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3 March, 2011

Deciding between a Cast Aluminum and Stainless Steel bowl for a vibratory parts feeder

Cast Aluminum bowls have a lot of inherent advantages. They offer a quick and economical solution to parts feeding applications. Cast Aluminum step / cascade bowls are primarily used for applications having moderate to high feed rates and good storage requirements.  Cast Aluminum Step / Cascade Bowls are less costly than more involved outside track designs. The Cascade Bowl differs from the Outside Track Bowl because it has no internal “over and under” tracks and has no outside tracking, thus reducing and almost eliminating jamming of parts between two tracks.

Typically, Cascade / Step bowls are used in applications where parts could wedge between the tracks; parts such as large, rectangular parts or other elongated shapes. The simple cascade design is most ideal for where low headroom and limited space exists.

Available in cast aluminum or fabricated stainless steel, each Step / Cascade bowl type provides numerous features and benefits.

Advantages of Cast Aluminum Cascade / Step Bowls:

  • Economical, cast aluminum design.
  • Readily adaptable for orienting features such as rails, cutouts and grooves.
  • Single or double tracks available in various track widths.
  • Optional wear resistant lining for abrasive part handling applications, noise reduction and part protection.
  • Less noise level.
  • Very less chance of the bowl being unwieldy and there being a “dead spot” on the bowl.
  • Proper and fast movement of components in the bowl at all places.
  • Available in standard track widths.
  • FDA approved coating can be provided in case feeding of food products is required.
  • Features including wipers, adjustable drawers and rails can be readily attached with hardware
  • Faster tooling and delivery times

Advantages of fabricated Stainless Steel Cascade / Step Bowls:

  • Available with single or double tracks in various track widths.
  • 304 or 316 grade stainless steel construction for medical applications
  • Features including wipers, adjustable drawers and rails can be readily attached with hardware or by welding.

From the above, it can be easily seen that the advantage of using a stainless steel bowl is only in case of medical applications. Excluding that there is no other advantage. However, it is imperative that if a cast aluminum bowl is used, proper type of coating should be used otherwise the life of the bowl would be limited. Elscinthane spray able polyurethane coating is the best choice for cast aluminum and stainless steel bowls. Not only does the coating reduce the noise level in case of metallic components drastically by eliminating the metal to metal contact, but the life and performance of the bowl improves drastically. The Elscinthane bowl linings are available in various thicknesses ranging from 0.40 mm to even upto 2 mm and above. Elscinthane spray able polyurethane coatings have very high shore hardness and this increases the life of the Bowl tremendously.

Selection of the right type of material for a bowl has repercussions on the continuous maintenance free working of the bowl feeder in the long run and hence the proper material and shape of the bowl is very important. Before ordering a bowl feeder, the customer should discuss with the bowl feeder manufacturer about the shape and the material he has planned for the bowl and the reasons for the same. Though these are usually the prerogative of the bowl feeder manufacturer, the customer, being the user of the bowl, should try to get the reasons behind the same. Secondly, while selecting the type of material and shape for a bowl feeder, one should check whether the bowl feeder manufacturer has the required coating expertise and technology, otherwise, the life of the bowl reduces and feeding too becomes problematic and erratic.

Therefore, the question arises as to why do most bowl feeder manufacturers use stainless steel bowls and not cast aluminum bowls? The reasons are that they do not have the tooling experience of tooling cast aluminum bowls and secondly, due to the fact that they do not have access to proper bowl coating technology.

Monish Shet

Monish Shete is CEO of Elscint Automation, a 30 year old firm manufacturing vibratory bowl feeders and similar small part handing products. He personally has more than 25 years experience with last 15 years being with Elscint. This blog will help customers and laymen understand the intricacies of vibratory bowl feeders. One can find information about the finer aspects of vibratory bowl feeders which cannot be found anywhere else. Case studies and information about various innovative ways of feeding and orienting of different parts are given in this blog.


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