Earthmoving machine distributor Barloworld Equipment Southern Africa has unveiled a robotic system that improves the way in which the refurbishment of track shoes for Caterpillar bulldozers can be undertaken.
The robot – nicknamed Tokolosie – has effectively replaced the manually driven and monotonous process of refurbishing track shoes with an automated, end-to-end mechanism that requires little human involvement.
Barloworld Equipment claims that this robotic advance in refurbishing track shoes will significantly reduce refurbishment costs for clients, improve product quality and reduce the turnaround time to rebuild track shoes, thereby generating financial benefits for clients by reducing downtime.
Barloworld Equipment senior GM Sean Walsh says, before the robot was introduced, it took five days for two people to manually refurbish the tracks for a D11 bulldozer. “The robot does the same work in 20 hours, with one operator.”
However, he says, as there are many competitors in the market that provide the same service, it is critical for Barloworld Equipment to be faster and more price competitive.
Using the new robotic system decreases the manual work of technicians by 95%, subsequently reducing their exposure to heat and potential injuries. The robot welds and also handles the materials (steel bars) used to refurbish bulldozer track shoes.
The Tokolosie can refurbish track shoes for the D9, D10 and D11 Caterpillar bulldozers. However, Barloworld Equipment is undertaking research and development to enable the robot to undertake refurbishment work on track shoes for the D7 and D8 Caterpillar bulldozers.
The robot features two arms: the gripper specialises in handling materials, cutting worn-out grouser bars from track shoes and placing new grouser bars onto the track shoes, while the welder specialises in welding the new grouser bar onto the track shoe after receiving it from the gripper.
The two arms work in a synchronised mechanical manner and take 14 minutes to complete the whole refurbishing process for a single-track shoe.
Conventional methods of refurbishing track shoes require workers to use an oxyfuel cutting system to remove worn-out grouser bars from track shoes. A new grouser bar is then manually welded onto the track shoe. However, Barloworld Equipment claims that the task of regrousing a track shoe is impossible if the wear on the grouser bar is beyond 80%. If the bar is beyond the minimum wear rate, the entire track shoe has to be discarded.
Tokolosie was developed by Zurich-based industrial robots and robot software supplier ABB Robotics. The development of the end-to-end regrousing system started in October 2014 and the robot was delivered to Barloworld Equipment’s facility in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, in May 2016 for installation and commissioning.
Reducing human involvement in the refurbishment process will go a long way towards helping Barloworld Equipment achieve its safety objectives, concludes Barloworld Equipment strategy, risk and operational transformation divisional executive director Lesibana Ledwaba.