Desoutter has been supplying industrial power tools worldwide for more than 100 years. The company offers pneumatic tools, electric tools, battery-powered tools, torque measurement systems, tool support arms and screwfeeding equipment. Desoutter supplies drills, screwdrivers, nutrunners and other power tools for the automotive, aerospace, general industrial and light assembly markets.
We sat down recently with Yohan Verdon, North American marketing manager at Desoutter, to talk about new technologies and trends in screwdriving.
ASSEMBLY: Desoutter offers a full line of fastening tools: pneumatic, DC electric, cordless. What are you seeing out there in the assembly marketplace? Are assemblers showing a preference for one technology over the other?
Verdon: Yes. Manufacturers are moving from air tools to electric tools and from corded electric tools to cordless tools. We see that in many different market segments, particularly in the aerospace and motor vehicle industries.
ASSEMBLY: What’s driving the conversion from air tools to electric tools?
Verdon: It’s mainly quality, safety and cost. We are seeing more requests for technology to control more aspects of the fastening process. Manufacturers want error-proofing.
Moving from air tools to electric tools provides an interesting return on investment. You save energy costs as well as maintenance costs. Pneumatic tools require more labor and more parts, whereas electric tools are very cost-efficient in terms of maintenance.
Another reason behind the conversion from air tools to electric tools, at least in the aerospace market, is that manufacturers are increasingly dealing with new materials, like composites. These materials require specific speeds for run-downs. Pneumatic tools can only run at one speed. With electric tools, engineers can adjust tool speed to match the application. You can even change speeds during the run-down.
ASSEMBLY: Why is it important to change fastening speeds?
Verdon: It’s important to prevent damaging the materials. Take composites, for example. If you go above a certain speed, you burn the material. Then you won’t get consistent clamp load.
ASSEMBLY: What’s driving the conversion from corded tools to cordless tools?
Verdon: We are getting more requests for cordless tools. Cordless tools are better for applications inside aircraft interiors or tractor cabins, for example.
ASSEMBLY: Desoutter has done a lot of work on battery-powered tools. Tell us about those efforts.
Verdon: We offer three lines of cordless tools.
One is a simple, clutch-driven tool. It’s a more cost-effective tool. It has a brushless motor and a lithium-ion battery. It’s very efficient in terms of reliability and durability. It’s a starting point for customers looking to replace simple air tools. It does not provide error-proofing, but it can be equipped to send an OK or not OK signal to a PLC or line controller.
We also offer two lines of battery tools with built-in transducers and angle encoders. Those tools are dedicated to error-proofing.
One of those lines is simple to use. You can program it through the tool itself. There’s no need for a computer or software. This tool is more dedicated to the aerospace or off-road vehicle industries, which don’t really need the capability to record fastening data for traceability.
We also offer the same tool with an embedded Wi-Fi module that transmits fastening data to a controller for full error-proofing and complete traceability. This tool is dedicated to the automotive industry.
We have made a huge effort to improve the performance of our cordless tools. The first battery tools on the market were slow and not very durable. Manufacturers that wanted to convert from pneumatic tools to cordless tools experienced some frustration because cordless tools were not as fast or as durable as pneumatic tools.
We did a lot of development work on the motor to improve speed. We don’t buy the motors for our tools. We designed the tool motor from the ground up, so it’s really adapted to be powered by a battery.
In addition, we have reinforced our tools with aluminum frames so they resist impacts without adding a lot of extra weight. With a cordless tool, weight is very important to the operator.
They are very accurate tools—even the simple clutch tool. We did some exercises with Boeing recently. Our clutch tools proved to be very accurate. They have a torque scatter below 10 percent. That’s ±5 percent for our most simple tool. Our high-end cordless model is accurate to ±2 percent.
ASSEMBLY: Desoutter recently introduced a new transducerized electric screwdriver, the ERS. Tell us more about it.
Verdon: These screwdrivers are for lower torque applications, below 50 newton-meters. It has a built-in transducer and can report data for traceability through the controller.
What’s unique about this screwdriver is seating detection. It automatically detects the seating point of the screw on the part. After the screw is seated on the part, the tool applies the final torque or angle.
That means the joint is not dependent on the characteristic of the screw thread. The tool will always go to the seating point. What we’re trying to achieve is consistent clamp force, not just an accurate torque.
This is for applications like driving into plastic, where you can have hole variation due to temperature variation, or the wood industry, where there can be natural variations in the material.
ASSEMBLY: Desoutter has also introduced the Delta Cart, a mobile station for calibrating and testing fastening tools. Tell us more about that.
Verdon: We developed this cart so engineers could monitor tool performance and perform calibration on the line. We wanted it to be mobile and compact so it could be moved easily around an assembly line. We wanted to make it flexible and versatile. You can mount up to four static transducers on the cart. It’s completely customizable based on the torque range of the tools at a particular facility.
It’s mandatory to monitor the performance of tools. You want to make sure that the torque you’re applying is accurate, so you have to calibrate your tools on a regular basis. This cart lets engineers do that without taking tools off the line.