Sea Ray is the world’s largest manufacturer of high-quality pleasure boats such as luxury yachts, dayboats, and sports cruisers. Since its founding in 1959, this American boat manufacturer has prided itself on quality, craftsmanship, and innovation.
By integrating industrial robots into its operations, Sea Ray is speeding production and realizing benefits such as reduced costs and increased safety. As part of its automation initiative, the boat manufacturer is eliminating manual sanding by using NamPower disc brushes from Brush Research Manufacturing (BRM).
Manual Sanding is Messy and Time-Consuming
Boats like luxury yachts demand a smooth, attractive finish. Fiberglass hulls and decks are strong and lightweight, but can be challenging to sand by hand. “If any fiberglass dust in the air gets on your skin, it can be quite uncomfortable,” says John Potter, Robotics Programmer for Sea Ray. Manual sanding, he adds, “is one of the least desirable jobs in any boat building facility.”
Sanding by hand is also labor-intensive. According to an article about Sea Ray in Industrial Machinery Digest, manual deck sanding takes 2 hours and 4 employees. To sand the interior of a fiberglass hull, 3.5 labor hours are needed. By automating these operations, Sea Ray reduced deck sanding to 45 minutes and interior hull sanding to 15 minutes.
Finding The Right Tool for Robotic Sanding
Robotic sanding can reduce costs and improve safety, but finding the right tooling can be challenging. “In most automated applications, a robot is programmed to repeat a path without exception,” Potter explains. “With variances in part position, we don’t have that luxury.” High torque resistance is also problematic. When Potter tried to automate operations using standard disc sanding pads, the system reached a fault condition whenever the pads touched the part’s surface.
Thanks to an on-line search, however, Potter discovered NamPower disc brushes from BRM. With their unique combination of both ceramic and silicon carbide abrasive, these brushing tools have filaments that work like flexible files. This allows NamPower nylon abrasive disc brushes to conform to part contours while wiping and sanding edges and surfaces. “What makes this brush unique,” says Potter, “is that it allows me a bit of ‘cushion’, so to speak”, which helps with variances in part position and resistance.
Machine Trials and Technical Expertise
To facilitate tool selection and testing, Sea Ray worked closely with Chip Truman of the John McCormack Company, an experienced BRM representative. Together, Truman and Potter determined the right grit, filament length, and filament diameter for Sea Ray’s application. The turbine-style NamPower disc brushes that Potter selected proved to be particularly adept at sanding the largest, most time-consuming dayboat hull in the Sea Ray family.
For more information about how NamPower disc brushes are helping Sea Ray to save time and money, download Eliminating the Need for Manual Sanding from Industrial Machinery Digest.