Diversified industrial manufacturer Eaton has announced that its South Bend, Indiana, facility has added a $1.9 million cross-wedge-rolling machine for use in the production of transmission shafts for heavy-duty trucks. The new machine improves manufacturing efficiency by completing a forging process in South Bend with the cross-wedge-rolling system. It replaces a hammering press operation that previously was outsourced. In a traditional hammering press, brute force is used to forge a hot piece of steel into the size and shape required by customers. With Eaton’s new cross-wedge-rolling machine, steel is heated to 2200 degrees Fahrenheit and rolled – rather than pressed – to form the transmission shafts.
Built in Belarus, Eaton’s cross-wedge-rolling machine is one of less than 10 such systems in the world – and one of only a few in the United States. The South Bend plant currently is completing tests of the new machine, which is expected to be fully operational by mid-September.
“This is a unique process that will significantly improve our manufacturing efficiency,” said David Larkins, South Bend plant manager. “We’re very excited to have it here in South Bend.”
The South Bend plant supplies gear forgings to three Eaton facilities – in Kings Mountain, North Carolina; Shenandoah, Iowa; and San Luis Potosi, Mexico – which assemble them into transmissions for leading global truck manufacturers. South Bend also supplies precision gear forgings for use in off-road and watercraft recreational vehicles.
In 1989, Eaton acquired the South Bend plant, which is part of the company’s Vehicle Group business, and employs more than 110 people. The facility contributes nearly $200 million to the local economy through taxes, wages and supplier impact. In addition, Eaton South Bend and its employees donated $41,000 in 2012 to local community organizations such as the United Way of St. Joseph County, La Casa de Amistad Hispanic Community Center and the St. Margaret’s House center for women and children.