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The Future Factory – From Single Electric Motors To Endless Possibilities

The Future Factory – From Single Electric Motors To Endless Possibilities

The use of robotics in industrial applications can be traced back to 1937 when Griffith “Bill” P. Taylor engineered a robot that was powered by a single electric motor. Following patterns on punched paper tapes, the robot could be pre-programmed to perform repetitive tasks such as stacking wooden blocks. By Swaminathan Ramamurthy, General Manager of Robotics Business Division at Omron Asia Pacific.

Fast forward 80 years to today, Bill’s innovation has evolved into a sine qua non of the modern manufacturing landscape. A robot’s ability to relieve humans from monotonous and laborious tasks such as material transport, lifting of heavy objects or assembly line work has helped to alleviate human resource shortages in various industries across the globe. This delegation of menial tasks to robots has also allowed human workers to take on more complex responsibilities in the factory.

Robots have also come a long way since the days of punched paper tapes and single motors. Equipped with sensors that can detect and process the ubiquitous amount of data available today, modern day robots are no more limited to playing mundane support roles. The progress of robotics and other advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) has instilled a sense of ‘human-free’ proactiveness that has transformed the way we work in the factory.

The Data – 2.5 Quintillion Bytes Of It

According to the World Economic Forum, the world produces 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day and 90 percent of data today was produced in the past two years.

Naturally, much of this data is generated and collected on the factory floor. The challenge for many factory managers is to make use of the right data to drive efficiency, enhance production and improve on flexibility. The key to this may be with the robots working in the production line itself.

Robots equipped with advanced sensors can gather data from key sources of the production system. Smart adaptive algorithms allow robots to analyse and process data with quick efficiency. These days, advanced analytics and AI software allow robots to arrive at programmed actions based on the intelligence they discover. They can also ‘learn’ to improve on actions and derive the best course of action to take to drive efficiency and productivity.

For example, machines and robots can track a large amount of production variables through advanced analytics. This allows timely control of crucial production factors such as manufacturing accuracy and quality control that are not easily spotted by humans.

Through these sensing capabilities, robots and machines in factories today are empowered to make simple decisions, automatically improve on systems and be self-optimising in a way.

The Brain – Sensing What Is Unnoticeable

Manufacturers are deploying AI technologies and bringing an all-new level of automation to the factory floor. They are accelerating processes and improving flexibility.

Tesla deploys 47 robots in scanning stations to execute precise and efficient quality control of its Model 3 cars. These no-nonsense robots measure 1,900 points on each vehicle to ensure their alignment is no more than 0.15 millimeters outside design specifications.

When a Tesla car leaves the production line for its test drive, human workers at Tesla service centers also keep track of important data such as squeaks and noise that are captured by sound recorders. These faults, usually unnoticeable to the test driver, are linked with the car’s unique Vehicle Number (VIN). This allows problems to be more efficiently diagnosed with root causes able to be traced to the factory line.

For Tesla, the capabilities of these advance technologies are ad infinitum. The amount of vital data that is captured and connected with a car’s VIN can help service centers diagnose problems even when the car is in the customer’s garage.

Sense, Control, Think

The confluence of data, IoT and machines is not limited to processes such as assembly and quality control. Robots can be expected to participate in more crucial activities and take on more proactive roles due to their ability to sense and control production activities. The next step in this 80-year journey would be to harness robots that can think beyond the simple decisions they currently make.

However, instead of thinking for us, these robots will take on partnering roles in factories. Armed with an arsenal of advanced technologies, they will be able to complement their human colleagues with their ability to detect manufacturing failure signs and take steps against risks normally unnoticeable to human beings.

This human-robot interoperability is at the crux of the “4M sensing technology” framework envisioned by Omron’s researchers to provide an idea of the dynamics that will be commonplace in a future factory. This framework encompasses four critical factors of the modern factory – man, machine, material and method. It provides a foundation for humans and machines to work in the same environment.

These four factors are inter-connected through artificial intelligence and an exchange of information and knowledge between man and machine. The skilled human worker imparts valuable knowledge to machines who can reproduce their skills and ultimately become self-reliant. In return, robots and machines detect failure symptoms that can be unnoticeable even by skilled engineers.

This exchange of skills can also be extended to other functions and concerns of an organisation such as safety and human resources. Just as humans periodically inspect machines and robots for wear and tear that may otherwise compromise their ability to work effectively and safely, machines and robots can detect signs of bad health of a worker based on his/her movements and/or health data and immediately warn line managers.

The Future – Endless Possibilities

With the explosion of data, future factories have more information to tap on than ever before. This has increased possibilities, in the way we can leverage on robots. As machines today advance in intelligence, they also gain in value. We are driving towards a future where humans and machines collaborate in factories and build on a new found symbiotic relationship.

As we look back to the early day robot that was powered by a single engine motor, one cannot help but wonder how much more progress will be seen in factories 80 years from now. Will factories be able to run independently without human intervention? Nothing seems impossible at this moment.

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Renishaw Encoders Support The Latest DUKIN CMM Design

Renishaw Encoders Support The Latest DUKIN CMM Design

The co-ordinate measuring machine (CMM) has become an indispensable tool in the process control regimes of modern production lines. Whether in-line or off-line, CMMs provide the most accurate measurements of parts ranging from turbine blades to engine piston rings.

This case study explores how DUKIN designs CMMs that minimise measurement errors through robust mechanical design and position feedback and how the recent expansion of the DUKIN product range to cover a variety of different accuracy and capacity requirements has been supported by Renishaw.

Background

DUKIN Co., Ltd., based in Korea, designs and manufactures a wide range of coordinate measurement machines (CMMs) that meet standard to ultra-high precision levels of metrology requirements in the electronics, automotive, aerospace and other industries.

These CMMs are used to capture three-dimensional measurement data on high precision, machined components such as car engine cylinders and aircraft engine blades as part of a quality control process.

The CMMs integrate either Renishaw optical or laser encoder systems to meet varying metrology challenges.

Linear position encoders are used in conjunction with Renishaw contact and vision probing systems to measure discrete points on a workpiece. This data is then used to ensure that parts meet predetermined tolerances.

Challenge

Manufacturers require CMMs that achieve high performance and system stability, which is affected by temperature fluctuations and greatly impacts overall accuracy. The instability in linear position measurements taken on the gantry axis affects inspection throughput and measurement accuracy.

Even when deploying Renishaw’s high speed 5-axis systems, which synchronise the movement of the 3 axes of the CMM and the 2 axes of the measuring head to inspect the part, the stability of the linear position measurements is important.

Solution

DUKIN uses Renishaw’s PH20 and REVO 5-axis probe systems on their CMMs with the understanding that robust CMM design is essential to realise the full performance potential of these measurement systems.

System designers at DUKIN deploy robust design principles and use high quality materials and components to minimise the amount of measurement error. These mechanical design approaches are applied in conjunction with software that compensate for errors caused by thermal expansion.

A combination of statistical and theoretical modelling and accurate live measurements of position and acceleration are used for force feed-forward control of the CMM’s motor driven axes.

For example, in a CMM bridge design; the X-axis (along the bridge) is driven along two guideways in the Y-axis direction where each shoulder of the bridge is driven by a linear system equipped with a separate servo motor.

To prevent a torque moment in the Z-axis direction and thereby distortion of the bridge structure, force feed-forward control is applied by the controller. This depends on the detected position of the measurement head as it moves along the X-axis guideway and the setpoint acceleration along the Y-axis.

Alternatively, comparison of the accelerations of the Y-axis guideways may provide additional feedback control of the bridge moment. Dependable, high-accuracy, position encoders are vital for these complex control regimes to work. A combination of a priori data and position and acceleration feedback in the X-, Y- and Z- axis directions are used to give the highest-levels of metrology performance.

Results

Renishaw encoders and scales are used across the full range of CMMs offered by DUKIN and the TONiC incremental encoder system with RTLC linear scale is installed on DUKIN’s gantry and bridge-type models.

RTLC is a low profile stainless steel tape scale featuring a 20 µm pitch. It is accurate to ±5 µm/m and may be ordered in lengths of up to 10 m. Any thermal expansion of RTLC scale is independent of the substrate as it is suspended in a carrier track, which maintains an air gap underneath the scale. As temperature changes occur in the CMM operating environment, the RTLC scale does not follow the same degree of deformation as the granite base. Thermal compensation is therefore greatly simplified – particularly in temperature controlled environments with the encoder scales and workpiece(s) in thermal equilibrium.

TONiC’s dynamic signal processing gives improved signal stability with ultra-low Sub-Divisional Error of typically <±30 nm to help realize superior motion control performance.

Regarding the role of Reinshaw’s innovations in DUKIN’s product lines, DUKIN Technical Manager, Tae Young Ku, has emphasized the important contribution of Renishaw’s encoder products by stating that: “We offer a wide range of CMM product lines, including standard, high precision and ultra-high precision models, depending on the type of position feedback. We have adopted Renishaw’s TONiC encoder series and the ultra-high precision RLE interferometry laser encoder system. The high-performance TONiC encoder is the most widely used and has been integrated into our CHAMP, HERO and VICTOR CMMs.”

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Global Metal Stamping Market Forecast

Global Metal Stamping Market Forecast

According to Research And Markets, the global metal stamping market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 3.9 percent from 2018 to reach USD 289.2 billion by 2023. Contributing factors for this growth include rising urbanisation and industrialisation, growth of the automotive industry, increasing demands from the aerospace and aviation industry and a rise in technological advancements. To add to this trend, the increased adoption of sheet metal across manufacturing industries and the blooming of metal stamping facilities has further supported the metal stamping market. However, the emergence of plastics and composite materials have also hindered market growth.

Blanking processes currently hold a huge market share and this can be attributed to the popularity of the technique among the automotive, aerospace and aviation and consumer electronics sector as this is a process that can mass produce precise and superior quality metal work pieces in large volumes at low costs. Similarly, the application of metal stamping in the automotive industry is highly popular, especially in China and India as both countries are experiencing rapid technological advancements and possess a large number of automotive metal stamping companies.

Growth of the market in Asia Pacific is expected to continue as the region held the largest share of the global metal stamping market in 2017, followed by Europe and North America. This can be attributed to factors such as the displacement of manufacturing from the west to the east, rising regional industrialisation,increased investment inflows and industrial growth across numerous sectors.

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An Insight On Malaysia’s Metal Fabrication Equipment Market

An Insight On Malaysia’s Metal Fabrication Equipment Market

Based on findings by Mordor Intelligence, metal fabrication holds an important place in Malaysia’s manufacturing industry and technological advances in IoT and automation have resulted in rapid changes in the domestic industry. Currently, fabricators are introducing strategies to both reduce production costs and incorporate new systems like the adaptation of control systems in processes that span across milling, forming, welding, machining, stamping and finishing. Similar, end user categories within the market include the oil & gas, automotive & aviation, power, chemicals & mining and construction industries among others.

Metal Fabrication Equipment Market, by Equipment Type And Application

(Source: Mordor Intelligence)

Malaysia’s metal fabrication equipment market can be segregated into machining, cutting, forming, welding and others when it is segregated according to equipment type. Conversely, the market can be broken down into residential, commercial and industrial sectors when segregated by application.

Future Outlook

Looking towards the future, metal fabrication equipment market is expected to grow at a heightened rate, as the world moves toward industrialisation and the population expands. And key players within the field include Amada, Atlas Copco, BTD Manufacturing, Colfax, Defiance Metal Products, DMG Mori, Hindustan Machine Tools, Interplex Holdings Pvt. Ltd., Kapco, Komaspect, Lancer Fabtech Pvt. Ltd., Matcor Matsu Group Inc., Sandvik. Standard Iron and Wire Works, Trumpf and Watson.

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Vietnam Attracts Novel Investment Streams

Vietnam Attracts Novel Investment Streams

Vietnam is beginning to experience an increase of non-equity modes (NEMs) of investment, which are also known as cross-border investments without capital contribution, and the country could soon be looking into policy reformations to advance this revenue stream.

According to Nguyen Mai, chairman of the Vietnam Association of Foreign Invested Enterprises, this growth can be attributed to transnational corporations (TNCs) seeking entry into potential markets without having to make commitments towards capital contributions. As it is only through NEMs that companies are able to regulate the activities of all supply chains, and this leads to the creation of opportunities for producers and domestic suppliers in joining global chains.

Furthermore, NEMs have been implemented in many countries that are seeking higher value added investments instead of investment flows that are associated with lower end products. In Vietnam, several firms have taken the initiative in approaching and implementing NEMs as in the case of VinFast which has cooperated with foreign companies such as BMW, Siemens AG, Robert Bosch GmbH, Magna Steyr, Pininfarina and Aapico Hitech, to manufacture its own cars.

And according to Mai, NEMs generate bigger benefits to receiving countries because the new forms of investment enables producers in these countries to integrate into the global value chain. And it is due to reasons such as these that Vietnam’s new-generation FDI attraction strategy, which has been drafted jointly by the World Bank, the International Financial Corporation and the Ministry of Planning and Investment, has underscored an emphasis on attracting NEMs.  Also, according to drafts from Vietnam’s FDI attraction strategy, concerns over direct investments and NEMs eliminating eachother seems to be unfounded at the moment as it seems that TNCs will participate in the receiving markets through NEMs first before deciding to purchase equity through the foundation of subsidiaries or venture companies at a later time.

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Complex Aluminum Tool: Additive Manufacturing Makes The Impossible Possible

Complex Aluminum Tool: Additive Manufacturing Makes The Impossible Possible

Advanced industries require the development of special tooling, but some of these tools cannot be made using traditional manufacturing and machining technologies. These tools need to be engineered and developed from scratch and 3D printing helps bring them to life. Any-Shape is an expert in the creation of specific tools for the high tech industry with additive manufacturing (AM). Through its engineering department and AM production capacities, the company helped improve an aluminum tool for aerospace. Previous versions of the aluminum tool incorporated less complex embossing of the inner surface. As a result, machining was used as default process. For this new tool design requirements implied a much more complex inner surface with areas that are impossible to machine. Thus, it was decided to manufacture the tool using AM on an EOS M 290 combined with some post-machining. By EOS.

Precision aluminum tool with complex embossing and demanding requirements on surface roughness and accuracy

Precision aluminum tool with complex embossing and demanding requirements on surface roughness and accuracy. (Source: EOS)

Challenge

The project started when Any-Shape received a request for an aluminum tool with a very complex embossing of the inner surface. These tools are usually machined, but this design made that impossible as some zones of the inner surface just could not be reached and could therefore not be machined.

In addition, the technical requirements for the tool mandated extremely high precision combined with a very low tolerance as it was destined to be a precision tool:

  • Surface roughness of the nonmachinable inner surface of 3.7 +/- 0.5 μm Ra
  • High dimensional accuracy on the final assembly (0.05 mm on control points position, +/- 0.1 mm inner surface tolerance)

Two additional challenges were also on the table:

  • The tool had to be as lightweight as possible for a more convenient handling by the operators during the final usage
  • The integration of a part that had to be assembled by hybrid joining after additive manufacturing due to build size limitation of the EOS M 290

The expertise in additive manufacturing of Any-Shape helped fulfill all these requirements. The company has a very deep knowledge of design for AM and post process machining, enabling them to easily translate the requirements into production features. Using their EOS M 290 machine and unique EOS Aluminium AlSi10Mg material and process, Any-Shape had all the skills to meet the design and technical requirements for this complex tool as well as the production and post-treatment capacities to deliver the project on time.

Solution

A complete aAM strategy was set up to answer all challenges at once, both technical and ergonomic. Any-Shape had to take into account all the parameters for the AM itself but also the assembly operations that had to happen afterwards.

One of the first actions undertaken was to position the inner surface at the correct angle to optimise surface roughness. This position constraint then defined how the part support had to be placed underneath.

Shrinkage lines also had to be monitored very closely, especially because of the aforementioned position constraint. The design of the zones close to the articulation was slightly modified to allow for smoother exposed area transition, completely eliminating the shrinkage lines.

Another impact of the position constraints was the obligation to define how the cut had to be made on the largest component that had to be reassembled after manufacturing. Therefore the cut was designed specifically to:

  • Leave one translational degree of freedom to enable assembly, as this assembly had to really fit due to the stringent tolerance on the surface accuracy
  • Maximise the shear loading mode in the adhesive bond line area
  • Ensure a 0.2 mm bond line thickness thanks to spacers integrated into the manufacturing design

Finally, additional features were designed to be used for referencing positions and clamping during post manufacturing machining.

Complex embossing inner surface offering an “as built” average roughness of 4μm Ra (details). (Source: Any-Shape)
Complex embossing inner surface offering an “as built” average roughness of 4μm Ra. (Source: Any-Shape)
Complex embossing inner surface offering an “as built” average roughness of 4μm Ra (details). (Source: Any-Shape)
Complex embossing inner surface offering an “as built” average roughness of 4μm Ra. (Source: Any-Shape)

Results

Thanks to the 3D printing expertise of Any-Shape and its manufacturing strategy, the different parts were successfully printed, post-machined, re-assembled and successfully passed quality control.

The main part went through sandblasting for surface treatment, offering an average roughness of the inner surface after processing of 4μm Ra that complied with customer requirements based on previous tests.

Quality controls were made based on the initial design of the parts. Tolerances were met for all references. The surface accuracy after post-treatment was well within +/- 0.1 mm on each of the articulated arms inner surface taken separately, and +/- 0.2 mm on the final tool.

Finally, on the full assembly, no deviation jump could be observed either at the locus of the articulation or at the cut and re-assembled interface.

Leveraging the capabilities of 3D printing, Any-Shape was able to create a unique tool by going beyond the limits of traditional manufacturing and machining. The team could manage a very complex project in a very short time thanks to the skills of Any-Shape and the capabilities of EOS.

Regarding this achievement, Frédéric Lani, CTO of Any-Shape has commented, “It was a very challenging and complex project from beginning to end. Thanks to our 3D printing expertise, we were able to develop an end-to-end manufacturing strategy, from re-design for AM to final quality controls using additive manufacturing and post-machining. All along this project, we had full support from EOS and their reliability, quality and support.”

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Laser Technology Improves Post-Process Measuring On Centreless Grinders

Laser Technology Improves Post-Process Measuring On Centreless Grinders

Traditional methods are based upon electronic probes that touch the part to measure the outside diameter, which is the dimension that must be accurately gauged. Alternatively, different types of air-probes can also be used to avoid any contact with the part and to allow through-feed operation. Both of these methods have some severe limitations especially when flexibility and through-feed gauging capability are concerned. Contributed by Marposs.

From the mid 80’s, Aeroel introduced a new family of measuring equipment based on laser light technology. This was break through over the existing technology since it featured extraordinary flexibility, better measuring accuracy and higher working speeds.

Laser Technology Sets New Performance Standards

The high accuracy laser gauge is the heart of these systems which measures, without contact, the outside diameter of the part while it is moved through the laser beam.

The most important features of such a system are listed below:

  • Large measuring range: the height of the scanning area can be as high as 78 mm: every part whose diameter is included between 0 and 80 mm can be measured with the same unit and without the need to pre-set the gauge to a varied diameter range.
  • Through-feed measuring capability: as a result of the contact-less technique and The optical design, the workpiece does not need to be accurately placed within the beam. Moving or vibrating parts can be gauged with utmost accuracy!
  • Short measuring time: the high scanning frequency enables 1500 samples per second, each one with few µm repeatability. By averaging several samples the repeatability can be boosted to ±0.4µm in 0.01 s or, even better, to ±0.07 µm in 1 s (figures guaranteed in a ±2 µm interval, 95,44 percent confidence level).
  • No measuring drift: an exclusive and patented self-calibration device cancels any measuring drift and guarantees permanent gauge accuracy. The time wasting task of periodical re-mastering is no longer required. In addition, the exclusive Aeroel NO-VAR technology allows automatic compensation of the measuring error due to ambient temperature change, making possible applications in a workshop environment.

Application On Centreless Grinders

The above listed features yield excellent results when laser gauges are used as post-process measuring equipment at the output of centreless grinding machines or N.C. lathes, to measure the diameters of parts like small shafts, piston pins, rolls, shock absorber rods, steering racks and a lot of other components to be used in the automotive or home appliance industry.

The Grindline Systems have been specially designed by Aeroel to accommodate these applications, giving to the customer a complete turn-key solution.

The laser gauge is installed at the output of the grinder, to measure the finished part after the process. The parts coming out of the machine are cleaned by blowing away the water+oil emulsion, which could otherwise affect the measurement accuracy: a significant development effort has been made to assure suitable cleaning by using specially designed air-cleaning devices, included in the Grindline Systems. After cleaning, the parts pass through the measuring field of the laser gauge: the part can be supported and moved by a belt conveyor or by the gantry loader that feeds the machine; in some other cases they simply push each other over “V” shaped rolls.

During the pass through the beam, the laser gauge carries out hundreds of measurements distributed along the axis of the piece. Thanks to exclusive advanced processing and filtering techniques, the Grindline software only extracts those measurements carried out on diameters specified by the operator, thus ignoring shape irregularities that might otherwise compromise the result.

Chamfers, grooves, threads, through holes and even drops of emulsion on the workpiece are not able to deceive the system. Several diameters can be measured on parts ground by plunge type grinders or average diameter and taper on parts ground by through-feed machines.

The values measured by the laser gauge are displayed and compared with nominal diameters and their tolerances, pre-programmed by the operator in the electronic control unit. Dimensions of each component can be stored in a “product library” and instantly retrieved by the operator every time production changes.

If the wear condition of the grinding wheel results in an excessive deviation from the nominal diameter, a series of “increase” or “decrease” pulses automatically corrects the grinding wheel position, thus keeping the part size within tolerance.

To achieve optimum control, the Grindline software automatically takes into account the pieces already machined that are between the grinding wheel and the laser gauge; in addition any out of tolerance part can be easily discarded thanks to GO/NO-GO signals provided by the control unit.

The results of all measurements are stored and processed in real time: simple but effective statistical reports can be printed to prove product quality and process capability.

The Benefits Of The Grindline System

In conclusion, the Grindline systems have proved to be a simple and effective solution in most cases where on-line check and machine feed-back is required, giving important advantages over traditional equipment.

  • Excellent flexibility: the system enables measurement of a wide number of different diameters and types of components without specific dedication. Thanks to through-feed operation, the part can be gauged without having to stop and extract it from the line, an operation that usually involves complicated and costly handling.
  • Zero defect production: the real time adjustment of the machine and the discarding of every out of tolerance piece eliminates “returns” for diameter non- conformity.
  • Quality certification is made easier: the on-line capability makes sample measurement systems obsolete, since 100 percent checking is possible. By connecting the system to an existing SPC network, real time data can be processed to certify product quality and process capability.
  • Cost effective solution: thanks to simpler application requirements and minimum cost of associated mechanics, the overall price to performance ratio is very competitive compared to traditional solutions.

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New Mounting Clamps For Cobots

New Mounting Clamps For Cobots

Safety plays a key role when humans and robots work hand in hand in the industry. That is why users of cobots and industrial robots are already using igus’ multi-axis round triflex R e-chains for energy and data supply. To easily attach these energy chains and increase work safety in industry, igus has now developed new plastic mounting clamps. With quick installation, these minimise the risk of injury with their rounded edge design. By igus

In the course of Industry 4.0, the interaction between humans and machines is increasingly becoming the focus of automation. Therefore, collaborative robots will play an increasingly role in the future. Currently, cobots are mainly used as assistants in simple or interacting activities and – in contrast to large and fast industrial robots – work hand in hand with humans. For reliable energy supply to cobots and industrial robots, igus offers the optimal energy chain solution with its triflex R range. In addition to metal clamps, customers can now use new cobot designed clamps to attach the energy chain to the robot arm. The design with rounded edges increases workplace safety by reducing the risk of injury when in contact with the robot. The plastic clamps can be quickly attached to the arm of the robot by a screw connection. The triflex R is simply attached to the clamp by a clip and fixed. The new clamps are suitable for cobots from Universal Robots, TMS and Kuka LBR iiwa robot arms.

Triflex Energy Chains For A Safe Energy Supply On The Robot

The triflex R range has been specifically developed for sophisticated 6-axis robots in industrial environments. By combining the flexibility of a hose with the stability of an energy chain, the round triflex R ensures reliable cable guidance in multi-axis movements. A ball/socket principle ensures high tensile strength and easy installation of the e-chain. The interior separation is freely selectable. The circular bend radius stop and the high twistability of the e-chain prevent the over-stressing of cables – this system increases the service life and operational reliability of the application. The triflex e-chains are available as a complete package with cobot designed clamps, cables and connectors immediately ready for connection.

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Outlook For Plasma Cutting Machines Market

Outlook For Plasma Cutting Machines Market

According to a report by Credence Research entitled “Plasma Cutting Machines Market- Growth, Future Prospects, and Competitive Landscape, 2018-2026”, the plasma cutting machines market estimated to grow with a CAGR of 5.8 percent during the forecast period from 2018 to 2026. This is because plasma cutting machines are becoming increasingly important cutting tools among other non-conventional machine processes and this can be attributed to its ability to shear through metal sheets and tubing with high thickness, making it highly relevant for the automotive, industrial manufacturing, aerospace and HVAC industries.

Since the conception of plasma cutting, the principal of using hot gas in the form of plasma to cut through heavy metals and alloys has made a transition from simple machines to advance high-definition CNC plasma cutting machines. Furthermore, the introduction of new alloys and the integration of the associated alloys into several end-use applications have further propelled the usage of plasma cutting machines. While the continuous development of machines, introduction of duel flow plasma nozzles (shielded and unshielded) and incorporation of CNC have enhanced the accuracy and quality of outputs from plasma cutting.

Looking towards the future, Asia Pacific is expected to lead the market and developing countries such as China, India, and South Korea are expected to continue improving their manufacturing capabilities to match optimum product quality. The aforementioned countries are also extensively including non-conventional machining processes including plasma cutting machines in their manufacturing facilities and the continued growth of the industrial manufacturing and automotive sector is also expected to bolster Asia Pacific’s stake in the plasma cutting machines market.

Major notable players in the field include AJAN ELEKTRONIK, Automated Cutting Machinery, C&G Systems, ERMAKSAN, Esprit Automation, HACO, Hornet Cutting Systems, Miller Electric Mfg, MultiCam, SICK, SPIRO International, The Lincoln Electric Company, Voortman Steel Machinery and Würth.

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Automated Dimensional Metrology Improves Productivity

Automated Dimensional Metrology Improves Productivity

As machine tool technology continues to evolve, it is possible to create intricate, detailed parts from a wide range of materials. A critical part of a manufacturing process for such parts is verification that they comply with the specifications on their design drawings. With management focus on minimising costs and maximising throughput, manufacturers would want to avoid any bottlenecks from the measurement process. This is where use of CNC measuring systems that include automation of part handling can keep up with those demands. By Fred Mason, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Quality Vision International, the parent company of Optical Gaging Singapore Pte. Ltd.

No matter how accurate the tools are for making parts, their important dimensions need to be verified to ensure they meet quality expectations, so they will fit and function appropriately as parts of higher level assemblies. Numerous measurement technologies are used for quality control and process monitoring in today’s manufacturing environments. Automation of the inspection and measurement of the parts while in-process or post-process provides a number of benefits that relate to increased productivity across the supply chain.

No longer is it acceptable to have parts queued up outside a quality lab while production schedules are tight. Today manufacturers want to have the measurement process close to where the parts are being made. CNC measuring machines such as the OGP SmartScope range of multisensor metrology systems from Quality Vision International, automate the measurement of parts brought to the systems, which can be right in a work cell. In those environments the machinist who makes the parts measures them too. Simply load a batch of parts on to the measuring machine and press the start button. With a versatile multisensor measuring system, optical imaging, laser scanning, and touch probing can all be part of a single measurement process on a single machine. That range of technologies allows numerous features of various sizes and resolutions across any surfaces of the part to be measured without operator intervention. Any out of tolerance dimension is flagged for rapid, visual acceptance testing.

Many SmartScope systems are operated on multiple shifts measuring batches of parts loaded on and removed from the systems by their operators. Although measurement of those parts can be fully automatic once they are on the measuring machine, the overall throughput can be improved, and associated costs reduced using robotic and motorized pallet loading and unloading under program control.

There are numerous implementations of automation for part handling with automated measuring systems. In the simplest case a robot or cobot can be fitted with an end effector designed specifically for the part being measured. Individual parts can be picked up from a tray or box, moved to, and positioned on a measurement system. Programming of the robot can trigger the measuring system to initiate a measurement sequence as soon as it moves away from positioning the part. In addition, the measuring system can trigger the robot to return and pick up the part at the end of the measurement routine. Depending on the outcome of the measurement, acceptable parts can be placed or dropped into the “good” tray and out-of-tolerance parts can be placed or dropped into the “reject” or “rework” tray. In addition, a traffic light can signal that a measurement sequence is in process or completed.

Depending on the size and complexity of the part, it may not be necessary for the robot to place the part on the measuring machine, move aside, then return to pick up the part. An optical measuring machine with a large imaging area and telecentric optics, like the company’s SNAP systems, allow a robot to continue to hold the part while it is in the measuring area. The optical telecentricity ensures that part dimensions are imaged and measured accurately no matter where the part is within the system’s viewing area.

For CNC measuring systems where individual parts being measured are moved relative to each measuring sensor during a measurement sequence, it can be advantageous to automatically load pallets of parts at a time. Batches of parts can be placed on the measuring machine’s stage manually or by a motorized pallet loader. As with the example described above for a single part, insertion of a pallet can signal the measuring machine to initiate a routine, and completion of the measurement of the final part can signal the pallet loader to extract the pallet and insert the next one.

CNC measuring systems measure numerous features on complex parts without any user participation. Applying automated part loading and unloading can automate the front and back end of the overall measurement process, improving throughput and reducing operator to operator variability. The overall supply chain can see improved productivity from reduced costs and increased throughput with metrology automation.

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