Archive | Concept in the news

Control Upgrades Give Peening Machines a Shot in the Arm

Boeing has learned first-hand how a control-system upgrade can make an old machine work like new, at a fraction of the cost of purchasing a new machine. Case in point: recent refurbishing of four shot-peening machines at the Boeing Fabrication Division plant in Auburn, WA. The Boeing fabrication shop uses spanwise peening machines for contouring wing components, and compression peening machines for cold working. Early in 2011, plant managers decided to upgrade the machines’ controls, which ranged from 20 to 40 years old. Some used relay logic and some were CNC-based. Parts had become obsolete, and maintenance had become overly expensive.

The plant’s managers sought new controls that were more process-oriented, and simple-to-use human-machine interfaces (HMIs) standardized with operator controls used at other Boeing plants. To help with the upgrades, Boeing turned to Concept Systems Inc. Albany, OR, and its engineer Jim Ford, who proposed replacing the old CNCs with Allen-Bradley PLCs. In addition, he recommended Allen-Bradley Panel View terminals to provide the graphics displays. The old DC servos were replaced with smaller AC servomotors and new gearboxes were installed to upgrade the mechanical aspects of the machine. Continue Reading →

New Controls Help Old Icebreakers

New crane control systems and operator interfaces improve safety, reliability, and flexibility of old ships, making them ready for new missions.

New control systems and operator interfaces for cranes used on old U.S. Coast Guard ships improve safety, reliability, and flexibility, making them ready for new missions.

The Coast Guard has two older polar class icebreakers, the Polar Star and its twin, the Polar Sea, originally launched in 1976 and 1978, respectively. Key pieces of equipment on the Seattle-based research vessels are at the end of their service lives and are scheduled for replacement in the coming months. (The Polar Star is the first of the pair to be overhauled, and the Polar Sea will be next.) Among the items that are being replaced are the hydraulically operated cranes on the bow and stern of each ship. Along with new crane hardware and new hydraulic power units, the Coast Guard wanted to install new crane control systems and operator interfaces that will improve the safety, reliability, and flexibility of the ships’ operations. Allied Systems of Sherwood, Ore., and Concept Systems Inc. of Albany, Ore., experts in material handling and control systems development, did the work.

Each ship has three cranes, one on the bow and two aft. The bow crane handles loads of up to 6,000 lb and is used to lower provisions intended for the ship’s stores into the forward hold. In addition to running the bow crane, the associated hydraulic power units (HPUs) also run the anchor windlasses. The aft cranes are heavy-duty units with operator cabs and a jackknife structure to enable a long reach. They are used for onloading and offloading scientific gear in portable shipping containers (ISO standard conex boxes) and for lifting work boats. Continue Reading →

Robotic controls double throughput

Concept Systems resolves coffee roaster infeed problems, doubles throughput with new robotic controls, 3D vision, and application-specific effectors.

coffee_robot_3D_modelBottlenecks can occur at every stage of the manufacturing process, limiting productivity and causing problems that increase production costs. Savvy production managers know that no matter what the process, and no matter what the current rate of production, there’s always a weakest link that can be improved to increase a factory’s contribution to the company’s bottom line. In this regard, the equipment that handles the infeed of raw materials is just as important as the machinery that does the processing. An advanced vision-guided robotic infeed system can double throughput compared to other methods. For example, a 3D vision system has helped a large coffee roasting plant increase its green bean infeed rate by 100%, while eliminating a safety and material waste problem that was costing the company 100,000 lb of lost beans per year.

The coffee roaster was having problems with a robot whose job was to unload pallets of 150-lb burlap bags containing raw beans and place the bags one-by-one on a conveyor ultimately feeding the roaster. The gripper on the end of the robot arm was pinching the bags awkwardly and causing them to tear, spewing coffee beans over the floor of the unloading area. The robot moved slowly and relied on “feel” and memory as it attempted to locate the next bag to move. As the plant is charged with processing some 650,000 bags of coffee beans per year, the cost of the robot’s errors in lost beans and lost productivity was mounting. Loose beans on the floor posed a safety concern. With these factors in mind, plant managers decided to upgrade the bean bag handling system, and enlisted the help of a system integrator with expertise in advance automation systems, including smart robotic workcells guided with machine vision systems. The control system used incorporates an advanced 3D vision system with high-end PC-based software to build a 3D model of the environment in which the infeed robot operates. Continue Reading →

Airplane Artists Aided by Advanced Motion Technology

Aircraft painting at Boeing’s Everett facility is a manually intensive operation performed by skilled artisans. Many of the paint schemes produced by the decorative painters at the facility are truly works of art. That art is now being facilitated by advanced motion technology that lets operator cranes reach within 4 inches of the aircraft without risk of contacting it.

Aircraft painting at Boeing’s Everett facility is a manually intensive operation performed by skilled artisans. Many of the paint schemes produced by the decorative painters at the facility are truly works of art. That art is now being facilitated by advanced motion technology that lets operator cranes reach within 4 inches of the aircraft without risk of contacting it.

The typical commercial airliner carries 800 pounds of paint. The paint’s primary function is corrosion protection to the aircraft skin. Requirements for the paint include: Durability to support the fuselage’s expansion with cabin pressurization, flexibility in all conditions, weather and temperature extremes, impact from hail and dust (at 600 mph); and resistance to salt spray and chemicals (hydraulic fluid, de-icer, etc.).

During operations to prep and paint the aircraft, painters navigate quickly around the aircraft on large working platforms mounted on cranes known as stackers. Each stacker (see picture) is an overhead-supported boom with four axes of movement: bridge, trolley, hoist, and rotate. Continue Reading →

How to Trust Your Integrator


Ranking of System Integrator Selection Criteria Price and global capabilities aren’t nearly as important as knowledge and relationship history when selecting a sytem integrator, according to a 2005 study.

A Machine Control System Should Not Only Perform to Expectations, but It Must Integrate Seamlessly into the Rest of the End User’s Operation

When we look at the reasons behind a failed industrial system integration project on an industrial machine, it typically wasn’t the control technology that failed. For any given integration project, there are multiple technologies that will do the job. The difference is in the application of the technology. And this comes down to the skills of the integrator and how well the integrator interacts and communicates with the machine builder and the end user. For the machine builder, it is doubly important. Not only must the machine control system perform to expectations, it also must integrate seamlessly into the rest of the end user’s operation. Continue Reading →