The demands on today’s industry have never been greater. Shorter product life cycles, small batch sizes and constant product upgrades are now the norm. Draqen has responded to this environment by developing a range of automation solutions flexible enough to meet these challenges. Solutions which are capable of handling multi-products and product additions, with high efficiency and which have simple and fast changeover to minimise downtime.
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Single Station machines are generally manual or semi-automatic in operation and require an operator to carry out the majority of Part Loading operations. Single Station machines incorporate ergonomically designed Nest Tooling into which component parts are loaded. Once parts are loaded, the operator initiates the machine cycle at which time required assembly and/or test modules activate to complete the required process. Once finished, a parts marking system is often included to indicate that the assembly is good and has passed all inspections.
The format of Single Station Machines is driven by customer’s requirements. Semi-auto assembly fixtures can be placed side by side together with semi-auto test stations all on a Single Station Assembly/Test Machine so that assembly and testing operate concurrently. Back-to-back duel Single Station Assembly and Test Machines allow for common use of PLC control systems and provide a more compact footprint. Poka yoke functionality is also commonly incorporated into Single Station Machines to ensure that only correct parts can be loaded and good assemblies removed from the Fixture. Sensors are used to ensure that incorrect parts cannot be processed and failing assemblies are physically locked into their tooling nests until a supervisor is notified
Single Station Assembly and Test Machines are a cost effective solution for producing lower volume products efficiently, accurately and error free.
Assembly is one of the major processes in a manufacturing environment, where many pre-fabricated parts are brought together within specified tolerances to produce a product which has some functional value. The need for sophisticated assembly systems that are intelligent and highly flexible has increased over the years and motivated many researchers to develop innovative techniques in implementing such systems. Today’s industry demands more flexibility in assembly automation due to rapid changes in product design imposed by highly competitive global markets. Apart from flexibility, it is also desirable to build systems that can quickly adapt to new product designs and market changes. This fact was stated in an editorial by Dagli (1991) as: Manufacturing systems of the 21st century will demand more flexibility in product design, process planning, scheduling and process control. This may well be achieved through integrated software and hardware architectures that generate current decisions based on information collected from assembly systems, and execute these decisions by converting them into signals transferred through communication networks. Manufacturing technology has not yet reached this state.
In-line assembly machines are used for higher part count assemblies or where space is at a premium. Fully automatic in-line machines allow better access to the machine due its linear configuration. They are also a good option for assembly in-line with molding operations as they use a rectangular footprint which allows placement closer or between molding machines.
Indexing Conveyors – In-line assembly machines are very useful for assemblies of four or more components. They provide more design flexibility and much better operator access than what is practical on a rotary dial version. Systems are available in “over-under” or “carousel” type Indexing Conveyors. Typical speeds for these systems range from 10-30 cycles per minute with conveyor chains being either driven by a mechanical cam drive or servo drive. Similar to the Dial type machine, higher throughputs are achieved by tooling multiple parts and making multiple assemblies per cycle.
Walking Beams – Another style of In-Line Assembly Machine is the Walking Beam. Station Nests on the Walking Beam are in-line and fixed while the Walking Beam mechanism picks and places the main housing of an assembly through the sequential assembly process. Walking Beam style machines provide a cost effective and space saving method of automating assembly and testing functions.
Rotary indexing dials, one of the first machine platforms used for automated assembly, are a very popular platform for many assembly and testing applications. Dial plates are mounted to either cam or servo controlled indexing drives which are tooled or programmed for anywhere from 4 to 16 indexing positions. Station nests or fixtures are equally spaced and mounted to the dial plate at each indexing position while corresponding workstations and tooling are mounted to columns positioned around the periphery of the indexing dial.
Rotary machines are typically limited to small and medium-sized lightweight assemblies requiring relatively low number of operations. Advantages of the rotary indexing dial platform include high productivity with rates up to 60 cycles per minute, high accuracy providing consistent assembly positioning, compact construction requiring minimum floor space, and ease of integration with standardized tooling and modules. If even higher outputs are required, dial machines can be tooled with 2-up station nests and work station modules for production rates of up to 120 parts per minute. While dial machines can be highly productive, ultimate output is however, limited to the slowest required operation.
As with most other machine platforms, the rotary dial machine can be designed to be either fully automatic or semi-automatic. Semi-Automatic indexing machines are best suited for lower volume and/or oddly shaped assemblies where automatic parts feeders would not be cost effective. Semi-automatic versions can also be designed to be upgraded to fully automatic versions once production volumes have increased sufficiently. Fully automatic machines are best suited for higher volume products which would benefit from reduced labor costs. They are also good candidates for being integrated together with injection molding or stamping operations.