A Q&A from the experts.

Sutton is kind of a strange name, but a powerful one in the world of finishing. So what the heck is a Sutton Machine? Let us find out by asking the experts, Almco Engineering Manager Craig Schmidt and Regional Sales Manager Jeff Hoium. The Sutton Machines are aggressive, spindle-finishing units that are primarily designed to finish turbine disks, blades, blisks and impellers, with the capability of finishing many other types of parts. Sutton machines are heavy-duty units that are designed for high production environments.

Why is the Sutton Machine best used for finishing turbine disks, blades, blisks and impellers?

The Sutton machines are able to process heavy, large parts that are typically too large to be processed in a vibratory machine. The design of the machine and how it operates also allows medias to be used that typically can’t be used in vibratory. Parts of different diameters and/or heights can all be processed in the same machine with minimal tooling changes, if any.

How many models are there and what is the difference between each one?

There are three basic models and many different sizes.

The CFT models work by spinning a part in the vibrating tub of media.   It has the ability in the PLC to stop mid cycle and change rotation direction.   It can also run at various angles and can swing back and forth like a pendulum through the media as it is rotating.

The CFCA models are very similar to the CFT, but rather than spinning in the media it oscillates the part very quickly through an arc of 70 degrees in the vibrating tub of media.

The CF models operate very similarly to the Almco spindle, but at much higher speeds.  Also, since these speeds force the media to the outer wall the spindle is oriented parallel to the bottom of the tub rather than mostly vertical.

Why would someone choose the Sutton over a Spindle? Or what is the difference between a Sutton and a Spindle?

An Almco 2SF Spindle Machine has been designed and built to run smaller parts in both size and weight.  In general, the Almco 2SF machines are designed for parts under 12” in diameter, 4” tall, and less than 50 pounds.  Where the Sutton CFT and CFCA line of spindle machines are designed to handle parts up to 55” in diameter, 12” tall, and up to hundreds of pounds. The 2SF machines are generally used in high production situations, hundreds of thousands of parts per year with part size dictating which machine would be required.

How do we make sure the right finish is achieved with a Sutton?

When we are developing a process for a part in the spindle machine, or any of our other machines, the potential customer will give us any specs needed to be met for the part to be considered “acceptable”. We then start with shorter cycle times and continuously measure different areas of the part until we get within spec. This process often times includes changing medias, media levels, types of chemistry, and position in the machine. Once we feel we have the best process, we will run multiple parts to verify the results and consistency of the process.

What type of Media is best used in the Sutton Machine and why?

Smaller media, 3/8” and under is usually the best. As for material, we have had successful processes with Aluminum Oxide, Silicon Carbide, Preformed Ceramic, Plastic/Synthetic, and even dry medias like Corn Cob and Walnut Shell. Each type of media will have processes that they are best suited for.

What is a PLC Touch Screen Control and what does it do?

The touch screen controls all functions of the machine and able to store data. You can select either a “Manual” mode that allows the operator to turn on only specific components for testing or making adjustments or select “Auto” mode that is used to process parts. Simply select your recipe, and press Cycle Start. The PLC screen allows the customer to store many different recipes (cycle time, angles, speeds, etc) in a catalog and be able to select a process specific to each part. Other functions of the PLC Touch Screen include monitoring I/O in real-time and displaying and storing machine faults. Different logins have different levels of access. For example, the operator login may be set up to only select recipes and start cycles, and anything beyond that would need a maintenance or supervisor login.

What Safety aspects does this machine offer?

All sides of the machine are covered with a sound deadening enclosure. The front of the machine, where the parts are loaded and unloaded, has a pair of sliding doors that are locked during operation and automatically unlock once the cycle is complete and it is safe to open. The Sutton machine, while very powerful is built with operator safety in mind.

Do we offer any accessories with the Sutton Machine?

Yes. Depending on your building and environmental requirements, a wastewater treatment system may be needed. We have a few different levels ranging from a sediment tank to collect solid waste before it goes to drain. All the way to a fully automated centrifuge or ultra-filtration system that removes contaminants from the process water and recirculates it back to the machine, for minimal water usage. Over time, some of the medias lose the ability to do the work they are intended for and needs to be changed. The design of the machine does not allow for a “trap door” like vibratory machines typically have, so we offer a vacuum system that quickly removes the media from the tub and collects it into containers to be disposed of properly.

Almco has offered both portable vacuums that get wheeled up to the machine and set up when needed, and then stored away when not in use; to plumbed systems that are ready to use at the flip of a switch. We have also recently done a complete enclosure to bring sound levels to a minimum. This encloses the top of the machine that is typically open. We also design and fabricate our own tooling that is almost always necessary to process parts in the machine, whether it is a simple “universal” fixture, or part specific tooling that are all compatible with the clamping device on the machine.