Means Industries, part of the Amsted Industries, is a well-known manufacturer of the mechanical diode one-way clutch, controllable mechanical diode clutch and clutch plates for the automotive industry. It does so through a concentrated engineering initiative that integrates market knowledge and efficiency into every design and every product the company invents.
Means is headquartered in Saginaw, Mich., and has been in the manufacturing business since 1922. A self-described customer-centric organization, Means focuses on innovative products and processes in tandem with a sister company, TransForm Automotive, LLC, manufacturer of clutch housings, clutch hubs, pistons and gear carriers.
TransForm Automotive operates two facilities in Sterling Heights, Mich., and a third in London, Ontario, Canada, and is a subsidiary of Means Industries, which, in turn, is a division of AMSTED Industries, based in Chicago. AMSTED Industries is a diversified, global manufacturer of industrial components serving the railroad, vehicular, construction, and building market.
TransForm introduced the roller die forming process to North America in early 1997. The process utilizes tooling technology developed in Germany that mainly consists of a full set of rollers located in the lower die set and the mandrel mounted to the upper die set. The tooling is typically part of an entire transfer press die set. The preform is located on the mandrel and the entire spline is rolled during a single stroke of the transfer press. Depending on spline geometry, dimensional requirements and workpiece materials a single, dual or triple roller die configuration is required.
TransForm Automotive also provides support to the customer from the concept level of design by providing spline processing and geometry expertise to the powertrain engineering market. The company can build prototypes from solid as well as full production intent components or assemblies. TransForm also has in-house CAD capabilities used primarily for tool design maintenance. Product design concepts are provided to assist customers with clarifying design concepts and ideas.
With all of this expertise under its roof, the company forms a nice complement to Means, which is a strong engineering-based company with 40-plus patents to its name. “We are a full service company,” says Mike Doherty, Director of Marketing, who explains that Means was established as a stamping company for the auto industry in the 1920s but turned the corner toward an emphasis on engineering in the mid-1990s. “We support customers from the conceptual design stage with product and process expertise.”
A One-Way Solution
Together, both companies foster a culture of continuous innovation, and work with customers to achieve the most cost-effective solutions.
One such achievement is the mechanical diode (MD) one-way clutch, introduced in 1997; out of the gate, says Doherty, this innovative clutch was more robust, able to run at higher speeds and is more torque dense. It also has had a cost advantage over other products because of the materials used. As a tier-one supplier to both GM and Ford, Means has garnered 30 percent of the one-way clutch market.
The MD one-way clutch initially was launched into mass production in 1997 and replaced a competing technology, which the company notes was “catastrophically failing in police and taxi fleets across the United States.” Since then, more than 27 million MD’s have been installed into production transmissions. Complementing the superior quality and design of the MD are the actual performance attributes, outperforming competing technologies in fatigue life, ultimate torque capacity and spin loss while remaining lighter in weight.
One of the main advantages of the mechanical diode, especially in an automotive industry focused on improving fuel consumption, is the reduced spin-loss of the clutch when compared with other available technologies in the marketplace today. The improved efficiency of the MD is a function of the system dynamics designed directly into the clutch itself.
Another advantage of the MD is the ease of integration into the operating environment, offering cost savings due to the reduction of part numbers, increased functionality, smaller overall packaging environment and reduced efforts in managing a complex supply base. In addition, the MD is often more affordable than competing technologies, especially at larger diameters due to the materials used to manufacture the MD.
Another product setting standards is the Controllable Mechanical Diode, which takes the standard MD to the next level. It offers all of the same advantages as the standard mechanical diode and then further enhances the value proposition.
Much like the MD, the CMD utilizes the same technology and core components, with the addition of hardware for controlling the desired functionality of the assembly.
The CMD concept was developed to offer additional system level efficiencies by eliminating shifting components that have traditionally been associated with high levels of spin-loss in the system but could not be eliminated because of their function. Not only does the CMD dramatically cut down on drag but it also lends itself to many of the same advantages as the MD such as overall component reduction and a smaller package as the components it replaces along with increased load capacity.
“The number one pull is the efficiency of the product,” Doherty says, adding that Means has developed its MD and CMD products for four different markets, including North America, Japan, China and Germany.
The bottom line is engineering, and Means’ engineers know what it takes to produce world class shifting systems and components. Pursuit of perfection in the engineering details of design, manufacturing, driveline system knowledge, assembly, and quality enables the company to offer value to its customers. For one, Means employs a high level of technical expertise and engineering design prowess, which means its research and development initiatives overshadow that of other companies, and enables Means to develop and launch industry-leading technologies that easily integrate into end-user applications.
The dedicated design and analysis team at Means has the ability to perform linear, static, modal, buckling and contact analysis in addition to utilizing LMS dynamic modeling software for realistic multibody simulation including modeling, solving and analysis. This enables the company to carry out virtual testing simulations for complex scenarios, helping to reduce the overall product development lifecycle, with TS and ISO certification in all facilities.
Means also has an on-site metallurgist who continuously tests and monitors all of the company’s internally produced and externally procured components. The company dedicates resources to advancing material engineering capabilities with a focus on material design and selection, heat treatment, performance and analytical evaluation. They call it a “passion for perfect parts.”
As Doherty adds, “Our quality and delivery records are impeccable.”