Historically, line changeovers have been synonymous with production losses. As manufacturers pause to change out parts, valuable time slips away. The introduction of the bowl feeder, a vibrating device that aligns and feeds parts for assembly, reduced the amount of time lost, but important challenges remained. Custom-designed to work with a specific part, this technology must be completely replaced for each changeover, and parts with certain geometries, materials or centers of gravity may flow poorly or cause the feeder to be extremely loud.
These challenges often lead to costly and time-consuming repairs that increase the amount of downtime experienced by a facility. For manufacturers looking to optimize production, a better solution for handling and sorting multiple parts on the same production machine is critical for improving ROI. And as the demand for product customization is rising exponentially, technology has evolved to deliver a more efficient solution.
This case study will discuss a solution designed with Omron Automation technology, which includes the AnyFeeder system along with integrated programmable part identification, orientation and verification to prevent parts contamination. By processing multiple parts with the same feeder, this solution significantly decreases changeover time, equipment costs and floor space and delivers 99% efficiency at startup. It also simplifies programming through synchronous control with one software and one connection.
For over 50 years, Armo-Tool Ltd. has established a reputation for helping customers lower costs, decrease risk and improve productivity. Throughout North America, customers rely on Armo-Tool to solve unique tooling and automation challenges. The company provides complete “one-stop” precision solutions from design to the beginning of production and prides itself on delivering innovative automation to the marketplace.
When a Tier 1 automotive manufacturer was struggling with reliability and speed issues caused by a bowl feeder system, the company turned to Armo-Tool for a solution. The plant produces brake lines for multiple passenger vehicles, and a bowl feeder was being used to sort its various end-form fittings that attach to brake lines. Unfortunately, constant changeovers requiring significant mechanical adjustments of the feeder’s unique fittings increased the cost of ownership and created an unacceptable amount of downtime.
Together with Omron Automation and local distributor Taylor Fluid Systems, Armo-Tool developed a complete, flexible feeding system that is optimized to work together with vision, motion and robotics. The system includes the Omron AnyFeeder, rotary and linear servos, FH Series vision, and e-Cobra SCARA robots and is controlled by a Sysmac CPU that simplifies architecture with a fully integrated design platform.
The solution delivered 99% efficiency at startup versus 70% or less from the previous bowl feeder. Changeover time has been drastically reduced to under 10 minutes. Following is a detailed discussion of the system’s primary benefits.
Reduced downtime and improved safety
The integrated system maximizes uptime by helping to ensure the right part is selected every time. For the plant that manufactures brake lines across multiple vehicle models, this is especially critical. The correct end-form fitting must always be attached to the correct brake line pipe, since affixing the wrong fitting could risk product recall and elicit negative reviews from customers. Moreover, with today’s “just-in-time” delivery systems, there is no time to correct mistakes once brake lines arrive on the carmaker’s assembly line.
The Omron AnyFeeder is an economical alternative to other, more conventional part feeding techniques. When combined with a vision-guided robot, it provides flexible part feeding that exceeds the capacity of hand-tooled bowl feeders. Its flexibility in feeding small parts of various sizes, shapes and materials delivers a crucial competitive advantage by allowing for fast line changeover and significantly reducing tooling costs.
Faster, more precise inspection and measurement
Accuracy in this solution is guaranteed in part through the integrated vision-guided pick-and-place. The system uses vision to verify the correct part is selected, provide pickup coordinates from the randomly oriented parts on the bed, and correctly place them every time. This is a major benefit to manufacturers who would otherwise need to include tooling for precise part orientation in advance of picking.
The Omron FH Series vision system is designed for seamless integration with Sysmac PLCs, motion controllers and robotic control systems. Exceptionally efficient vision algorithms and image processing make this solution ideal for applications in high-speed manufacturing environments, while top-of-the-line sensing and processing capabilities maximize performance and flexibility by matching and often exceeding the sensitivity of human vision.
Minimal complexity and near-perfect efficiency
Omron e-Cobra 600 SCARA robots play an important role in this solution. These robots have a compact system footprint that saves valuable floor space while minimizing installation costs and complexity. Users can calibrate the robot, empty the parts bin for changeovers, and diagnose the complete system all from the human-machine interface (HMI), which makes operation simple and easy.
According to Armo-Tool and representatives from its machine builder customers, this solution has provided near-perfect efficiency along with unprecedented flexibility to accurately pick up parts. Changeovers now take just minutes rather than hours, and repeatability is much better. A single engineer can handle all the programming, and any support needs can be answered by a single supplier.
In addition to showcasing the system’s fast delivery times, Taylor Fluid Systems offers timely proof-of-concept demonstrations to give customers peace of mind that the solution will work and will indeed optimize their operations. With direct access to ongoing technical support, the Armo-Tool engineering team remains empowered to focus on providing the best solution for its customers every time.