White Paper: Manufacturing & Prototyping

Increasing ROI with Flexible Automation

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Part variation is often said to be the enemy of automation. The design of custom automation equipment starts with the part, whether it’s the carrier nest that must transport the part from one automation process to the next, the feeding system that must orient and present parts to the machine, or the end effector tooling for the robot arm that must handle and manipulate the parts. The reality is the custom automation design can be fairly challenging even with just one part variation. It can be an overwhelming task when there are many part variations, especially when they are completely unique parts.

This paper describes an application in which Dynamic Automation & Robotics was challenged with such a project, where parts ranged from metal fasteners, plastics caps, plastic clamps, rubberized parts, and flexible lanyards with plastic handles, to name a few. Ultimately, the request was for a laser marking machine that could work with 18 different parts, including a large variety of materials, with a large variation in size and shape.

Difficulties that needed to be overcome included part feeding, part handling, laser technology for the variety of materials, and quality control inspection. The solution provided centered around a flexible feeding system with a custom live belt parts pre-feeder, a 6-axis articulated robot arm with integrated vision, and a UV laser marker.

In the end, Dynamic Automation & Robotics designed a machine that is truly flexible. Not only could it accommodate laser marking of 18 parts of varying material, size, and geometry, but it was also designed to handle almost any future variation that may be brought to the customer. The core technologies used for this machine (robotics, vision, and flex-feeders) are becoming more commonplace to improve ROI on machines, future-proofing them to part changes and even unforeseen part variations.

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