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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!

Preventing Extensive Downtime From Equipment Failure

When updating or maintaining older equipment, it’s important to have maximum visibility into plant operations and make every investment dollar count.

As a company that specializes in automation controls, we field a lot of different requests from clients who want a quick budgetary quote to retrofit an older piece of equipment. These requests usually come in after a piece of machinery has failed and the company has encountered one of three scenarios: 1) The company doesn’t have any documentation. 2) The last person to work on this machine has retired, and no one has been trained. 3) Replacement parts have finally become too difficult to find, even on eBay. There are other reasons, of course, but most often a client is responding to some situation that has left the company exposed to a much larger downtime risk than previously thought.

I want to discuss two different prevention techniques in hopes of providing some insight for companies to consider as they wrestle with keeping equipment current—and we all do! First, don’t be caught off guard with not knowing how and when a piece of equipment is likely to fail. There are several software options available today that provide performance data and maintenance scheduling, helping companies avoid unplanned downtime. Second, consider a machine retrofit as a way of preparing for tomorrow’s manufacturing instead of just reacting to a problem with a rush to update the machine.

Software solutions for machine monitoring have come a long way in the past five years. I don’t know if it can be considered a “mature” market, but there are many established providers that have proven their solutions. Conveniently for users, there are several options available from complete software platforms that monitor everything from CNCs, robots, PLCs and test stands to simple offerings that are designed to provide real-time monitoring per single device. Regardless of your specific needs, be assured that you have options that can be found with some basic Google searching. To make matters easier, a lot of these software providers offer their solutions via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, which reduces the risk of overcommitting and lowers upfront costs.

All this to say that it is wise to seriously consider employing a machine monitoring software tool of some sort sooner rather than later. The advantages of doing so far outweigh the risk. Consider some of the benefits: scheduled maintenance events based on known wear, use or observed conditions; dashboard monitoring and/or reporting available via desktop computer or mobile devices; uptime and throughput reports to monitor trends; and automated alarming provides alerts that will send alert condition messages to supervisory personnel to facilitate an immediate response. With so many software solutions available provided as flexible options like SaaS, it is a good time to develop and implement a strategy that takes the guessing out of machine monitoring.

The second key aspect to keep in mind when maintaining or updating older equipment is when you evaluate a retrofit investment, consider what you can do to make that piece of machinery or that production line ready for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). In the not so distant future, experts predict whole manufacturing floors will be populated by intelligent machines that are able to monitor themselves, schedule their own maintenance and provide constant monitoring. This future state will allow machines to interoperate and create dramatic efficiencies not possible today. Machines will do this by dynamically adjusting to manufacturing conditions to ensure maximum efficiency. Although all of what is predicted is very exciting, we won’t get there overnight. The clear majority of manufacturers will use a phased approach to slowly migrate equipment to Industry 4.0 requirements over the next decade, since very few companies have the luxury of starting their production strategies from scratch.

Companies can prepare for the future by utilizing their automation roadmap, or 3- to 5-year manufacturing plan, to ensure that any investment made in a machine retrofit will not only be applicable in the future, but will also be an advantage as they phase in more Industry 4.0 equipment. Learn why an automation roadmap is essential to remaining competitive. Not sure how to get started? Learn how to get started on an automation roadmap.

There are several software options available today that provide performance data and maintenance scheduling, helping companies avoid unplanned downtime.

Here are some important things to consider with a retrofit: network compatibility, whether wired or wireless; security protocols to ensure all data is protected; virtualization (consider server consolidation and thin client architecture); and an interface that provides operators and decision-makers with valuable information to make appropriate, timely decisions.

In today’s world, the information coming at us is unlimited and it can feel like we are constantly reacting to issues and scenarios. When updating or maintaining older equipment, it is crucial that we take a proactive approach. To do this, ensure you have maximum visibility into plant operations as described above and make every investment dollar count when you retrofit equipment to be fully prepared for tomorrow’s manufacturing.

As a final comment, integrators certified by the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) can be an invaluable resource whether you are considering manufacturing software or creating an automation roadmap. Often, integrators have worked in a vast range of manufacturing scenarios and they can leverage that knowledge to the benefit of the client.

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

The internet of services in Industrie 4.0

Manufacturers need to think through their business model with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industrie 4.0 and ask how can a product become a service with a long-term revenue stream.

Author: Mike James

There is much talk about the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). However, ‘things’ are just part of the plumbing. We connect devices, giving them, no more than, nominal intelligence. The real innovation is the internet of services. Manufacturers need to think through their business model and ask how can a product become a service with a long-term revenue stream. Many manufacturers, however, recognize this and are exploiting the opportunity to improve their operations. For example,

Tesla is delivering vehicles with hardware and software which can be upgraded, their cars are sensor ready and software upgrades will provide extra intelligence, delivered via the internet. The customer could pay for the upgrades which then generates extra revenue for Tesla.

Otis is supplying elevators/lifts with sensors which send data into their cloud. The data is analyzed and Otis sells a predictive maintenance services package, again adding a long-term revenue stream.

Additionally, a catering company in The Netherlands is supplying custom meals to hospitals. Each meal is prepared for the patient based upon data received from the hospital about the patient’s needs. The meals are prepared in an automated plant.

The individualization of mass production and the internet of services add additional revenue. The smart manufacturing plant needs to be flexible and deliver intelligent products. A major misunderstanding is that this is not a cost saving exercise; it’s a new business model to increase revenue and profitability.

It’s important to map out opportunities and match them against the realities of today’s technology. A manufacturer who was heavily investing in a factory of the future did not build this type of strategy. Enthusiastic engineers ordered additive manufacturing (3-D printing machines only to learn they could not connect them to their network using international standards. They paid a heavy price for this error and damaged the initiative’s reputation. It’s worth taking independent advice before completing a company’s manufacturing strategy.

The best way to avoid these mistakes and build a successful strategy is to learn from other manufacturers in a safe space. MESA is a safe harbor to share best practices and lessons learned so that the industry can collectively rise to Industrie 4.0.

Mike James is chairman for MESA International Board of Directors. This article originally appeared on MESA International’s blog. MESA International is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

 

View the original article and related content on Control Engineering

Copyright: Copyright 2017 CFE Media LLC

Key Methods of Robotic Vision Technology

The idea of a machine being able to see, interpret, and respond to information based on visual input alone is not just science fiction. Robotic vision technologies have become an integral component to manufacturing, as well as packing and shipping, and continue to grow in other industries as well.

Appropriate lighting is the most significant factor in ensuring that these technologies are working properly, and we’ve compiled a few tips for creating the best lighting solutions for robotic vision systems that help ensure the safety and efficiency of your technology and your team.

Bright Lights

If you’re working with molds and are trying to identify missing material in the mold or product, a short shot can help you out. This is a short burst of bright light that quickly illuminates inconsistencies in a mold from above. This method requires the container of the target object to have a flat top surface; otherwise, what the robot sees would be distorted. Any coarse or rough textures on the top surface of the mold also make the images a little spotty.

Wavelength

On an assembly line for electronics, robotic vision is what helps machines detect if parts are oriented correctly as they pass on down the line so that they’re able to be put together properly. Different colors emit different wavelengths when reflecting light, and you can get equipment that reads the distinctions in wavelengths to quickly determine the variety of materials in your assembly line. This could be the difference between a part being put in with the correct orientation or not.

Nondiffused Light

When it comes to glass or other transparent products, especially when they’re blazing past employees on an assembly line, small cracks or fractures in the material can be difficult to detect with the naked eye. Nondiffused light provides an efficient solution, as it essentially shows up on these robotic vision screens as a bright accent in a very dark image—any brightness highlights the imperfection.

Diffuse Light

Your teacher in grade school may have challenged you to estimate how many marbles were in the prize jar, but manufacturing a jar with an exact amount of marbles inside requires far more precision and much less guesswork. Using diffuse light in robotic vision technology is essentially bathing the object in light from every direction to remove any shadow. The image created from this technique can be quickly assessed for missing volume content.

Vision technologies rely heavily on light to produce accurate images, so choosing the right lighting for your workcell is important. If you are considering integrating vision technology into your plant processes and aren’t sure where to start, send us an email at contact-us@conceptsystemsinc.com.

What You Need to Know About Industrial Painting Robots

Many years ago, robots ceased being an element of science fiction and futuristic trends. In fact, robots have been in use for more than 50 years in industrial and production settings. Robots were once large and expensive, and performed tasks too big or heavy for human workers. Today, smaller, specialized robots work side-by-side with humans in the same workspace, and cost a fraction of what they once did.

One area where robotics technology has excelled is in the area of industrial painting. Through specialized operator programming, an industrial painting robot is able to flawlessly and consistently produce a high-quality paint finish. The technology is used not only in large scale operations such as car manufacturing plants, but also in smaller settings that require a higher level of intricate and flexible responses, such as multi-component production.

By adding robotic vision technologies, industrial painting robots are able to analyze and inspect an object, determine the location of edges, recognize patterns, evaluate size, and a variety of other tasks. Robot vision is a combination of software, sensors, algorithms, and cameras that connect with the robot system and the application to guide it through a specified process. With this rapidly growing technology, robots can now recognize components, determine what parts to pick up or put down, and what areas to paint on an object. We can also program painting robots for pinpoint accuracy and unique specifications—no more drips or overspray issues.

Robotic technologies are providing new options for businesses, small and large, to compete in the global marketplace. Here are some of the ways that painting robots are changing the industrial and manufacturing landscape:

More Work, Less Space

  • With the development of slimmer, dual-armed models which have the capability of reaching farther, robots can be installed in smaller locations, such as a wall, a shelf, or even on a rail. This allows painting robots to perform a multitude of tasks using less space.
  • Additionally, through the development of anti-collision software, several robots are able to work in close proximity to one another without incident, performing joint or specialized tasks, which increases productivity.

Increased Workplace Safety

  • Workplace safety is a constant concern for all types of businesses, but especially in an industrial or manufacturing environment. In the past, robots were caged and secured in order to protect the human workers as well as the other robotic devices around them. Today, humans are able to work in close proximity to robots, and while safety procedures are still required, there is no longer the need for the complicated safety protocols of the past. Programming determines specific space proximities and limitations to enhance safety.
  • Exposure to hazardous materials has long been an issue in industrial settings. The chemical compounds found in paint are known to cause adverse health effects in human workers. Through robotic alternatives, such as using industrial painting robots, that risk is minimized.
  • Less hazardous waste is created due to the improved consistency of paint application by painting robots.

The business atmosphere of today demands high-quality product output, increased profitability, and the ability to adjust technology to meet not only the needs of the company, but also market demand. For 17 years, Concept Systems has provided the latest technological and innovative solutions for our customers’ operations. For information on a customized solution for your manufacturing and production needs, contact us.