Industrial Aqueous Cleaning for Alkaline Batteries
1. CUSTOMER: A major manufacturer of alkaline batteries used in the consumer market; this particular facility produces AAA batteries and AAAA batteries (there are six round quad A batteries in a 9 volt battery). This facility can only be described as a state of the art technology plant; it is kept exceptionally clean with innovative assembly practices, and extremely high level of quality control.
2. PRODUCTION RATE: AAA batteries are presently assembled at a rate 650 units per minute on eight assembly lines. The newest assembly line being installed will be assembling batteries at a production rate of between 900 and 1,000 units per minute.
3. HISTORY: Jenfab has previously manufactured eight washers that wash AAA batteries for a manufacturer and four cleaning systems for a similar facility in Belgium. We has also manufactured eight wash systems for AA batteries and system for C and D cell batteries.
More than 10 years ago, Jenfab was tasked with finding a solution to clean battery cells in line with first generation equipment that could clean at 450 battery cells per minute, and later, a second generation equipment at 650 units per minute. The third generation equipment is needed to process and clean at a rate of 900 to 1,000 units per minute. By working with a major manufacturer of consumer alkaline batteries, and having supplied previously proven solutions, Jenfab was again selected as the vendor to develop the next generation wash and dry system at the new, higher production rate.
4. APPLICATION: A new AAA battery design uses a different seal between the positive and negative contact surface making the battery life to last longer when in use by the consumer. During the assembly process, traces of electrolytes and soils are deposited on the exterior of the battery can which is more easily removed soon after processing. Cleaning the exterior of the cells will provide a smooth clean surface for proper label adhesion; lumpy or improperly applied labels are the highest reject issue for a battery cell.
5. THE CHALLENGE: The new equipment has to operate at a rate of more than 50 percent higher than previous designs (1,000 units per minute compared to 650 units per minute). It cannot exceed 12 feet in length (previous systems were 10 feet long). The batteries are to be cleaned in line with no manual handling and at a production rate equal to or greater than the rate of assembly.
Since the batteries do not have labels, care must also be taken not to cause the battery to short out or rupture by bridging the positive and negative contact areas (the label acts as an insulator to prevent this from occurring once the label is applied). The cleaning process must also be compatible with the factory automation, the system or assembly line communications, and software hierarchy.
6. THE SOLUTION: Jenfab developed a system where the battery cells are automatically loaded between two rollers connected to a stainless steel chain. The rollers are specially machined to provide an area that will prevent the positive and negative sides of the battery to form a closed circuit, and to cause the batteries to rotate through the wash system. Rotation of the cells through the wash system guarantees entire exposure to the surfaces while they go through a filtered spray cleaning (of up to 50 PSI) and high pressure, heated air dry. The design is also created to prevent the batteries from coming off the rollers or jamming during the wash and dry process. The Jenfab system was tested at a production rate of 1,000 cells per minute. Exceeding the desired cleanliness standard, and dryness, the system design met all of this major manufacturer’s machine standards for safety, ergonomics, and noise (operating at or below 75 dba).
7. BENEFITS: This major manufacturer of alkaline batteries plans to increase worldwide production of the newly designed cell over the course of the next five years.
As each assembly line is updated to produce the new cell at 900 plus units per minute, a new wash and dry system will be required. By demonstrating the ability to deliver a wash and dry system that exceeds this major manufacturer’s expectations at a production rate of 1,000 batteries per minute, Jenfab has positioned itself to be the vendor of choice when the assembly lines are updated.