To help provide Keystone Tower Systems, Inc. with the capability to manufacture straight and tapered wind turbine towers on-site, we partnered with our sister company, Devitt Machinery. This enabled the production of a solution to float flat round air bearings for a portable machine that can roll and weld a sheet of metal into a turbine tower.
It’s not uncommon for New Way® to be approached by customers who want to use air bearings but are still finalizing the details of an integrated solution. We take pride in offering not just a superior product, but also the service to match.
New Way connected a customer, Keystone Tower Systems (Keystone), with a resource for acquiring an accurate surface for floating air bearings with precision. New Way leveraged the expertise of their sister company, Devitt Machinery Company (Devitt), to provide a precision epoxy floor solution for floating the air bearings.
As a manufacturer of wind turbines, Keystone’s goal was to create straight or tapered turbine towers in the field. Towers manufactured in a traditional factory are restricted in diameter because of transportation constraints, effectively constraining the tower height. Designing around this can become complicated and costly.
Keystone’s design of a portable machine overcomes these issues, allowing the towers to be built higher to reach stronger winds, increasing the capture of energy. Keystone’s portable machine is designed to roll and weld a sheet of metal into either a straight or tapered tower.
Accommodating both types of towers entailed a machine presenting a cantilever load with a swivel point. New Way’s Porous Media™ air bearings came recommended as an economical solution to float and support a load accurately by Alex Slocum, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Slocum served with New Way’s founder, Drew Devitt, in the American Society of Precision Engineering (ASPE).
Keystone chose New Way’s flat round air bearings as they are ideal for high-load applications and their gimballed mount allows for easy adjustments. The natural permeability of the porous carbon creates a stiff and even cushion of air, minimizing the chance of pressure gradients.
With their air bearing design in place, Keystone’s next hurdle was determining what type of surface to float the air bearings on.
The portable nature of Keystone’s machine presented an interesting combination of design considerations:
New Way engineers noted the similarities between Keystone’s project and a satellite simulation application where a precision epoxy was used to create a flat surface for floating air bearings. They suggested Keystone contact Devitt Machinery for their expertise in utilizing epoxies in precision machine applications.
For over 50 years, Devitt Machinery has been providing plain sliding bearing materials (molding and fine adjusting epoxies) to the metal-cutting machine tool industry. Their products and services enable straight cuts on even the biggest machines, including:
Devitt’s experience allowed them to present a range of options to Keystone. The options included the traditional grinding of varying grades of steel to utilizing a precision epoxy.
Keystone quoted other vendors but chose Devitt’s option of precision-epoxied steel plate. This was not only the least expensive option but had significantly less lead time.
An added bonus for Keystone was the ease of repair, if necessary. Traditional methods of grinding a repair plate not only would be costly, but the lead-time and transportation issues could also be a showstopper. Repair time for the plate was about one week and could be performed on-site, whereas, acquiring the steel alone in the other options, could take up to three weeks.
Devitt procured Steel Casting Epoxy from Precision Epoxy. While utilizing this specific product was a first for Devitt, their experience in properly pouring/curing epoxies gave them the confidence to deliver for Keystone.
“We utilized the same process as we do for our other epoxies and it came out great,” remarked Cody Reeves, mechanical/sales engineer for Devitt Machinery Company. The Steel Casting Epoxy contains special additives to force any bubbles to group together, making them easy to pop and create a surface precise enough for the air bearings. This self-leveling feature of the epoxy “gave us a better surface finish,” commented Reeves.
Following the creation of the steel epoxy-coated plate Field Alignment and Services Training (F.A.S.T), the operational arm of Devitt Machinery, installed the plate on-site utilizing their standard DWH epoxy.
Devitt Machinery, F.A.S.T, and New Way serve the precision industry, yet from different perspectives. While this was their first endeavor together for a project, the teams are excited about what was learned through working on Keystone’s project.
With this application, Devitt Machinery/F.A.S.T expanded its capabilities to provide flat surfaces suitable for floating air bearings. Since the Keystone project, the same precision epoxy has been successfully implemented for a custom CNC router application. The customer wanted a surface to “ride air bearings on without having to go through the traditional ways of machining,” noted Reeves.
The addition of this precision epoxy to Devitt’s product suite enables a number of key benefits for customers:
For New Way, the team now has even more tools in its arsenal for helping customers. “The success of the Keystone project is an example of an economical precision surface for floating air bearings,” stated Rich Hesse, New Way technical sales manager.
Drew Devitt, the owner of all three companies, was thrilled to see how the teams worked together to develop a solution for a customer. “This is the type of service that sets companies apart. We look forward to building on the experience from the Keystone project, enabling us to offer more integrated solutions to our customers.”
If we can be of assistance to helping you incorporate air bearings into your application, contact us today for a complimentary consultation!