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UK-based Excel Automation has designed, manufactured and installed a slat conveyor and shuttle handling system for an excavator assembly facility at JCB Heavy Products in Uttoxeter.

JCB is a manufacturer of construction, agricultural and ground-care machinery.

The 25-strong tracked and wheeled excavator range covers vehicle weights from seven tonnes to 46 tonnes and is built in two parts, comprising a lower frame carrying the tracks or wheeled chassis and an upper revolving frame that houses the engine, cab and excavator attachment.

The lower frame is assembled on an operator-controlled indexing conveyor and the revolving frame is assembled on a continuously moving track.

The two are then brought together for final assembly using a transfer shuttle.

The whole system, including the shuttles, was designed, built, manufactured and production-ready tested by Excel Automation at its Worcester factory.

The lower-frame line features seven stations with the lower frame initially inverted to allow components such as track motors, couplings, hoses and lower track rollers to be fitted and connected.

The frame is then turned over and the top rollers are fitted while the tracks are being laid out over the next two stations.

It is then lifted onto the tracks, which are wrapped around the machine and joined up.

At the final stage, the tracks are tensioned before the lower frame is lifted onto a shuttle by an overhead crane.

The main revolving-frame line, travelling constantly at 0.13m/min to 0.18m/min, is equipped with special fixtures to hold the revolving frame in place as it moves through 11 build stations, where assembly operators attach components such as the main control valve, engine, radiator, oil cooler, hydraulic and fuel tanks and operator cab and a ‘house’ frame that carries doors, bonnet and top panels.

At the end of the line, following final inspection, the revolving frame is lifted off the line by the overhead crane.

To receive the revolving frame, the shuttle with the lower frame on board (weighing up to 13 tonnes) moves to the revolving frame docking position where the revolving frame is lifted, lowered and docked on the shuttle, which is designed to accommodate a combined weight of up to 26 tonnes.

The shuttle is then called to one of two offload stations where the docked machine is transferred into the corresponding attachment fitting lane.

The shuttle is then called back to the lower-frame position for the process to be repeated.

The Excel-designed chassis handling system has four lines: the tracked lower-frame line; the revolving-frame line; a wheeled-chassis line; and a wheeled revolving-frame line.

The latter two can be automated in the future.

While the constantly moving revolving-frame line typically travels at 0.13m/min to 0.18m/min, the speed can be adjusted to suit the various machine builds.

As the steel tracks for the lower frame need to be laid out side by side, taking up two stages, an indexing conveyor is used.

This is controlled by the operator at each station, pressing a ‘stage-complete’ button.

As well as the JS range, the Excel lower-frame conveying and handling system is also used to assemble three models in the more compact JZ (zero tail swing) range, which has a similar undercarriage with a smaller revolving frame.

One of the two shuttles is used to move wheeled chassis to be docked with wheeled revolving frames when the facility assembles wheeled JS excavators ranging from 13 to 20 tonnes.

Excel Automation

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