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Automation Products that Modernize Your Plant Floor

Modernization of your plant floor is a big-picture effort involving assessing, rethinking, and upgrading your automation technologies – with the goal of positioning your company to remain competitive for the next several decades. Modern automation products provide advanced data collection and access to real-time plant performance information. This leads to increased productivity, better machine performance and efficiency, fewer downtimes, and improved decision making that comes from being informed with current and accurate information.

Modernization is a journey and should be a planned effort. It requires investments, stakeholder alignment, and technology upgrades or retrofits. These activities often occur over a period of months or even years. Some companies implement modernization projects during a single shutdown event, and some use a phased implementation approach over time. Whatever approach works best for you, modernization should start with a study of your existing automation assets and systems. Next, companies should develop an implementation strategy, often referred to as an automation roadmap, to align on automation standards and prioritize upgrades, putting the most critical, at-risk assets first.

As the future of the manufacturing world turns to automation, modernizing your plant floor can be time consuming and costly. Standardized automation products provide you with accurate and repeatable results that impact your bottom line at a fraction of the cost of customized solutions, while still providing improved efficiency, increased profits, and promoting growth. Below are examples of Concept Systems’ automation processes and products that will modernize your plant floor.

  • Collision avoidance: as robot automation increases in popularity, so does the need to protect expensive parts, fixtures and end effectors from collisions. A robot collision in your manufacturing process can cost thousands of dollars in damaged product and associated downtime. Protect your most valuable assets with Collision Avoidance, using the latest in 3D Vision technologies our revolutionary software platform features multiple modes of operation and a friendly user interface. Click here for a case study about an aerospace company that successfully implemented one of Concept’s collision avoidance solutions.
     
  • Scan2Path: dynamically offset path programs based on part orientation, identify parts in motion for specific handling, unique feature recognition – welcome to Scan2Path. We developed an innovative software platform designed to provide your robots with the flexibility to adapt to changing variables in manufacturing environments. This solution reduces costs, improves efficiency, and increases profits.
     
  • Automated Coating: the robotic coating platform is designed to provide a simple, yet cutting edge solution for applying Cerakote coating products. The platform supports a wide range of applications from firearms to sunglasses to exhaust mufflers and more, allowing applicators to produce a high-quality finish in a safe and efficient manner.
     
  • LengthScanPro: with our expertise in laser scanning and machine vision, we offer profile measurement systems that dynamically adjust your equipment to yield maximum results. Real-time measurements of length, thickness, angles or other key dimensions will allow you to recognize improved quality and maximized profit. Click here for a case study where LengthScanPro was used to address the issue of waste at a wood mill.
     
  • Manufacturing Intelligence: eliminate downtime and boost production with the only end-to-end solution for remotely monitoring your industrial equipment assets. Wave7 gives you powerful, zero-infrastructure condition monitoring at a low-cost entry point. Start monitoring one location or thousands worldwide more effectively, and see the effect on your bottom line. Click here to learn more about remote monitoring and the Wave7 solutions.
     
  • Material Tagging: our automated material tagging solutions/systems are designed to tag your products during production so they can be tracked throughout the manufacturing process. Whether you’re tagging steel, printing on building products or marking automotive components, our automated material tagging systems will improve your quality and minimize your labor costs. Click here for a case study where Concept implemented the BilletID 3D scanner solution to accurately tag each billet of steel.
     

Concept Systems

Concept Systems is 100% committed to maintaining current, state-of-the art equipment that allow customers to achieve competitive manufacturing today and tomorrow. With the technologies available, there are countless robotic and machine vision applications that can help you address your business challenges. From basic picking and sorting to enhanced vision inspection, from custom built end of arm tooling to complete work cell design and integration, our team of expert engineers design and integrate solutions that enhance the efficiency and profitability of your operations.

We’ll dive into your manufacturing process and build a smart, precisely tailored automation solution – effectively integrating metrology and automation solutions to improve throughput and elevate quality. Leverage the advances in technology to improve your manufacturing – contact us today!

Tips for Selecting Your Main Automation Contractor (MAC)

Automation is no longer optional – it is a necessity to remain competitive. To this end, more and more manufacturers are implementing automated work cells. Whether the objective is to increase production efficiency, improve quality, get real-time data, or modernize your equipment, automation solutions help companies achieve their goals. Automation controls provide you with the means to streamline plant production, plan and schedule maintenance events, and avoid unnecessary product loss and downtime.

Since industrial manufacturers typically do not have deep, in-house expertise when it comes to automated solutions, companies often outsource this area to a Main Automation Contractor, or MAC. Generally speaking, the MAC is responsible for overseeing and managing the automation solution including the instrumentation, control, information, and safety aspects of the project from concept selection through implementation. Outsourcing automation responsibilities allows companies to tap into experts, such as the team at Concept Systems, who specialize in designing and integrating automated work cells for various industries. These experts guide manufacturers through the design process to select the right robot and create the optimal work cell for each application.

There are many factors to consider when selecting a MAC partner and it is imperative that companies do their research to identify the right one! Price is, of course, a huge consideration, but there are many additional elements that must be considered when selecting a partner. Choosing the right MAC partner may seem like a big task since there are many options to choose from! Below are several tips to guide you through the selection process.

  • Proven History: companies should do their homework to better understand the background of each MAC partner they are evaluating. For example, how long have they been in business, who were their previous clients, and have they been recognized within the industry? You want an established partner with proven experience and repeat customers. Additionally, ensure the supplier has ample experience working with a company of your size and in your industry. Concept, for example, has years of experience with their MAC model and has proven results with its customers. Click here for a case study where a customer implemented Concept’s MAC model.
  • Offers What You Need: this may sound simple but not all MAC partners offer the same solutions. You need to be clear on the requirements for your application and if a potential partner offers solutions that meet your needs. Keep in mind that partners with a broad range of offerings are better positioned to provide support as your business grows over time. Also, for companies that are unclear on their automation requirements, it is even more important to select a partner, like Concept, that has the expertise and knowledge to guide customers through the process.
  • Excellent Quality: quality products are important! You must select a partner that provides high-quality equipment and that stands behind their offerings! Additionally, you should have a discussion with potential partners on risk tolerance especially if your automation solutions are for a high-reliability or sensitive industry.
  • Customer Service: look for any extra services and customer support that a MAC partner provides. For example, is it easy to contact the partner with technical support questions? You will want to discuss these topics with any potential partner to understand the level of customer support provided after the initial equipment purchase and installation.
  • Solid Relationship: in the end, you are not simply looking for a supplier, you are looking for a trusted partner that can help your business grow! A true partner asks for input and listens to customers – offering solutions that ensure both parties are aligned and satisfied! Also, every supplier has its own unique company culture and relationships with its customers so ensure you mesh well with any potential partners. Good communication and a spirit of collaboration is needed from the start so do not ignore any red flags you note during the evaluation process – they will not go away after the partner is selected!

Concept Systems – Your MAC Partner

Our main automation contractor (MAC) offering is designed to meet the needs of manufacturers who need an automation integrator to manage all aspects of a project, including third party consultants, OEMs, electrical install, control specifications and safety. Let our experienced engineers drive the results you need. We can support your team through any automation project from simple retrofits to integrating full automation across your plant floor.

With the technologies available today there are countless robotic and machine vision applications that can help you address your business challenges. From basic picking and sorting to enhanced vision inspection, from custom built end of arm tooling to complete work cell design and integration, our team of expert engineers design and integrate solutions that enhance the efficiency and profitability of your operations.

Contact us today to learn more about our automated solutions and our MAC offerings!

Seeing the Future with 3D Vision

Written by Michael Lindley, VP of Business Development and Marketing

Robotic work cells are providing several benefits in cost and productivity. But they can be made even more effective with 3D laser scanning systems.

cake decorating systemOver the past 18 months, the demand for robotic work cells that target business issues has skyrocketed. On a continual basis, we see clients who are achieving a return on investment (ROI) by cutting operating costs, increasing productivity and reducing errors.

The robotic work cells can be made even more effective with the addition of 3D laser scanning technologies. The scanning is able to capture all aspects of a part, allowing us to inspect and analyze objects or environments, which is often necessary for the measurement and data collection on the exact shapes and orientations. By employing 3D technologies, we develop a more robust data set, creating a smarter solution that can be used in more variable work conditions.

Various industries can utilize 3D scanning systems—from manufacturing and engineering to design, development and surveying, to movies, art and medicine. It often results in two key benefits: lower-cost manufacturing processes and higher-quality products (increasing yield). It has been estimated that 3D scanning can reduce manufacturing costs by 75 percent.

Based on our experience, below are a few examples of how businesses can benefit from 3D scanning systems.

The 3D concept phase

When working with clients, we often go through a concept phase prior to starting the actual design work. At this stage, clients are thinking about the big picture—the inputs and outputs, and how a work cell fits into the overall manufacturing process. What we have found is that we can use 3D scanners during the idea generation phase to digitize objects and then use them to interpret and enhance concept diagrams. The more work that can be done virtually, the more will be saved when it comes to final design and build. The 3D scans that we generate during the design phase can be incorporated into robot simulation tools offered by leading manufacturers—Fanuc Roboguide or ABB RobotStudio.

3D scanning for design development

By employing 3D technologies, we develop a more robust data set, creating a smarter solution that can be used in more variable work conditions.

As discussed, 3D scanning can be applied at the beginning of the design phase by scanning a physical object to generate a computer-aided design (CAD) model. Our designers usually need to design around existing parts and part tolerances. By having 3D models of the parts we will be handling, we can drastically improve the accuracy of the final design because so much of the trial-and-error work can be done with software. 3D model scanning systems can benefit the actual design process in the following ways:

  • Increase the effectiveness of working with complex parts and shapes.
  • Assist with the design of input/output mechanisms for the work cell.
  • If CAD models are outdated, a 3D scan will provide an updated version.
  • 3D scanners quickly capture all physical measurements of any object.
  • A 3D scanner ensures that the parts fit together on the first try.
  • Assist with end-of-arm tooling for robots to ensure end effectors properly handle and manipulate parts.
  • Scanners use modern manufacturing on parts that were manufactured before CAD existed.
  • Allows for a comparison between as-designed models and as-built parts.

3D scanning—maximizing investments

We have discussed the many ways 3D scanning technologies can improve the concept and design phases of a robotic work cell. Outside of those applications, we have had numerous incidents where we have employed 3D scanning to create more flexibility in a work cell. For example, by using 3D scanning, we are able to locate parts in space and, if required, provide a path offset to a robot so it can handle a part that is in a random orientation. Another example is to use 3D scanners to inspect the part before it is handled by the robot. By scanning the part, we can compare it to the “golden model,” and if it is out of compliance we can pass over it or sweep it into a rework bin. Last, by scanning parts, we can determine what it is and then execute the corresponding robot program. This creates dynamic functionality, which requires less input from an operator, allowing them to focus on other tasks.

The world of 3D scanning technologies is rapidly expanding. With more processing power, lower price points and easier user interfaces, it is safe to say these technologies are here to say. If you are in the market for 3D scanning, check out the new solutions from leading manufactures such as Sick, Cognex, Keyence and Hermary.

Michael Lindley is vice president of business development and marketing at Concept Systems Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association(CSIA). See Concept Systems’ profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

Meggitt Robotic Drilling Workcell

Meggitt Polymers & Composites recently updated their manufacturing operations by installing a Drill and Cutting workcell, designed and integrated by Concept Systems. The fully automated workcell uses a Fanuc M-710 series robotic arm and state of the art end of arm tooling to drill and cut material for the aerospace industry. The goal of this project was to improve accuracy and throughput of thousands of parts, allowing Meggitt Polymers & Composites to meet the needs of their customers.

Project duration: 4 months

Team:
Client: 1
Concept Systems: 4

Concept Systems’ time on site: 2 weeks

Headquartered in the United Kingdom, Meggitt PLC is an international group employing some 8,000 people specializing in aerospace equipment, high performance sensors, defense training and combat systems. Meggitt Polymers & Composites, in McMinnville, OR focuses on delivering gaskets and seals to rigorous standards to be used by some of the world’s leading manufacturers.

Meggitt Polymers & Composites had an opportunity to expand their business with a current client, but to do so, they would have to increase production by means other than human labor. Historically, the work on these parts was being done manually in a labor intensive manner. Production rates were limited to an average of 1000 parts per year, but needed to increase production by 300%, or 3000 parts per year, to meet demand. In addition to throughput, accuracy and safety were of high concern.

“A lot of these operations were being done by hand, and we were missing holes,” James Robertson, Meggitt’s vice president of operations, said in a recent news article featuring the project. “This enabled us to simplify the process and improve our quality.”

Concept Systems kicked off the project by meeting with the project manager at Meggitt, to first understand their operations, concerns and goals, ensuring the right solution was delivered based on measurable results and a favorable return on investment.  Once the objectives, timelines, and goals were established, Concept moved forward with the design of the workcell.

The system that Concept created for the drill and cutting project is a fully automated workcell featuring a Fanuc M-710 Robot. The workcell boasts an integrated tool changer that provides seamless interchange of tools, allowing continuous production of the desired hole shape and size for 8 different parts. Further, Concept designed end-of-arm tooling to accommodate 14 automated, interchangeable options for drilling and cutting.  To support flexibility of the workcell, Concept also designed and provided fixture racks to accommodate 8 different parts. All of this was under the direction of a thorough risk assessment based on ANSI/RIA R1506-2012: safety first design of the workcell and all components.

Technology used in workcell:

  • Fanuc M-710iC Series Robot
  • ServoRobot Tool Changer
  • PushCorp High Torque Servo Toolholder
  • Tool Changing Station
  • 4 Custom Built Part Fixtures
  • Safety Interlocked System Guarding: Light Curtain, Area Scanner, Dust Hood

The workcell has now been in production for over 6 months and the initial results show that the project was a success. Meggitt has expanded their production capacity to 3000 parts per year – a 300% increase as per the project goal. Meggitt has also achieved high precision and repeatability from the robot and tools which significantly reduced rework and product loss. Last, the physical guard fencing, door interlocks, and area scanners provide the latest in worker protection.

HoloLens Review: Step into the Star Wars Universe

HoloLens review by Concept Systems

The HoloLens is kind of like a marriage of a holographic projector (ala Star Wars R2D2), a Kinect, a computer, and a stereo headset with other cool accoutrementsL

While Microsoft’s new HoloLens won’t replace the universe’s most loveable robot, R2D2, any time soon, it can give you a taste of what it might be like to live in a Star Wars universe.

Concept Systems’ Doug Taylor recently tested out the HoloLens, and here’s what he has to say about it: 

 The HoloLens is kind of like a marriage of a holographic projector (ala Star Wars R2D2), a Kinect, a computer, and a stereo headset with other cool accoutrements.  Basically, it is a 3D computer interface.  And it works.  It works really, really well.

 The device comes in a hard blob like case that has a device, a wall charger & cable, and a clicker.  The device fits many different styles of heads from my massive (but yet tasteful) pumpkin shaped head to my wife’s petite and attractive apple sized head.  Above the ears are a pair of speakers that aren’t too loud, but are pretty close to great.  The device has all sorts of lenses and whatnot and what looks like four Kinect style 3D mappers pointed in various directions. 

 First, let’s talk about localization, or basically how well does it know where it is.  Short answer: perfectly.  When you put a screen on the wall, it stays there regardless of how you move in the room and when you get closer to it, the screen gets larger and totally appears to be stuck to the wall.  If you place screens sticking out of things, they stay there.  You can place screens or what have you anywhere.  I fired up Microsoft Edge, logged into Netflix and started watching a movie.  I walked around the room and could hear the movie, but could only see it if I look where the movie was playing.  The localization engine on this device is as close to flawless as I could imagine.  No, I do not know how it does it, but I guess that it is just like a Kinect but with a 6 axis accelerometer.

 Next, lets talk specs on this bad boy:

Device Specifications

Optics

·         See-through holographic lenses (waveguides)

·         2 HD 16:9 light engines

·         Automatic pupillary distance calibration

·         Holographic Resolution: 2.3M total light points

·         Holographic Density: >2.5k radiants (light points per radian)

Sensors

·         1 IMU

·         4 environment understanding cameras

·         1 depth camera

·         1 2MP photo / HD video camera

·         Mixed reality capture

·         4 microphones

·         1 ambient light sensor

Human Understanding

·         Spatial sound

·         Gaze tracking

·         Gesture input

·         Voice support

Input / Output / Connectivity

·         Built-in speakers

·         Audio 3.5mm jack

·         Volume up/down

·         Brightness up/down

·         Power button

·         Battery status LEDs

·         Wi-Fi 802.11ac

·         Micro USB 2.0

·         Bluetooth 4.1 LE

Power

·         Battery Life

·         2-3 hours of active use

·         Up to 2 weeks of standby time

·         Fully functional when charging

·         Passively cooled (no fans)

Processors

·         Intel 32 bit architecture with TPM 2.0 support

·         Custom-built Microsoft Holographic Processing Unit (HPU 1.0)

Weight

·         579g

Memory

·         64GB Flash

·         2GB RAM

What’s in the box

·         HoloLens Development Edition

·         Clicker

·         Carrying case

·         Charger and cable

·         Microfiber cloth

·         Nose pads

·         Overhead strap

OS and Apps

·         Windows 10

·         Windows Store

What you need to develop

·         Windows 10 PC able to run Visual Studio 2015 and Unity

 

 Now for the downside.  The format of the image is 16×9 and the resolution of the device is something like 1080×607.  Also, the device draws the colors iteratively (one color after another) rather than like a TV does.  When you move your head quickly, the red image, the green image and the blue images are drawn at slightly different locations since they are drawn at different times.  When you hold still, it does a good job, but if you are moving around quickly, it offsets things a little.  Normally this is not a problem.  Since “moving” requires neck motion, moving quickly is not something you usually do.

 

The lower resolution is partly because the HoloLens does not have a single resolution, but has two, one for each eye, and when you think about a wearable device with 1080×607 times two, it is pretty impressive.  Think of it at 1080×1200 effective resolution, split between eyes.  The “actual” resolution (since it is a mobile device) is limitless, but the field of view is limited to the frame.

 

In reality though the HoloLens requires you to mouse using your whole head and hold your hand out in front of you to interact (so it can be seen by the cameras).  All this to say is that you would have to be pretty hardcore to use this instead of a TV when watching a movie.  Also, the device is not exactly heavy, but after 15 minutes of it sitting on your nose, you notice it for sure.

 

Enough with the downsides.  This thing is absolutely the coolest device I have ever seen, or even heard of.  It is many times better than I expected.  I giggled like a schoolgirl being asked on her first date as I gleefully played with it.  It is not just awesome, it is a ALL TIME MUST HAVE category device for any geeks who love cool, which means that when these things go on sale, we are all going to be out some serious coin because once you take a drink of the elixir, you will be transported down the rabbit hole and the world will never look the same again.

Top 5 Reasons to Update Your Controls

Concept Systems, Inc. manages robotic vision technologies from start to finish. We first meet with a company that has production problems. These may be related to inefficient machinery, hazardous equipment usage, or simply not having a system that allows them to keep up with client demand for their products. Concept systems, Inc. will talk with a company about their current problem and brainstorm solutions where updated technology would be beneficial.

From here, we design from scratch or redesign current robotic controllers to become more capable of performing their designated tasks. Robotic vision has helped a variety of industries meet their unique production needs in a way that provides both consumer satisfaction and profitable returns for the company. Here are 5 reasons why businesses should consider updating their production controls and machinery.

Increase Productivity

Utilizing enhanced machine vision can increase a company’s production significantly. When the controlling technology is able to make better scans of the product, then the production process is able to speed up and put out a higher volume of work. If the technology is not currently being used at all, it can be programmed to take on a larger workload.

Efficiency and Accuracy

With increased speed comes higher efficiency and accuracy. Not only is the production line moving at a steadier pace, but the number of errors occurring during production is also cut down. This is a big bonus of having robotic vision. Human error is inevitable, but robotic technologies have little to no error when programmed and function correctly.

Less Waste

The good consequence of practically nonexistent error margins is less waste of materials and time during production and processing. This is a win for the company and the environment. Fewer resources are needed to get the job done and the resources that are used get used more fully. With less waste, the company invests less money into materials costs.

Larger Profits

Less money wasted on material costs is just part of the profits made by the company. With all the increases in efficiency and production, the company is able to get more products made or items processed through their lines and shipped out to where they need to go. Investment in robotic vision will definitely see an eventual retrieval of monies spent.

Better Safety

With robot guidance, the machines can replace or change some of the dangerous jobs once left to company workers. Special scanners and controls can be programmed to do the work in areas that are not safe for people to be around. Share a new company vision with Concept Systems, Inc.!