ROBOTICS / AUTOMATION / CNC
GRAHAM PIKE, MD of AP DESIGN one of the country's foremost leaders in the automation field reveals some interesting observations:
Graham says, when we talk about robotics most people think of some machine with flashing lights & antenna resembling the human form. Engineers who are closer to understanding may think of a welding robot in an automotive plant, however this is very far removed from the truth. Billions have been spent in R&D work around the world to mimic something that may have 5% capability of a human and is likely to do it slower than a trained operator, I sight British woman working in the ammunitions factories during world war II. During that time because of the need, many ingenious mechanical devices were conceived, I am talking about manufacturing say detonator caps at 1000/min on a single machine. This cannot be done one at a time with "robotics", PLC's or PC integrated systems. The fact is most tasks to be performed in manufacturing today are repetitive & high volume. A machine as simple as drilling one hole in a component automatically is in fact a robot, the machine can be doing the task remotely without aid from an operator.
Where today's sophisticated PLC's, SCADA packages and sensors play a role is in monitoring, control of events & data capture from a high speed machine. Here is an example: one would not use a PLC to drive the ram of a press doing say 200 strokes/min via a hydraulic or pneumatic cylinder, neither would you use it to operate the clamps & feed cylinder of a strip feeder for the press. You may use the PLC however to monitor blank & scrap removal, no hole sensor & so on.
It appears I am knocking robotics & automation but wait, lets us look at it in this light:
AP DESIGN does use the latest technology & invents its own technology where none exists. It is the way a system is put together rather than spending capital on equipment that can only do one task at a time. A CNC machining centre is a good example here, a part with say 8 holes, some of them tapped & faces machined is loaded onto a machining centre. The machine is quick using modern servo drives, it can be easily programmed to perform another task but it can do only one operation at a time, at best two. Now put the same job on a purpose built machine with a rotary index table some auto drilling & tapping heads, a machining head or two and you have a machine that performs all operations at the same time. That means your production rate can increase over & above the machining centre by the number of operations there are. This of course is only practical where there are long runs of components. Such a machine would be designed using a PLC to operate the sequence of events with interactive display (HMI)for the operator/technician.
Equipment in the field has had to keep up with this technology and some advanced sensing & monitoring equipment is on the market today.
What has happened with robotics technology development is a series of robotic devices are now available to the machine builder. Grippers, wrist movements, take out devices for plastics injection moulding, & vision recognition systems plus many more useful tools. At the end of the day most of these devices are mechanically based & powered by fluid or servo drives. Other peripheral items that help the machine builder are various forms of linear ball bearings & slide ways, which have also advanced in recent years.
So, what does AP DESIGN do & what can they offer?
Other than purpose built equipment A.P. DESIGN offers their standard range of equipment summarised as follows: Microprocessors for cut to length applications & fluid dispensing. Tube cutting machines operating on the "snap cut" principle, cut to length lines. Decoilers up to 30ton capacity. Electronic roll feed equipment & pneumatic strip feeders type "Rapid Air". Auto feed drilling & tapping heads, Index tables & CNC rotary tables. Transfer lines. AP "Mini leveller" for press feed & general coiled material straightening.
INTRODUCING SHAWN TECH AUTO DRILLING & TAPPING UNITS
AP Design has acquired the sole agency for Shawn Tech equipment, in brief this comprises a range of auto feed drilling & tapping machines & rotary index tables. The equipment is highly durable & cost effective, please ask for a demonstration & see our advertisement on page _________. AP Design can supply units only or a complete purpose built machine to your requirements.
The toolroom is highly capable in design & manufacture of press blank & form tools, The electronics department specialises PLC software, PC based data capture & logging, advanced drive technology. AP staff number 15,each is specialising in a particular discipline.
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