GED Launching New Generation of Vinyl Equipment

July 1, 2007

With a goal of bringing vinyl frame and sash production “up to the speed of Intercept,” GED Integrated Solutions is launching a new generation of smartVinyl i-3 equipment and software. Highlights of the new line include the smartFlyload pre-load station for its four-head horizontal welders and the smartClean i-3 two-headed corner cleaner featuring a dynamic tool path system that takes measurements using a laser and automatically adjusts tool paths for higher-quality cleaning, according to company officials.

A new preload station allows one set of profiles to be loaded onto a rack while the horizontal welder (seen in the rear of photo) is welding another. The rack then moves over the welder and loads the profiles quickly after the welded square is ejected.

The pre-load station features a hanging rack that allows the operator to load cut lineals for up to four squares as the welding process is happening. The rack automatically slides over the horizontal welder and loads the next pieces as welded squares are ejected. Once the lineals are loaded, the rack returns back to the operator ready to be loaded again, which helps pace an entire production line. Making pre-loading a parallel process yields productivity gains of 70 percent over current processes, according to Pete Chojnacki, director of marketing and business development for the Twinsburg, Ohio-based company.

The integrated welder/pre-loader reflects GED’s strategy to “attack the process of vinyl fabrication,” he continues. There are a variety of new manufacturing technologies being looked at around the world, such as vibration or friction welding, but none have proved viable for everyday production, he notes. Meanwhile, with its experience in IG equipment and processes, GED saw numerous opportunities to improve vinyl window manufacturing. “There was still a lot of low-hanging fruit there,” he adds.

The new corner cleaning technology increases both the flexibility and speed of the machine, but the laser measuring device and dynamic tool system does more than shorten cycle times, says Tim McGlinchy, GED’s vice president of engineering. It’s not unusual for corner cleaners to require “eight to 12 tweaks a day,” he says, due to variations in profiles or the welding process, which can slow down production. By measuring the profile dimensions as they are loaded into the corner cleaner, and adjusting the tool path dynamically, these variations—within a manufacturer’s specified tolerances—are handled automatically.

Also part of the new line is the smartCut i-3 multiprocessing saw that features a new tool rack system designed to increase accuracy, provide more fabrication options and greater adaptability for new windows designs and offers a number of new LeanNet software modules. The recent introductions are only the first in the new series, Chojnacki points out. Future plans include more welding and cleaning options, as well as equipment for hardware insertion and assembly operations and equipment, and systems for packaging and delivery sequencing, he reports.

The new smartVinyl equipment is currently in operation at a major window and door producer, Chojnacki notes. The company is in the process of ramping up full production and happy with the results so far, he continues, although exact numbers for increased output and labor savings are not available yet.

The manufacturer does see an opportunity to increase end-product quality, decrease costs and increase efficiency with the new equipment. “In fact,” Chojnacki adds, “the customer will eliminate several hundred thousand manual cleaning steps per year that are required with their current automated corner cleaner.”

Finally, he reports, the manufacturer is excited about the flexibility of the system to adapt to multiple window styles and profiles. “We see flexibility as key, especially in today’s global marketplace,” says Ron Auletta, GED president. “To be profitable, manufacturers have to be able to produce more options in less time. That’s something that can’t be done offshore.”

Discussing the new line, Auletta points to the success of GED’s Intercept IG equipment as far as “increasing the velocity of production.” The goal in developing the new generation of vinyl equipment and systems was to provide manufacturers with “the same productivity and volume levels on the vinyl side of the plant as manufacturers are achieving on the glass side.” Eventually, he predicts, “customers will be able to produce 500 complete vinyl windows with five operators per line per shift.”