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Simmons Machine Tool Corp.: Automated wheel shops

Simmons Machine ToolSimmons Machine Tool Corp. manufactures specialized machine tools and automation systems for railway wheel set maintenance and production. At Railway Interchange in Minneapolis earlier this month, the company demonstrated how its automated wheel shops utilize a host of automation technology.

Automation systems such as robots, overhead gantry cranes, escapements, and turntables move wheel set components and assemblies throughout the shop without human interaction. Metal cutting machines for re-profiling wheel sets, reclaiming axles, and boring new wheels are fully automated with CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) and integrated measuring systems. Machines are grouped in cells according to operations. Special purpose measuring machines evaluate, qualify, and route wheel sets through the facility without human intervention.

Beyond increasing capacity and decreasing downtime, the wheel shop’s overall safety is greatly improved through decreased human interaction with equipment and wheel set components. Simmons’ customizes each facility to meet current and future production capabilities, relying on their experience and technology to totally integrate all machines and automation systems. Floor-mounted machines and automation permit easy and fast installation while also facilitating future expansion.

Bearing Mount Machine Cell
At Railway Interchange, many attendees were drawn to Simmons' new trade-show booth by the company's video featuring the Simmons Automated Bearing Mount Machine Cell, which performs all bearing mounting, end cap installation, and measurement processes utilizing only one or two operators. Bearings are grouped by type on pallets that are located under an overhead gantry. The gantry is outfitted with a robotic arm utilizing a bearing gripper end effector, which automatically selects and loads the applicable bearing type onto the Bearing Mount Press.

Wheel sets first advance into an automatic Bearing Journal Lubrication Station, where lubrication is applied to the bearing journal and rust inhibitor is applied to the dust guard. Wheel sets then proceed to the Bearing Mount Press, where the bearings are automatically pressed on and the wheel set is ejected to the end cap assembly station. The operator at the end cap assembly station uses a device to lift and rotate the wheel set and install the end caps. Finally, a Wheel Set Measurement Station inspects the radial and axial run-out of the mounted wheels, and an onboard vision system verifies that the end cap washer tabs have been bent.