Control System Case Study – Granta Automation

 

Brief

A British chocolatier and cocoa grower, were looking for a means of transferring chocolate and fillings to their new production line. They commissioned an engineering company to design and build 4 stainless steel, jacketed transfer vessels on castors to enable them to be wheeled around the plant. Each tank required a mixer, electric jacket heating and a transfer pump and valve arrangement to circulate and discharge the contents. It also needed to interface with the machine it was supplying to keep the feed tank topped up to the correct level. Having worked with Granta before on previous projects they turned to them again for the required expertise to design, build and integrate a control system for this bespoke requirement. The control brief was:

  • Provide control of the pump and valve to circulate the product to maintain its condition and uniform temperature whilst in the tank. This pump was to be two speed to allow a faster flow rate for cleaning the tank out.
  • Switch from circulation to discharge when the machine called for more product.
  • Provide control for the lid mounted paddle mixer including lid safety interlocks.
  • Provide level monitoring to warn of low level condition.
  • Provide electrical supply for heating control by others.

 

Result

Granta worked with the customer, the project management company and the engineering company to establish the detailed requirements of the design. Granta then used their extensive experience to suggest and incorporate enhancements to the original design proposal to optimise the ultimate performance of the transfer tanks.

  • Two major improvements Granta suggested and incorporated were;
    • Replacing the two speed pump motor with a standard single speed motor and fitting an inverter to allow far greater control of the pump operation.
    • Incorporating the heating control into the main control system to centralise the settings and allow extra monitoring of temperature as the products require very precise temperature control.
  • The prototype tank was fitted with the new control system and put into service to evaluate it. This resulted in some minor changes following which the other 3 tanks were built and commissioned incorporating these modifications.
  • The tanks have functioned well in their duties and should provide ongoing service for many years.
  • As the tanks were not being sold to another user, there was not a requirement to CE mark them but Granta designed and built the control system to the relevant standards and supplied a CE certificate of incorporation for it.

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How can I Improve Quality Control?

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Despite the increased use of automation across a whole range of manufacturing operations, the process of quality control has remained reliant on human intervention for a number of very specific reasons. The manual process was kept in place for some time because it was seen as providing more detailed and specific quality assurance checks that machines were not able to offer.

Improvements and changes in technology has meant that the benefits of automated quality control now outweigh solely using human workers. Not only is it more consistent, but cost effective, faster, and they do not suffer from fatigue or tiredness. There is never any room for complacency when it comes to providing quality control and even if you currently automate part, or all of the process, there could still be room for improvement. We look at some of these options below:

 

Vision and Inspection Systems

One of the key applications vision and inspection systems can provide is the ability to have a positive impact on quality control. With the implementation of both 2D and 3D available for vision and inspection purposes, as well as being able to work quickly and provide reliable feedback, the use of vision inspection continues to grow.

A vision inspection system increases the speed, repeatability and accuracy of the process and removes the scope for human error that is prevalent in a manual quality control check system.  Many specialist medical factories worldwide are producing large quantities of specialist medical items using fully automated systems, that include automated inspection and checking, with no manual intervention.

Measuring and shape detection vision systems provide the answer where accurate product measurements need to be checked to ensure the dimensions meet stringent manufacturing standards. The process will also reject any items that do not meet the set criteria, instantly improving the overall quality of the batch.

Barcode reading and label checking vision systems can also be used to ensure that not only are the right labels in place during production, but the printed information being displayed is correct. This is ideal for mass production lines as it allows you to monitor speed efficiency and greatly improve overall accuracy of the product.

 

Datalogging

As vital as labour is to production, it is also the element that generates the highest costs. Not just through the employment and maintenance of the workforce but the errors caused during production can quickly begin to mount. In addition, the impact is felt in lost production time, missed SLAs and any time and costs that may be given to support services.

What automated datalogging can provide is the ability to spot any issues as and when they occur during production. This allows for problems to be solved there and then, rather than having to deal with a major crisis that wasn’t intervened with earlier.

Accurate tracking records enable you to quickly trace any customer complaints or quality issues back to the source, and rectify the process immediately.  This traceability prevents quality control issues from getting out of hand and reduces the need for product recalls.  With large amounts of data at your fingertips, small quality issues, intermittent issues, etc. can all be tracked, identified and resolved a lot quicker and easier.

Datalogging systems are also useful in identify bottlenecks within your process as you are able to monitor the flow of product through your workspace.   For more information on identifying bottlenecks, read our blog post ‘How Do I Identify a Bottleneck in my Production Process.

 

 

Bespoke Machinery

Stringent regulations within industries such as food and pharmaceuticals ensure that extremely low tolerance levels are set during the manufacturing process. Traditional machinery is unable to perform multiple tasks, slowing down production as elements of the process are moved from one machine to another.

The advantage of bespoke automation is its ability to undertake multiple tasks to match requirements within your facility. While you will see an increase in production speed, most importantly, it will improve the accuracy of the production process as less machines are required to complete a product batch. This will reduce wastage and ensure that the production cost is lowered.

All of the processes outlined above can be incorporated into bespoke machinery which means that your bespoke machine will be very reliable; producing only parts that meet the required quality control checks.

The ROI is felt almost immediately and of course it’s worth remembering that machines do not take breaks – their accuracy can be relied upon 24/7. If the consequences of human error can be reduced, then losses are smaller and other areas of the business will naturally benefit from an increased focus.

 

 

Cost Effectiveness and Growth

As with any automated system, there is always an upfront cost to consider when thinking of purchasing an automated inspection system. Of course, this has to be factored against the long-term benefits and ROI of using the system within your production. The costs saved on labour along with the increased efficiency will quickly becoming noticeable on the bottom line. As long as the system is installed with due care, defining the correct parameters for quality inspection, and room for improvements are allowed further down the line, then it only offer positives.

 

 

Conclusion

Call it the bottom line, the profit margin or the balance sheet – whatever your preference, the company as a whole will see the benefits of automated quality control. If the overall quality of the product being produced is improved, then this should be reflected through increased sales and demand. The precise data captured using automation can also be used to attract new buyers who aside viewing the finished product, get to see the breakdown of every stage of production and the material quality that goes into making it.

 

We aim to provide as much information as possible so you can make an informed decision about changing your manufacturing set-up. Quality control matters in every step of production and we want to help you create improvements wherever possible. For more information about anything we’ve discussed above, or if you would like to find out more about the benefits of automation in general, please get in contact with our experienced team on 01223 499488, or email helpline@granta-automation.co.uk.

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What Sort of Vision Inspection do I Need?

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As imaging technology continues to improve, so does its impact on manufacturing. Machine vision systems are nothing new, of course, but they now allow for a much wider range of uses within production facilities. From increasing production speed by automating previously manual processes, right through to improving the accuracy of quality control, vision systems are more commonplace than ever.

However, there isn’t just one single vision system that fits all uses. And despite its continual growth, many companies are only just beginning to recognise its benefits. Because of that, there can still be some confusion over which system is best suited to a particular application.

Walking into the word of automation can feel intimidating, given the breadth of new technology and opportunities it affords. To help you gain a brief overview of the different types of machine vision systems available and what their best uses may be, we’ve gone through each one below:

 

1D Sensor

Rather than looking at the picture as a whole, 1D vision will analyse one batch at a time, comparing the most recent with an earlier completed set. A line-scan camera for a product that moves along on a conveyor belt would be ideal for this system. If it is a product that is being produced in a continuous process then it can pick up defects on materials such as plastics, paper and metal. A line-scan camera allows more light to be concentrated onto a smaller surface area, creating an image that is easier to read. Using the correct parameters, a 1D sensor even provides the opportunity to stitch together the line images to create a 2D image, if required.

Line scan systems are more effective when used to inspect products or round parts, as a number of cameras may be needed to cover the surface of the item. When the product is rotated for a single line camera to scan, by unwrapping the image it can capture the entire surface. These cameras are able to scan through much tighter spaces at times when conveyor rollers or other parts may be interfering with a wider view. The resolution produced by a line scan system is also far better than a traditional camera. They are also more suited for items and products that are in motion, as the creation of the image depends on the product itself moving.

 

2D Sensor

A 2D sensor, or camera, can be used in an opposite sense, for products that are motionless and not moving along a conveyor. Depending on what you are using it for, there are a couple of options available, depending on the type of 2D camera you buy; one captures the image before passing it onto a computer to be analysed, others feature both the sensor and the processor itself in one.

Some example process that 2D sensor image processing can be used for include; finding edges, matching pattern/shape, blob analysis, looking for specific shape/colour on non-conforming shapes/colours.

 

3D Sensor

As with 2D sensors, 3D is also more commonly used today with automated inspection, quality control, robot guidance, sorting and more. This vision system usually consists of a number of cameras or multiple laser displacement sensors. 3D scanners employ a number of different techniques such as structuring the lighting and laser triangulation. Because of the multiple cameras in use, 3D sensors will produce even more data that will need to be processed and stored somewhere, so take this into consideration before purchase. They are also quite specific in terms of the applications they can be used with, so it’s important to make sure the correct scanning system is purchased to suit requirements.

 

Conclusion

If you are close to purchasing a machine vision system, we hope this has given you some insight into the direction you should take. While the information is brief, it will at the very least allow you to relate your current process to a system that is designed to produce optimal returns.

As experts in automation and the installation of machine vision systems, we are always available to answer any further questions you may have. We understand that your needs are unique and approach each new enquiry with the individual attention it deserves. To find out more detail on how machine vision systems can benefit your current set-up, email our helpline helpline@granta-automation.co.uk, or call us on 01223 499488.

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Bespoke Machine Case Study – Granta Automation

 

Project Brief

A company manufacturing products for infection control, contamination control and hygiene were looking to develop a new system for dispensing cleaning chemicals. They were at the research and design stage of product development and needed a bespoke machine to enable them to take the project to market and prove the concept of the product. The project specification was to fill capsules with two different liquids without any cross contamination, then to apply a heat seal to the top of the capsules.

 

The Process

2118.M.1To ensure that we met the needs of our customer, we started with our unrivalled Diaspec process which combines the benefits of expert automation consultancy, cost saving ideas, and proven designs and specifications of a final solution that would match the customers requirements exactly, prior to proceeding with the full project.

As a result of this, Granta proposed a simple bench top solution that would give a reliable initial production platform and also give the necessary accuracy of fill and quality of seal required for the product launch. The system was based on a heat sealing system mounted in a bench top package. The capsule would be fed in and out of the sealing area on a moving platen. The platen was to be powered with an electric actuator enabling multi point positioning. Two 100ml volumetric pumps and associated pipework would be included along with two nozzles mounted over the platen area.

Bespoke machineThe process cycle proposed was:

  • Operator loads empty capsule into the platen
  • Platen moves partially in and positions the capsule under the nozzles
  • Correct dose of liquids are pumped into the capsule
  • Platen moves fully in
  • Heat sealer seals the capsule
  • Platen moves fully out
  • Operator removes the capsule

CAD drawings of the proposed machine were produced and the design and specification was then signed off by the customer ready for production.

 

The Result

Our customer now has a bespoke machine that has enabled them to take low production quantities of their new product to market to prove the concept of the design and test the strength of the market.  The machine has been designed with the adaptability needed to change the capsule size and quantities should the market so demand.

Bespoke machine - Granta Bespoke Machine Granta 2

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Customer Testimonial to Granta’s Automation Consultancy Service

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Granta Automation Ltd were commissioned to undertake a mechanical design review of a machine for our customer.  Following this review we received the following testimonial;

Dear Joseph

Thank you very much for the design review, this is really helpful.

By copy to David – thank you for your time and for the professional way in which you carried out the review it was much appreciated. As stated above this is very helpful and is exactly what we were looking for.

Kind Regards

Clifford

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Two Key Factors to Increased Profitability! Granta Update September 2017

eshotTwo Key Factors to Increased Profitability…

Wondering how to make this work in your factory?  Wanting to increase your profitability? Read on to find out how!

Make sure you’re the person on the highest stack!

 

 


costsHave you tried these methods of reducing your manufacturing costs?

You will no doubt be very familiar with the usual methods of reducing manufacturing costs, and I’ve no doubt you take great pride in keeping your costs as low as you can.

But, there are other, perhaps more hidden ways that costs can be reduced – have you tried them?

Read more »


MotivateDo incentivised factory staff make a difference to your bottom line?

Motivated workers can:

  • Be more efficient
  • Be more productive
  • Influence your entire business

But how do you motivate those doing repetitive tasks?  This short Slideshare presentation will give you the answers you’re looking for.

Click here to view »


ProductivityYou’re going to be wanting to measure the productivity of your factory…

We knew you’d be wanting some way of measuring the productivity of your factory so we’ve created a downloadable productivity calculator.

This simple calculator can be used to measure and compare the productivity of your complete production process or a particular process or machine within your production process.

Click here to download »


How-willEver wondered how automation will work for you?

Think around your sphere of influence, what would you like automated to improve your quality of life, competitive advantage, productivity, profits or…  the possibilities are endless!

This short video will give you some idea of the types of automation that are available

Watch video »

 


 

 

 

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Bespoke Machinery

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There is little doubt that off-the-shelf automated solutions have allowed the manufacturing sector to make significant strides over the past decade. The ‘one size fits all’ approach has provided automated products that are easy to purchase, install and maintain.

However, this approach has created something of an issue for companies with specific manufacturing requirements that standard automated machines struggle to provide. Customisation of the automated process can sound like a scary prospect to some who fear their factories will have to deal with lengthy downtimes and unmanageable sky-high bills.

As customers begin to understand more about the benefits of automation, these misconceptions are slowly beginning to change. With this in mind, we are going to run through some of the advantages and disadvantages associated with bespoke machinery.

Advantages

Improved Efficiency

The aim for any manufacturer is to increase throughput while maintaining and improving standards. Installing custom automation into your operation means a range of tasks can be completed faster, freeing up staff to concentrate on other areas of production. The knock-on effect means your product can be produced in larger quantities and at a faster rate. By increasing the size of orders you can take on board and subsequently, your sales opportunities, this will also provide a greater incentive for your sales force.

Accuracy

Bespoke automated machinery will replicate the exact same task thousands of times with extremely tight tolerance levels. A recent study found that 80% of errors that occurred during pharmaceutical manufacturing was due to human error. Custom automation will streamline the process even further, reducing this percentage figure significantly. Wastage control is a key part of any production line and being able to match the original design specifications lowers the cost of both the materials being used and purchased.

Lower Costs

The golden egg for any manufacturer. Custom automation ensures this can achieved without compromising the quality of your product. The idea that bespoke machinery costs more and takes longer to achieve a return on investment is a common misconception that surrounds the technology. Tailor made machinery can be adapted to integrate and optimise overall efficiency. Lower wage costs, energy use and improved use of materials will all help to lower production and unit cost.

Optimised Machine Usage

The common practice has been to purchase a range of automated machines that can each perform a specific individual task. This may seem like the most logical way forward but when you take into consideration installation time, man power, energy use and a number of other factors, are you really getting the most of your current automation set-up? Each business has an individual need – no matter how common the product – and custom automation makes the most of new and existing machinery, increasing productivity and ease of use.

 

Disadvantages

Job Security

A common fear that surrounds the increased implementation of automated machinery is the threat to the human workforce. However, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Automation should be utilised to undertake the dull and repetitive tasks that staff do not enjoy, assisting workers rather than replacing them. Using and improving their skills in other areas of the business will guarantee a number of benefits – stronger morale, higher productivity and a healthier bottom line financially.

Significant Upfront Costs

There should always be a detailed analysis of where and how the installation of bespoke machinery can improve the manufacturing operation. Before seeing a ROI, the initial cost of purchasing automated machines will be relatively high, along with any training and education required for the workforce. If a convincing case can be made for moving towards automation, make sure you consult with a supplier that can guide you step-by-step.

Technology Longevity

Every manufacturing process will evolve and change over time and the concern is that custom automation will not be adaptable enough. However, this can be avoided. Much of this comes down to forward planning and allowing room for tweaks and changes to be implemented over time. Working with a supplier that understands both this and your company’s requirements, will allow them to install bespoke machinery that can be adapted over time.

 

Conclusion

The reasons for switching to custom automation vary from case to case but there are clear advantages to be had by moving away from manual or commercially automated processes. By implementing a careful and considered plan of action, any downsides can be managed to achieve the desired results.

If you are still unsure it must be remembered that you don’t have to fully overhaul your manufacturing equipment in one fell swoop. The above is intended as a brief introduction to the pros and cons of bespoke machinery but we are always on hand to discuss your requirements in more detail. We’d love to answer any further questions you may have, so feel free to call us on 01223 499488 or email helpline@granta-automation.co.uk.

Send us the Specification of Your Bespoke Automation Project

 

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Who Won the Chamber Music Competition? KUKA or Timo Boll?

You’ve seen KUKA playing table tennis with Timo Boll but who won the Chamber Music competition?  KUKA or Timo Boll?

 

 

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6 Easy Ways to Incentivise Factory Staff Who Are Doing Repetitive Tasks – Slideshare Presentation

Click the image below to view this Slideshare presentation on 6 Easy Ways to Incentivise Factory Staff Who Are Doing Repetitive Tasks.

6 Easy Ways To Incentivise Factory Staff

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What Is The Difference Between Automation And Robotics?

Automation-or-Robotics--

This is a question that is regularly asked by those looking to introduce some form of automation into their production process.

The answer to this question is ‘robotics is a form of automation, so there is no difference.’ But then the question becomes; do I need robotics or do I need some other form of automation?

Let’s look at the different applications…

 

Robotics

Robotics consists of a branch of technology that predominantly deals with the design, construction and operation of robots. An industrial robot is typically a standard machine controlled by an internal or external computer that is able to carry out a complex series of movements automatically. There are a wide range of robots available; from basic robot arms through to completely autonomous vehicle mounted robots.  Robots are often equipped with audio, visual and tactile sensors.  Whilst a standard robot usually follows a pre-determined program, collaborative robots have force sensing built in and as a result are able to follow a person’s movements and work collaboratively with them.

Robots today perform a variety of jobs within factories such as:

  • Parts assembly
  • Painting
  • Welding
  • Machine tool tending
  • Palletisation
  • Material handling
  • Pick and place
  • CNC milling

Robots are also often used to substitute humans in dangerous environments including hazardous areas environment, high temperature environments, radioactive environments and areas where there are harmful vapours and gasses.

The main advantage of robots is their adaptability and flexibility.  They are also a known component when designing an automated system with mixed products/requirements. They can also be a very cheap way to automate multiple tasks with a lot of variables that would otherwise need a very specialist bespoke automated system.

 

Automation

There are two main types of automation; software automation and industrial automation.  Software automation performs computer based tasks that would otherwise be performed by a human, whereas industrial automation performs physical activities that would otherwise be done by a human.

Bespoke automation is the term typically used where there is a stable and predictable production processes that needs specialist automation designed specifically to perform that process.

Processes where bespoke automation is often used includes;

  • Quality control inspection
  • Liquid filling
  • Parts sorting
  • Box erection and sealing
  • Box filling
  • Repetitive tasks with few variables
  • Production monitoring
  • Product and carton labelling
  • Safety improvements

But the list doesn’t stop here, bespoke automation can be used to create tailored made automation solutions to fit any requirement.

The main advantage of bespoke automation is that it can be tailored exactly to a process in the most efficient way. This can often result in faster production speeds, and more effective solutions for repeat tasks with little variation in products or requirements.

 

Robotics or Bespoke Automation – Which do I need?

Now you understand more about robotics and automation, but you may still be wondering which you need! Maybe you need both? This depends entirely on the process you are wishing to automate. Robotics or bespoke automation may be used, but as they are both developed in different ways, it may often be necessary to use both to enable the optimum automation solution to be created.

To summarise, the main difference between robotics and automation is that robots are a piece of equipment that can perform a variety of tasks with programming, whilst bespoke automation is a term that is used for special purpose machines or systems that are designed to perform a specific task.

But in short Robotics are just one of many methods of Automation!

Find out more…

To learn more about automation and robotics, get in touch with the Granta Automation team of experts on helpline@granta-automation.co.uk or by calling 01223 499 488.

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