Stéphane Obrist, R&D Manager Groupe Atlantic, France
As a specialist for heating systems and home comfort equipment, the Groupe Atlantic blends first-class design, innovation, and leading-edge technology. As development engineers we are open to innovative technologies and always aim for higher productivity and leaner processes. Nonetheless, I was very surprised that an unassuming C-part increased our productivity by 40 percent.
It all started when we invited Bossard to take a closer look at one of our manufacturing processes and to optimize the assembly of an electrical fastener for a boiler. We asked them to boost functionality and productivity while complying with all applicable standards.
Three parts combined into one
Since 20 years, we used a steel bracket, a washer and a screw for the ground connection. The experts at Bossard developed a customized solution that ingeniously combined the three parts into one. The new fastener consists only of the steel bracket and an integrated screw. This not only allows us to skip two preassembly steps, it also prevents errors. Now it gets a little bit technical: The screw is self-threading – no thread-cutting necessary – and it is captive, which guarantees process reliability. When the ground cable is installed at the end customer, the screw is loosened again but cannot be retightened incorrectly. The integrated flange head replaces the washer. The serrations in the bearing area guarantee a secure and vibration-resistant fit. For maximum flexibility with electrician tools, the hexagon screw also has a slotted head.
The initial prototype series was soon ready and confirmed improved functionality. After comprehensive testing, the team optimized the shape of the steel bracket with special cams and ridges to further improve ground contact, bending strength, and electric cable clamping force. The customized fastener cleared yet another hurdle when the Group Atlantic expert center confirmed its conformity with water heating standards.
The result of the new design is quick, easy, efficient, and reliable assembly. I am impressed with the persistence, perseverance, and tenacity the team showed in developing the best solution. It was really worth it. We save labor, logistics, and administrative costs while boosting process reliability and quality. We are already working on other variants and sizes for use of the fastener in other products. In the meantime, Bossard has become a global strategic partner in the field of engineering for the Groupe Atlantic.