Category “Ammunition Manufacturing”

Lean Ammunition Manufacturing Part II

March 11, 2015 by MarkC

Today’s brass case factories operate on the principles of traditional mass production techniques, developed in the early 1900’s.  In an effort to maximize efficiencies, machines are grouped in common departments, turned up to run as fast as possible and large inventories are used to buffer inconsistencies.  Machines are difficult to set up and adjust.  Specialized technicians are required to make changeovers, sometimes taking several days.  High inventory levels drive slow process speed, with as much as 4 Months inventory from beginning to end.  It’s impossible to stop production if a defect is discovered; it’s easier to add 100% inspection at the end of the process.  Lastly, today’s ammunition plants are loud and earplugs are required everywhere on the shop floor. It’s impossible to have an understandable conversation.

Setpoint has designed a brass case U shaped cell (shown below) that positions the operator on the inside and available to service all machines.  All tooling and equipment needed to produce a brass case, from first draw to final anneal, are positioned around the U.

Setpoint Case Line

Starting with first draw, brass cases are sequentially processed through each machine until the case is completed.  It is designed to hold 15-30 minute buffers between each machine and takes approximately 4 hours to complete a case from beginning to end.  Including 4 anneal and 5 individual wash operations.

Quality is monitored using statistical process control (SPC) sampling plans at an inspection table in the middle of the cell.  Adjustments are a snap with servo linear actuators.  When a machine requires an adjustment – the operator simply enters an offset on the touch screen and the dimension is adjusted without stopping the machine.  Capabilities of 6 sigma or better are common with this servo actuated technology.

Each machine is designed with versatility in mind.   The cell offers optional calibers between .223 through .338 Lapua.   Quick-change concepts have been incorporated, similar to the early days of Toyota.  Each machine is capable of 30 minute or less changeover from one caliber to another.

An intriguing aspect for the cell is lack of loud noise, having employees engaged in the continuous improvement process is mandatory in any lean organization.  Conversations are possible inside the cell without yelling through earplugs.

Labor content is low.  The inside operator tends all machines and conducts SPC inspections.  An outside operator monitors hardness testing, chemistries and minor machine maintenance.  Status lights (Andon) are on each machine providing quick operator feedback when machines need attention.  It’s also important to note that overhead support for the cell is significantly less than traditional manufacturing layouts.  This is because a connecting process using a cell requires less production control, less process/quality engineering and less production supervision.

As with the auto industry in the 1980’s, it’s time for a lean revolution in the brass case ammunition world.  Improved quality, low inventories, agile/versatile capacity, lower operating costs, lower overhead costs, clean processes and a quiet production environment are a few of the benefits.  Join the revolution, call Setpoint Systems at (866) 532-6856, or check us out online at www.setpointusa.com.

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Lean Ammunition Manufacturing Part I

February 4, 2015 by MarkC

Mid-way through my high school years my dad bought a new 1974 Chevy Vega.  It was his attempt to buy a small fuel efficient vehicle.  For my brother and me it was an imaginary sports car.  It was a fun car; however it was disappointing to find out that at 40,000 miles it was ready for the scrapyard.  It was an era when auto makers were more interested in selling cars then providing quality.  In the end, our Vega’s aluminum bore – 4 cylinder engine burned more oil than gas, doors sagged, the clutch slipped, wheel bearings whined, and many interior components stopped working all together.  Fact is, it was not uncommon for cars of that period to reach the end of their life before 100,000 miles.

The Vega, and other cars of the day, was a product of a highly refined mass production system.  From its inception by Henry Ford in the early 1900’s, mass production served the auto industry and consumer well.  Low manufacturing costs made it possible for nearly every household in America to own a car.  The downside was not every household owned a high quality, reliable car.

At the end of WWII Toyota lacked the required capital to support the growing post war car market.  One unique problem was their shortage of stamping presses in the body works group.  At that time automakers typically had dedicated presses with a single die, avoiding complex changeovers.   Toyota’s lack of capital prohibited this investment.   Toyota leaders focused their efforts, during the fifties, on developing basic single minute exchange of die (SMED) techniques used today.  They were able to reduce changeover times for a high tonnage press from days to minutes.  Fast changeovers quickly lead to releasing small lots.  Small lots meant low inventory and low inventory brought about the early discovery of defects, making it possible for Toyota to establish their “stop the line” policy when defects are discovered.  In essence, lean operated on the tenants of simplicity, elimination of waste and continuous improvement.

From 1950 to 1979, consumers added quality and reliability to their car buying checklists when buying small, fuel efficient cars.  By 1980, shortly after the Vega went out of production, 25% of the global market shifted from American to Japanese automakers.   American automakers were compelled to change or die, and “Lean Manufacturing” was the catalyst.   Ultimately lean offered a dramatic quality improvement.   A revolution in America soon began as auto makers quickly embraced lean manufacturing techniques.

Today the ammunition industry is ready for a similar revolution.

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Modular Design Provides Versatility

October 8, 2014 by Nick

Several months ago, we talked about the modular H-frame press we developed that allows a dial table to index parts through it.  In our ammunition case manufacturing line, we need to perform high tonnage pressing processes on small brass tubes to create a primer pocket and stamp the head and we need to automatically feed the brass tubes through the press.  Because of the need for extreme consistency in each part we knew a C-frame press would not work due to deformities caused by deflection.  Our pocket and head machine is up and running so we thought we would show you our modular H-frame press in action so you can see  just how they work.

Our pocket and head machine uses two linear actuators powered by a servo motor that provide 20 tons of force each.  Setpoint’s modular press frame allows a dial table to index parts through the press giving us the speed and ease of feeding that is typical of a C-frame press, without the deformities caused by deflection under the heavy load required to press and stamp the brass case.  The result is a case line that produces match grade quality brass every time, no more inspecting for quality level.

Our press is not only for ammunition case manufacturing.  Setpoint is able to utilize this press for any manufacturing application that requires quick feeding, high tonnage pressing and precision made parts.

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Ammo Priming Machine Video has landed

August 29, 2014 by Nick

Watch this video for a quick overview of our ammo priming machine, from feeding primers and cases to seating the primers into the cases.  Not shown in the video is optional equipment to crimp and waterproof the primer to produce mil-spec cases that are ready to receive powder and a bullet in our loading machine.  Learn more about Setpoint’s ammunition manufacturing equipment.

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History of Setpoint Ammunition Manufacturing Equipment

May 28, 2014 by Nick

Ammo Case Forming MachineIn the early 1940s, mass-production ammunition manufacturing systems were complex assembly lines of crank presses, leather-belt driven lathes, batch processing, and loose tolerances. Quality was literally “inspected into the product” by humans sorting through all the finished cartridges, gauging and measuring to determine if a given part was “within spec” and then discarding the ones that fell outside of the established ranges. Sixty five years later, by 2007, this antiquated manufacturing process…….was exactly the same.

In 2008 the US Army commissioned Setpoint Systems to look at the entire process of case manufacturing from a whole new perspective. Utilizing lean manufacturing principles and over 20 years of automation experience, Setpoint Systems developed an automated case manufacturing system that has finally ushered the ancient art of case forming into the 21st century. By combining key principles of renowned lean manufacturing principles with our extensive automation experience in aerospace, automotive, and medical industries, Setpoint Systems has now set the bar to an unprecedented level for precision case manufacturing. And not only are the cases that come out of the Setpoint system more precise and consistent, they’re cheaper to make too. And the benefits don’t stop there.

By design, the case line equipment is able to produce parts at whatever rate of demand that the market currently dictates. This allows you to quickly eliminate all those nasty hidden inventory costs and the space required to store it. Think of it as “Just In Time Ammo”.

The Setpoint case forming system is controlled with industrial Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), consequently, modifications to processing parameters such as changing pocket depth, head diameter, and/or Case Cell Electrical Paneloverall length (OAL) of the cases can be achieved with mere computer key strokes rather than specialty tools, skilled labor, and a week of down time. Sounds more like a true 21st century process now, doesn’t it?

By integrating all the case forming processes into one machine, a whole litany of product inspections are also able to be integrated into the process. This eliminates the need for human inspections after the processes are complete, and consequently provides a level of quality assurance never before realized in the industry. Because these automated inspections are completed in real-time, during the process, the chance of passing inferior parts downstream is virtually eliminated. Setpoint’s proprietary in-process tracking logic ensures that every part meets or exceeds quality standards after each step of the process, and that non-conforming material is immediately recognized and properly dispositioned out of the system. The end result is a higher level of quality and consistency and therefore, more cost effective manufacturing.

Benefits of Setpoint Ammunition Manufacturing Equipment

 

Throughout the engineering and design process, Setpoint thoroughly examined every step of the legacy case forming process. Each individual sub-process was completely dissected and examined in great detail. The team was looking for ways to improve on the existing methods, as well as ways to integrate all of the processes together in a single-part flow process. The results of this effort were all of the aforementioned process enhancements, as well as a dramatic decrease in the amount of space required for a case line system.
Some of the specific improvements of the Setpoint case forming system worth noting are:

  • Reduced scrap production
  • Reduced labor requirementsFinished Brass Cases
  • Reduced inventory expensesFinished Brass Cases
  • Increase in product quality
  • 70% reduction in floor space requirements
  • Increased equipment up time
  • Increased flexibility in production and planning
  • 3 washes eliminated
  • 97% reduction of manual transportation
  • In-process automated quality inspection

 

Setpoint has taken lessons learned from the LCAAP project and refined each process for our second generation case manufacturing equipment, to consistently manufacture brass cartridge cases to an even higher quality standard than current Mil-Std.  In addition to case manufacturing, Setpoint has taken the time to understand and refine the process for taking the finished case to fully loaded ammunition in the development of the ammo primer and ammo loader.  Now you can set up your ammunition production from start to finish with Setpoint.

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Ammo Loader Video is Here

April 10, 2014 by Nick

Here is the first look at the Setpoint Ammo Loader machine.  Watch this video for a quick overview of the loader, from the feeding of each individual component to the quick caliber changeover capability.  Read more about Setpoint’s ammunition manufacturing equipment.

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Setpoint Introduction Video

April 9, 2014 by Nick

Check out our new introduction to Setpoint video.

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