Eaton Corporation reported that its South Bend, IN, plant has installed a $1.9 million cross-wedge-rolling machine to produce transmission shafts for heavy-duty trucks. The new machine improves manufacturing efficiency by completing a forging process on site using the comparatively new production method, replacing a hammering operation that had been contracted to a supplier.

The South Bend plant is completing tests of the new machine, which Eaton predicted would be fully operational by mid-September.

Cross-wedge rolling is a warm forging process for plastic deformation of cylindrical forms into axis-symmetrical parts.

In a standard hammer forging process, a steel workpiece is heated and formed to a desired shape by impact.

In Eaton’s new process, the preforms are heated to 2,200°F and rolled to form the transmission shafts. CWR machines can achieve specific shape profiles (tapers, steps, shoulders, and walls, with very little draft.)

Eaton did not name the machine's builder, but it noted that fewer than 10 are in operation worldwide.  

"This is a unique process that will significantly improve our manufacturing efficiency," stated David Larkins, South Bend plant manager. "We're very excited to have it here in South Bend."

Eaton’s South Bend plant is part of its Vehicle Group. Current employment is about 110 workers. It was acquired in 1989, and supplies gear forgings to three other plants (Kings Mountain, NC; Shenandoah, IA; and San Luis Potosi, Mexico) that assemble transmissions for truck building OEMs. South Bend also supplies precision gear forgings for off-road and watercraft RVs.