PST regularly works with companies with older machines that are difficult to service when challenge arise. One such local company approached PST in dire need of a replacement screw in a press. The machine was very old, and therefore the original replacement screws and drawings were no longer available. It was critical that the new screw match identically, or the machine would not operate efficiently.
In these situations, reverse engineering a ball screw is the best, and sometimes only, option. Reverse engineering allows for a replacement to be made, even when drawings aren’t available. In addition to receiving the replacement part, new detailed drawings are also created in case a new screw is required in the future.
For this customer, an order was placed for a reverse engineered replacement metric screw within a day after they approached PST. After six weeks, the replacement was loaded into the machine and the machine was operational again.
Benefits of Reverse Engineering
The main benefit to engaging in a reverse engineering process is that it can help continue the life of old or obsolete machines. An entire machine does not need to be replaced because a single ball screw, or ball screw assembly, fails.
In situations where a ball screw needs to match a previous component exactly, reverse engineering can be used to determine those specifications and create a custom screw that fits the needs of the assembly. Many machines also have mating parts that are attached to the ball screw assembly. Through reverse engineering, a new ball screw can be created using the original design, allowing for the mating parts to remain operational. If a new screw had been used, the mating parts would need to be changed so the ball screw would match identically.
Downsides to Reverse Engineering
Engaging in the reverse engineering process does mean that additional time and cost will be needed to manufacture the screw, compared to purchasing a replacement. However, it is often still considered the most cost-effective method to get a machine up-and-running. For many companies, the choice is either to reverse engineer the ball screw or to redesign many of the components, or the entirety, of the machine. The additional reverse engineering costs are often minimal compared to the time and financial costs that would be needed to replace many components within an assembly.
However, there are several situations in which it may be more beneficial to find a replacement ball screw. If the ball screw assembly is catastrophically damaged, and additional components would need to be replaced regardless, it will be simpler to find a replacement ball screw that works with the new components, rather than reverse engineering the pre-existing ball screw and then designing new components to fit that screw.
Also, if the design is flexible, or easily changed, then finding an alternative screw may be an acceptable choice. In this situation, the specifications of the original screw should be considered, as the travel distance, RPM, load capacity, and more can be altered by selecting a different screw design.
The PST Reverse Engineering Process
To kick off the PST reverse engineering process, a customer must send the ball screw and all of the additional components to PST. After an evaluation, the PST team gets to work determining the best method of reverse engineering to solve the problem through manual inspections and data recording. PST relies on years of knowledge and inspection equipment to complete the process and provide customers with a quality replacement and a detailed drawing that can be used to manufacture the part again in the future.
No matter the screw type or challenge, the PST team of engineers is ready to help get your machine back up-and-running as smoothly as possible. Ready to learn more? Contact our team.