American Axle Manufacturing (AAM) is increasing the functionality of its St. Mary’s, Pa. manufacturing operations with conveyors sporting advanced drive technology. Small yet powerful direct-drive motors from Electric Torque Machines actuate Dorner conveyors that move small parts around the AAM facility.
AAM designs, engineers, validates, and manufactures an array of driveline, metal-forming, powertrain, and casting technologies — and is known for manufacturing large components such as axles and differentials. However, the AAM St. Mary’s facility manufactures many of the small and lightweight parts that go into AAM drivetrains. Transporting these parts from station to station and within workcells requires small and precise conveyors. The challenge is that the compactness of such conveyors is degraded by the bulk of traditional gearmotors. That’s what prompted AAM to specify conveyors driven by Dorner’s Universal Drive offerings — with direct-drive motors from Electric Torque Machines at their core.
The direct-drive motors have high continuous torque density (particularly at lower operating speeds) to eliminate the need for a bulky gearbox. Integrated into Dorner’s 2200 Universal Drive — which includes the motor, configurable motor mount, and controller — they reduce the conveyor-drive size by nearly 70% while boosting functionality and maintaining required output torque.
“We chose Dorner’s Universal Drive for its unique motor,” said AAM facilities engineer Michael Vandervort. “The motor is smaller and lighter than traditional ac motors … and can run in designated working areas unguarded, because the motor runs cool. In contrast, traditional ac motors are too hot to touch.”
Vandervort also cited the wide speed and torque ranges of the Dorner Universal Drive as key benefits. “The drive lets us use the conveyors for applications such as slow pass-under vision tasks; heavy accumulation tasks; and high-speed part transfers.”
The on-conveyor inspection function is especially challenging. “At our facility, we use a lot of small conveyors to move light loads. Electric Torque Machines developed motor tuning functions to help stabilize our vision imaging on pass-under applications with very low torque requirements. We really appreciate ETM working with us and developing solutions for our specific needs,” Vandervort added.
“It was energizing to work with industry leader AAM — and encouraging to see the industry ready to adopt new technologies. AAM’s application illustrates the advantages of direct-drive motors,” added ETM V.P. of engineering Scott Reynolds.