improve production rates through partial automation. They can be designed to accommodate a wide range of finishing needs and offer flexibility for handling different work pieces, which can lead to more efficient production processes.
(?) MFN: You mentioned the importance of ergonomics earlier in our discussion. Why emphasize the importance of this in the overall design of Empire’s equipment?
(!) G. M.: The comfort and ease of use for the operators of our equipment is a priority for our design team. Ergonomically designed blasting cabinets can help to reduce fatigue and injury of workers, improve productivity, and enhance the overall user experience. By prioritizing ergonomics, Empire ensures that their customers are able to achieve optimal performance and efficiency from their finishing equipment.
(?) MFN: How do Ergo-Blast cabinets complement the scope of Empire's Pro-Finish® line?
(!) G. M.: With our continued focus on overall ergonomics and operator comfort, the Ergo-Blast cabinets accentuate Empire’s Pro-Finish® line by focusing on operator performance and give manufacturers an edge in many hands-on processes. Empire’s Ergo-Blast cabinets range from our ERGO 2636 to the larger ERGO 6060, which permit blasting of larger work pieces, noise and a front mounted pressure regulator - all aimed at improving operator comfort and performance during long and repetitive blast cycles.
(?) MFN: What specific features make Ergo-Blast cabinets suitable for sit-down blasting and contribute to improving operator comfort and performance during long and repetitive blast cycles?
(!) G. M.: The overall design of Ergo-Blast cabinets has the operators safety, comfort and ergonomic positioning in mind. They are specifically designed for sit-down blasting and include features such as a padded armrest, an elevated footrest for treadle control, a top-entry piping for less arm stress, a sound dampener to reduce noise and a front-mounted pressure regulator to improve operator comfort and performance.
(?) MFN: Apart from supporting operators, what other features do Ergo-Blast cabinets offer?
(!) G. M.: In addition to supporting operators, Ergo-Blast cabinets include all Pro-Finish® features, such as a turntable media reclaimer which can be adjusted to recover a wide range of abrasives. They offer a choice of pressure or suction blast system, three methods of dust collection, and many options to fit specific applications. Other options available include manual or automatic controls, customized lighting and different gun types to suit various abrasive materials.
(?) MFN: Can you tell me about any other Empire's abrasive blasting cabinets that prioritize operator comfort and can be customized to fit the needs of different operators?
(!) G. M.: This was an opportunity that we discovered many years ago and one where we were at the forefront in the industry. In the various customer sites I have visited, there are usually multiple operators for the operation of various Empire Pro-Finish® cabinets and obviously they vary in height. Empire’s Pro-Lifter Style series of Pro-Finish® cabinets eliminate operator stress caused by uncomfortable glove height by providing the ability of adjusting up or down by five inches from the standard 44 inches.
(?) MFN: How does Empire’s Pro-Lifter Style series of Pro-Finish® cabinets modify ergonomic systems to enhance operator performance and comfort?
(!) G. M.: The Pro-Lifter cabinets from Empire’s Pro-Finish® line offer a ten-inch vertical glove adjustment that requires minimal effort, and an electric motor provides the power. The cabinets come with a variety of options and features, allowing users to customize their capabilities according to their needs. These cabinets come in three different models and can be used with material handling helpers and automated accessories. They also offer a variety of dust collectors and heavy-duty components to work with harsh media.
(?) MFN: Can you give an example of a modified system that utilized the design principles of the Ergo-Blast and Pro-Lifter cabinets®?
(!) G. M.: An industry leader and manufacturer of aerospace components required a modified Pro-Finish cabinet with an adjustable cabinet height and dust collector capable of removing toxic particles that are produced during the etching of aircraft components. Our solution was a modified PF2636 SRC-6 ERGO Pro-Lifter blasting system, featuring a 14-gauge steel cabinet equipped with a pneumatic vertical door, a viewing window, and the Kleensweep air inlet design. The Pro-Lifter package included an electrically controlled hydraulic power lifting cylinder, electric movable foot treadle, and suction blast media delivery. The equipment included various components that were specifically designed for efficient media recovery and effective removal of toxic dust.
(?) MFN: Did this system include specific part handling features?
(!) G. M.: Yes, the system had a low-profile 18” diameter turntable and small parts door between the gloves with spring return hinging and an electric blast interlock, measuring approximately 4” × 5”.
(?) MFN: What features does Ergo-Blast have?
(!) G. M.: The Ergo package consisted of knee-hole indentation in the cabinet front for sit-down operation, a movable foot treadle operated electrically, independent adjustable padded armrests, a top-entry blast hose, and a front-mounted pressure regulator.
(?) MFN: How was the toxic dust removed from the blasting process?
(!) G. M.: Empire’s SEM-2 Cartridge Dust Collector was essential in the removal of toxic particles from the air. The SEM-2 included a 4” diameter media recovery hose, a 600 cfm externally turntable, cyclonic reclaimer with internal ultra-wear lining, and an 11’ dust hose with a 6” diameter. In addition, a 600 cfm cartridge dust collector (SEM-2) with a 1 ½ hp blower on the clean air side and a HEPA filter on the exit of the SEM-2 blower are also included. These features were essential for safe and effective removal of toxic dust. Furthermore, the electronic timed door interlock ensured that doors cannot be opened until a set time has elapsed after the foot treadle is released, providing an extra layer of safety.
(?) MFN: Where do you think the industry will go and particularly for Empire?
(!) G. M.: This is one of the things I’m most excited to discuss. As much as we touched on our Pro-Finish® family of products at Empire, we see growth in almost all sectors of our business but particularly in our family of automation solutions. We all understood that the benefits of automation come from a standpoint of reliability, consistency and repeatability, but now with the challenges in the labor force, this is just adding to the benefits of considering automation solutions with blasting applications. More often we are being asked by our clients to engineer fully automated and robotic air-blast room systems to process large families of parts formerly manually blasted in a room. We had the foresight to invest in these technologies early which has positioned us to be the industry leader in providing these types of solutions. Our automation is split into standard and custom/advanced automation. The standard line has seen continuous and healthy growth. This includes products such as our flexible Cell Machines (CM), Indexing Turntables (TT) and the ever-popular Rotary Head style machines. These machines continue to lead us into projects that one would not readily anticipate the application of such equipment. That’s the trend we are noticing - new applications for existing standard automated equipment. To us, this indicates an increase in awareness of the process of cleaning and peening in particular, use of new types of blast media, and general acknowledgement of the benefits of the process.
Customized automation is the reason our engineers stay challenged. Customized automation is not just restricted to aerospace and automotive shot peening applications. Empire has seen remarkable growth in automated grit blasting projects in the Power Generation, Medical, Oil & Gas and such advanced manufacturing sectors. The reasons, as we see them, are several - repeatability, productivity, accuracy and speed to highlight the most critical on the list. Aerospace customers demanding all the above features in their equipment is quite common, which has now spread to other sectors too. As a result, it is not unusual for us to build grit blasting equipment with closed loop process control for air pressure, media flow, monitoring the condition of blast media, and reporting all these variables in real time, just as it were a peening application.
We certainly invite the MFN readership to experience Empire by visiting us either in person at our State-of-the-Art facility in Langhorne, PA or online at empire-airblast.com to see how we can help to engineer your competitive edge.
MFN would like to thank Geoff Moore for this interview!
Empire Abrasive Equipment
2101 W. Cabot Blvd.
Langhorne, PA 19047-1893, USA
Tel. +1.215.752 8800
Fax +1.215.752 9373