Archive for Červenec, 2012

Automotive components manufacturer diversifies business focus

The economic crisis led to a slump in business and motivated the components manufacturer to reassess its focus on automotive components and branch out into the nonautomotive electronic components sector by becoming a contract manufacturer for a broader range of original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

Murray reports that the company’s focus on quality compliance and standards certifications throughout its manufacturing processes has enabled it to expand into the nonautomotive electronic components industry with ease.

“We have designed our engineering processes to be fully aligned with the procedures and practices of the various automotive OEMs. We have advanced product quality planning teams who are responsible for undertaking quality assessments, failure modes and effects analyses to help identify potential failures, based on similar past experiences and production-part approval process procedures,” he says.

Further, the company has strict in-house electromagnetic compatibility testing equipment to ensure that the products are not susceptible to outside influence and that they do not emit any electromagnetic influences.

The tests are based on automotive industry specifications as outlined by German safety monitoring agency TüV and the German Association of the Automotive Industry, besides other specifications.

The lessons learnt from automotive industry specifications and Pi Shurlok’s lessons are applied to each new task being handled, says Murray.

Pi Shurlok GM Dion Hardy states the company aims to retain its quality standards, as well as reduce manufacturing costs and rationalise its activities to increase manufacturing capacity, while also extending its customer base in the industrial market, where it is seeking more business opportunities.

The company’s OEM component supply currently constitutes about 60% of its business, with the balance being components supplied to the non-OEM automotive sector.

The manufacturer plans to reach an equal 50% ratio between its automotive OEM supply and its non-OEM supply by diluting the non-OEM supply with nonautomotive components.

“Pi Shurlok’s immediate available manufacturing capacity is 47% and, as a result of its existing and established infrastructure, new production programmes can be implemented in a short time with minimal investment,” says Hardy.

The low- to medium-volume manufacturer provides a niche supply of electronic components for domestic OEMs and eight international clients in Europe, the Americas and Asia, including Japan.

The company’s manufacturing facility, in Pietermaritzburg, comprises three separate flexible assembly plants and has a combined floor space of 8 300 m2. The facility includes surface mount device facilities, antistatic floors, cleanrooms and wave soldering equipment in inert environments.

There are four component production lines that populate circuit boards using component cassettes in a pick-and-place method. This is done by a fully automated or semi-automated system, depending on the component being manufactured.

The linear cell assembly structure places each staff member in charge of a range of tasks when moving between the cell structures and specific client instrument clusters.

This enables staff to acquire various skills, as well as familiarise themselves with the hardware, software, mechanical, illumination and visual aesthetic elements of the manufactured products.

Nilan Tool and Mold Changes Ownership

Nilan Tool and Mold, a leading manufacturer of molds for injection molded rubber components, completed the sale of it’s assets on July 9th, 2012. For more than 40 years, Nilan Tool has been designing and fabricating molds for the rubber and plastics industries. Building molds from standard compression to state-of-the-art valve gated cold runners has made Nilan a leader in the medical, automotive and aerospace industries. Hermann Grabenstatter, the outgoing Owner and President, has been involved with Nilan for over 40 years. “The market for domestically produced engineered parts is growing rapidly and Nilan is uniquely positioned to take advantage that growth” says Grabenstatter.

The new owner, Tyler Jeffrey, is President and CEO of the new organization. Jeffrey, a resident of LaGrange, Il, has over 23 years of business experience in a wealth of industries, most recently as the Sr. Vice President at World’s Finest Chocolate in Chicago. Hermann will remain with the business to aid in transition and provide technical expertise, training, and consulting. Nilan Tool and Mold has been an industry leader in making molds for injection molded rubber parts. Nilan specializes in high tolerance parts for the automotive, aerospace, and medical industries.

“Hermann has built a strong business with a unique niche. I plan to continue his legacy and grow from the solid foundation he’s built.”, said Jeffrey.

Employees and customers were notified this week of the change. The company will look to increase sales through enhanced offerings, skills, and a dedication to industry leading quality. Nilan has been a supplier for over 30 years to Federal Mogul, CR Industries, DANA Corporation, Freudenberg-NOK, and Parker Hanifin Corporation to name a few.

Louisiana Robotic Machines Wins

Louisiana Robotic Machines Wins ‘Special Design’ Award For Robotic Hand Using igus Cable Carriers

Louisiana Robotic Machines has developed an innovative, all-pneumatic robot hand that uses Zipper-style cable carriers in its finger joints. The design won the “Special Design” award in the igus vector 2012 competition, which sought to honor those implementing polymer cable carriers in unique and challenging ways.

Louisiana Robotic Machines designs, develops, and builds robotic manufacturing machines. Recently, the company embarked upon the design and development of its DigitL Pneumatic Hand: an all-pneumatic hand intended for educational environments. Since the robot hand is for instructional use, it had to be easy to assemble and disassemble. The company opted to use five Zipper Energy Chain cable carriers from igus to build out the fingers and thumb, which resolved design challenges that Louisiana Robotic Machines had previously encountered, such as too much weight and a lack of durability.

Small cylinders in the Zipper chains carry out the movements, bending and stretching the fingers. The zip-up principle of the Zipper Energy Chains makes fitting and servicing the cylinders effortless. The chain’s polymer material holds its strength under stress and the chains themselves allow visual observation without restricting the moving, mechanical parts. By reducing the number of parts involved from 75 to 25, the company also reduced assembly and disassembly times.

Louisiana Robotic Machines saved thousands of dollars in injection molding and tooling by integrating the igus Zipper Energy Chain cable carriers into their design. The fact that the Zipper chains are readily available also contributes to a LEAN Just-In-Time (JIT) manufacturing package for the company.

The Digitl Hand won the Special Design award in the vector 2012 competition, which received 162 entries from 27 different countries. KUKA Systems, located in Augsburg, Germany, received the gold vector award for their design of the KUKA Cobra: a faster, lighter and more compact robot system for press automation, which increased output while combining a dynamic linear axis with unique flexibility.

Joury van Gijseghem from DEME, in Antwerp, Belgium, received the silver vector for the Amoras project. Brackwater from the Port of Antwerp is routed into large tanks and the sludge suctioned off by pumps on the bridge for treatment. These pumps can be moved across the entire span of the 492 foot bridge using a System E4-350 Energy Chain from igus, which is wear proof, maintenance free and resistant to seawater and mineral oil. The unique design allows the entire plant to operate around the clock without the need for maintenance.

The SCM Group S.p.A., from Rimini, Italy, received the bronze vector for its use of igus’ TwisterBand Energy Chains to manufacture a custom woodworking machine. The machine is able to carry out numerous different movements as it follows the contour of the workpiece, including rotating around its own axis with an overall rotation of 1,440 degrees in both directions. The igus TwisterBand was a lightweight and low cost solution for SCM.

Advanced phosphorescent pigments make life-saving easier

A specially formulated compound glows in very low light conditions making emergency shears more useful to medical response personnel trying to quickly reach wounds.

A phosphorescent glow-in-the-dark color masterbatch is added to a reinforced nylon compound during
New pigments extend afterglow effect by a factor of ten. Photo: RTP

molding to create a glow-in-the-dark effect to the Rip Shears Ripper, which allows EMTs to quickly slice through multiple layers of clothing, equipment and body armor to access and treat wound sites.  The Rip Shears Ripper is attached to a standard trauma shear.

A phosphorescent glow-in-the-dark color masterbatch from compounder RTP (Winona, MN) is added to glass-reinforced nylon compound used by Icon Injection Molding (Phoenix, AZ).

“This was a very specific request; we hadn’t done a glow-in-the-dark product before,” says Steve Kleitsch, Icon’s co-owner. “But, we were aware of RTP Co.’s expertise with visual effects, so we brought them in for assistance.”

The Rip Shears Ripper uses an RTP 200 Series glass fiber reinforced nylon 6/6 compound, which provides the stiffness needed to allow the blade to stay on track and flow through fabric cleanly.  If the plastic were to flex at all fabric could bunch, slowing down access to the wound. Blades are made from stainless steel.

Advanced glow-in-the-dark technology creates an “afterglow” effect that lasts for up to 8 hours, which is about 10 times longer than traditional GITD technologies.

“The inventor loved it and we began production immediately, Kleitsch says.

Phosphorescent pigments absorb ultraviolet light and then slowly emit that energy. They work best with clear or translucent resin systems such as elastomers, acrylics, polycarbonates, styrenics and polyolefins. Color options have increased in recent years.

The specialized compounds are often used to eliminate wiring in signs, railings, armrests, or automotive instrument panels.

The Benefits of a Modular Machine

Traditionally, a complex manufacturing machine has one large, powerful controller that governs sequencing, motion and I/O. Multiple drives and motors are connected to the controller via a motion network. The controller itself can be linked to a human-machine interface, a PC, or both. It might also be connected to a manufacturing execution system or an enterprise resource planning system.

This approach is not the easiest system to optimize, but it does have its advantages, particularly if the application requires synchronized motion between multiple axes. Such applications include six-axis robots, injection molding machines, milling machines and water-jet cutting machines.

For an automated assembly system, however, engineers would prefer to take a modular approach to machine design. A modular system is more flexible, faster to change over, and—for medical device assembly—easier to validate and simpler to clean.

“With a modular system, it’s easier to diagnose an issue,” says Chris Knudsen, product marketing supervisor at Yaskawa America Inc. “You can isolate a problem to a specific module instead of a whole line. And, if the module is critical to your process, you can have a spare ready to go in case of a problem or sudden bottleneck.”

For the machine builder, a modular approach means less development time, smaller component inventories, and the ability to integrate a wider range of machine functions. Machine builders can also rough out common modules, such as pick-and-place units, in advance of a project.

A modular system consists of a series of cells or modules. Each cell has its own control—a programmable automation controller (PAC). A PAC is a compact controller that combines the features and capabilities of a PC-based control system with that of a typical programmable logic controller (PLC). PACs are available from a number of companies, including Yaskawa, Beckhoff Automation, Opto 22 and Schneider Electric.

“A modular system has more of a distributed control system vs. a centralized control,” explains Knudsen. “PACs have become smaller, more connectable and less expensive, and you can now afford to just pop one of these controls into each module, as opposed to one big, fancy controller running the entire system. So you might have a line with five PACs and one PLC that’s just monitoring the whole line.”

“With a modular system, it’s easier to diagnose an issue.”—Chris Knudsen, Yaskawa America Inc.

High-speed networks, such as Ethernet/IP, Modbus and OPC, have supplanted point-to-point wiring in assembly systems and enabled engineers to take a modular approach to design. “Network speeds are now close to the speed of PC or PLC backplanes,” says Knudsen. “These open network standards also ensure interoperability.”

On the software side, standardized, object-oriented programming environments, such as IEC61131-3, are well-suited for modular machine design. IEC61131-3 has been adopted by numerous suppliers, including Yaskawa, Siemens, Bosch Rexroth, Schneider, Beckhoff, Omron, Mitsubishi Electric, and B&R Industrial Automation.

“Object-oriented programming means that the code is modularized,” says Knudsen “Think of an object as a subroutine. You feed it some variables and it spits out an answer, but you don’t necessarily need to know everything that’s going on inside the subroutine.”

Is a modular system faster than centralized control? “There’s a speed advantage within the module, because you have this controller that’s handling everything just for that module,” says Knudsen. “There may be a slight speed disadvantage when synchronizing the motion of each module. In a traditional system, if I want to synch, say, Axis 9 with Axis 1 and Axis 2, I would be doing it across the backplane of the controller, which is immune to noise and very fast. That’s why a milling machine will have a central controller, because it’s got to synchronize everything very tightly.

“On the other hand, a traditional system will eventually max out on axis count, I/O count and scan times.”