Our domain expertise is in equipment segments that span across a full manufacturing process from part fabrication to final packaging. These segments include laser manufacturing, machine tools, assembly, test, packaging, web handling, and material handling.
LASER MANUFACTURING AUTOMATION
Industrial lasers paired with industrial automation lead to powerful machines that enable rapid prototyping and manufacturing. Within a few hours of a new CAD part design being released, a laser machine can be reprogrammed to manufacture that part. Industrial lasers are used in a variety of manufacturing operations including cutting, welding, marking, engraving, and adhesive removal. There are a variety of laser types that must be understood to choose the right one for the application – these include UV, CO2, Yag, and Fiber IR. Considerations include material type, laser optical lens selection, spot size, cut depth, accuracy, energy efficiency, and more. The laser path can either be guided by galvo mirror systems or by industrial motion gantries; the accuracy can be improved by adding vision cameras.
MACHINE TOOL AUTOMATION
We offer a unique PLC-based approach to custom machine tools such as CNC routers, mills, lathes, and drills. Machine shops have equipment that are used to cut, shape, drill, or finish parts. Some of this equipment is operated manually, but other equipment is automated via CAM (computer aided manufacturing) where you can use CAD software to plan the machine path. This CAD/CAM approach uses a programming language called G-code and M-code which can be cryptic for modern machine operators. We use a PLC-based approach to interpret the G-code outputted from the CAD software and to provide a modern HMI user interface for the operator.
High-precision and high-speed assembly automation requires system design considerations that span mechanical, electrical, software, and industrial engineering. Assembly operations can be executed by industrial robotics, cartesian motion gantries, or actuators. The repeatability of such systems requires an understanding of mechanical sizing of motion components, and the accuracy can be improved by adding vision cameras. Multiple axes require advanced motion coordination – in the past this may have been done via mechanical gearing or CAMs but this is now accomplished via electronic gearing, CAM profiles, or robot kinematics functions in machine controllers. Modern automation systems use Ethernet industrial protocols so high-speed axis synchronization also requires an understanding of the network infrastructure required to achieve high performance.
Product quality is critical to a brand’s reputation and to regulatory compliance. After product assembly, some products undergo inline automated testing. This inline testing varies based on the product and the industry. AOI (automated optical inspection) machines use vision cameras for automated metrology, defect identification, completeness (assembly verification, feature presence, fill level), surface quality, foreign material, correct orientation, color, and more. The electronics industry uses ICT (in-circuit test) machines to test individual components of a printed circuit board assembly and FCT (functional test) machines to test functional defects with a printed circuit board assembly. There are a plethora of other tests such as reliability testing, acoustics, or light leakage. The food and beverage industry uses inline instrumentation to monitor temperature, acidity, color, and more.
Packaging is an important part of the customer experience. After a product is assembled and tested, it needs to be packaged. Typical applications include cartoners, case packers, tray packers, sleevers, labelers, and palletizers. Packaging machines support high-speed operations and typically involve complex coordinated motion systems or robotics. For example, high-speed registration sensors are used to detect material limits to ensure the motion system stays synchronized despite material variation. Packaging machines need to be modular and flexible to accommodate multiple product types and to protect a customer’s investment. Modern initiatives call for packaging machines to be increasingly connected and intelligent via new technologies such as AI (artificial intelligence) and AR (augmented reality).
WEB HANDLING AUTOMATION
Web handling machines need to control the tension of a web to avoid over-stretching, wrinkling, curling, or breaking the material. As a roll of material changes in diameter the motor torque needed to maintain tension changes. This control could be open loop or closed loop with devices such as load cells, roll diameter sensors, or "dancer" rolls. Some machines also have web alignment or guidance systems to help maintain lateral web position. Converting applications consist of an unwind roll, internal web processing, and a rewind roll. Processing could include printing, coating, laminating, slitting, sheeting, or more.
MATERIAL HANDLING AUTOMATION
Material handling machines are used for the transportation, positioning, or storage and retrieval of manufactured parts. Transportation applications include smart conveyors such as those with servo-controlled positioning belts, magnetic ICT (independent cart technology), or those that handle product accumulation. Positioning applications include lifts, turntables, and industrial robotics that are used to load, unload, or orient product. A modern trend calls for cobots which are robots that can safely interact with human operators in a shared space. Storage and retrieval applications include automated warehouse, work-in-process, or buffer systems.