Advantages and Disadvantages of Robotic Automation

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The growing popularity of robotic automation across a wide range of sectors looks set to continue over the next few years, as businesses look to take advantage of the many benefits it offers. Manufacturers in the UK are starting invest more in the technology in preparation for our departure from the EU, allowing them to maintain their competitive edge in the market.

Naturally, not everyone has been convinced of the advantages robotic automation can deliver. There is still some cautiousness about adapting an existing production line, with some reasonable objections posed by those yet to try the technology. To address both sides of the discussion, we have put together a few brief advantages and disadvantages of using robotic automation.

 

ADVANTAGES

Cost Effectiveness

There will be no lunchbreaks, holidays, sick leave or shift time allocated for robotic automation. It can be set to work on a repetitive cycle, and as long as it is maintained correctly, it will continue to do so until programmed otherwise.   This eliminates the risk of RSI occuring.

The increase in production at a lower cost produces obvious benefits for any manufacturer. The cost of investment can be recovered in a relatively short space of time and the gains from that point onwards are exponential to say the least.

 

Improved Quality Assurance

Few workers enjoy doing repetitive tasks and after a certain period of time concentration levels will naturally decline. This leads to costly errors for the business and sometimes serious injury to the member of staff.

Robotic automation eliminates these risks by accurately producing and checking items meet the required standard without fail. With more product going out the door manufactured to a higher standard, this creates a number of new business possibilities for companies to expand upon.

 

Increased Productivity

Using robotic automation to tackle repetitive tasks makes complete sense. Robots are designed to make repetitive movements. Humans, also by design, are not.

Giving staff members the opportunity to expand on their skills and work in other areas will create a better environment which the business as a whole will benefit from. With higher energy levels and more focus put into their work, the product can only improve, which will also lead to extremely satisfied clients.

 

Work In Hazardous Environments

Aside from potential injuries in the workplace, staff members in particular industries can be asked to work in unstable or dangerous environments. For example, if a high level of chemicals are present, robotic automation offers the ideal solution, as it will continue to work without harm.

Production areas that require extremely high or low temperatures typically have a high turnover of staff due to the nature of the work. Automated robots can minimise material waste and remove the need for humans to put themselves at unnecessary risk.

 

 

DISADVANTAGES

Potential Job Losses

One of the biggest concerns surrounding the introduction of robotic automation is the impact of jobs for workers. If a robot can perform at a faster, more consistent rate, then the fear is that humans may not be needed at all. While these worries are understandable, they are not really accurate.

The same was said during the early years of the industrial revolution, and as history has showed us, humans continued to play an essential role. Amazon are a great example of this. The employment rate has grown rapidly during a period where they have gone from using around 1,000 robots to over 45,000.

 

Initial Investment Costs

This is typically the biggest obstacle that will decide whether or not a company will invest in robotic automation, or wait until a later stage. A comprehensive business case must be built when considering the implementation of this technology. The returns can be substantial and quite often occur within a short space of time. However, the cash flow must be sustainable in the meantime and the stability of the company is by no means worth the risk if the returns are only marginal. Yet, in most instances there will be a repayment schedule available, which makes it a lot easier to afford and control finances.

Increased throughput and reduction in defects both need to be considered along with the capital expenditure when deciding whether or not there is a business case for investment.

 

Hiring Skilled Staff

Over the past decade manufacturers have found it harder to source skilled staff members to fill the specialised roles in their factories. The introduction of automation adds another layer to that conundrum as the robots require programming and a knowledge of how to operate them. In reality, this opens up further opportunities for existing employees to be trained and expand their own skill set. An automation company can assist with the initial installation and set-up process, and with the right expertise staff can learn and adapt to manage the robots in the long-term.

 

To find out if robotic automation offers the right solutions for your business, try our Project Builder which will guide you through the process of understanding the machinery, along with potential costs. Alternatively, you can always contact our sales team who are always on hand to quickly respond to your questions, and provide detailed answers based on your current requirements. They can be contacted on 01223 499488, or via email at helpline@granta-automation.co.uk

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Why does Automation Enable a Factory to Reduce Production Costs?

cut-costs

In today’s increasingly competitive marketplace automation has to be viewed as a long term strategy worth investing in. Some companies can baulk at the initial, or staggered, costs involved in moving from manual processes into automated procedures.

Yet to do so would miss the point and one of the main benefits that automation offers. The key to evolving into automated manufacturing is found in the short-to-long-term cost cutting it produces. Simply put this means the longer automation is used within production, the more powerful its ability to reduce costs becomes. Not only will it lower manufacturing overheads but increase output at the same time, a fact that many businesses are looking to take advantage of. But how is that possible and why does automation enable a factory to reduce production costs?

 

Improved Accuracy

While the long-term financial returns on automating particular processes will continue to increase, there are many quick ROI’s to be found too. Products can immediately be manufactured with the exact same specifications, with far lower tolerances, creating a far more consistent product.

Part cycle time also decreases and will naturally create a more efficient production line. Automated machines or robots have no need to take breaks like regular staff, therefore working at a faster rate and manufacturing more products within the same space of time. This extends further into the size of the machines which will create a smaller footprint than manual processes, allowing cubic space to be utilised more effectively.

 

Working With Humans

Automated technology continues to improve year-on-year and as such, so does its ability to work collaboratively with the human workforce. Sensor systems have become far more adept and built with safety in mind, and features such as collaborative robots that can detect too much resistance to their movement so they automatically shut down. The positive effect here is a safer workplace for employees, and a far lower risk of accidents occurring which can lead to costly lay-offs or even compensation claims.

 

Enhanced Data Capture

The data captured during manufacturing provides not only an invaluable insight into improving best practices but also to maximise efficiency and control over machine usage. Precise detail about wastage, energy consumption and Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) can be analysed and used to constantly improve the production process.

Over time this will build a pattern of data that will produce predictive capabilities for factories to understand where and when machines may break down, minimise wastage and significantly lower energy costs. Rather than averaging these elements out across multiples lines produced within the same facility, the exact data for each product can be captured and analysed. This will allow companies to pinpoint definitive costs for every line produced in their factories.

 

Lower Labour Costs

As is the case in many specialised trades, manufacturers are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit skilled workers. A generation or two ago the sector was seen as offering a stable career, but with school leavers given access to an increasing range of educational courses, many young people are opting for office-based roles.

In order to keep pace with growing consumer demand, the skill gap can be filled with the use of bespoke automation. One machine can perform the tasks of several workers and with none of the typical staff benefits required, the cost remains sustainably low and can therefore be projected over a longer period of time.

 

Efficient Production Lines

If a strong enough business case cannot be made to invest in automated machinery that can take on several duties, there are still alternatives available. A production line can operate more efficiently if existing machines are linked together through the installation of automated processes. This can be applied to older machines that can be retrofitted with new technology or connected via robots and conveyer systems.

The transfer time between machines will be shortened, creating faster throughput and overall improved manufacturing efficiency. Labour costs will also be reduced, and the overall unit cost per item will become cheaper, increasing profits and opening new investment opportunities.

 

Bespoke Automation

Specialised machines built to perform specific tasks have always existed in one form or another. While they offer many advantages, one of the biggest draw backs is how isolated they become from the overall manufacturing process. Automated machines that are designed to perform bespoke duties can not only do so at a faster rate, but can, if required, take on additional processes.

Alternatively, it is much easier to program an automated machine to work in conjunction with other areas of the production line. This gives you all the advantages of utilising a bespoke system without the concerns of slowing down manufacturing throughput.

 

Conclusion

Lowering costs is one of the main advantages of automation investment, a factor that a growing number of factories are taking into consideration across the globe. Automation provides the answers to a number of manufacturing issues, while delivering tangible results on the bottom line. Delivering the best possible experience for your customers starts in production and this exciting technology allows you to find that all important competitive edge.

 

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If you would like to find out how automation could help you reduce your production costs, contact us on 01223 499488 or helpline@granta-automation.co.uk and we will be very happy to discuss this with you.

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How does Automation Affect Productivity?

Improved productivity is the golden ticket that every business hopes to win!

golden-ticketIf this can be achieved while also reducing costs then this perfect combination will only lead to improvements across the business as a whole. The main purpose of automation is to meet these two crucial factors which is why the use of technology is becoming so common place right across the supply chain. Productivity is crucial to gaining a sustainable advantage over competitors and increasing a foothold in the market. Meeting those targets is an analysis that needs constant attention, and the implementation of the smallest of changes can have a hugely beneficial effect. We’ve listed a small number of productivity benefits that can be gained from the introduction of automation into your manufacturing process.

 

Less Manual Delays

With less interruptions in production flow, the benefits here are easy to understand. Manual quality assurance checks are no longer required if an automated equivalent is installed, increasing the hourly throughput. This also applies to faults that occur during manual production processes. Human error results in the loss of significant response time when assessing and repairing the problem. In-built technology within an automated system such as vision inspection can perform on-going checks and balances, and if production is forced to halt, the downtime is far shorter.

 

Optimal Machine Efficiency  

Rather than spread elements of the production process across multiple machines or devices, automation allows one machine to perform an array of different tasks. Without the need to transfer product parts from one machine to another and with more accuracy gained, a larger number of units can be produced within the same period. Bespoke automation allows each machine to be designed and built to match the specific demands of the manufacturing process it is being installed into.

 

Manual Productivity

Not every part of the business can be automated and the growing fear over its impact on job stability is one of the main concerns in the workforce. However, increased use of automation does not have to result in a reduction of the human work force. Rather than placing staff on boring, repetitive tasks – which often leads to injuries and interruptions in production – re-positioning them onto jobs that utilise their skills will enhance their experience and improve productivity in other areas of the business. Improving productivity does not just mean directly within production, but also how this naturally filters through and impacts other connected areas of the business.

 

Manufacturing Data

Valuable information about the production process can be retained through the use of automation ensuring that knowledge typically lost during a manual process is instead stored for analysis. This is essential to further improving the use of the automated machines that are currently in use. Data logging systems allow this to be shared across the business, especially within the early design stage. The connection between these two business functions allows product designers to understand where changes can be made to find extra productivity in production once the product is ready to be made.

 

Management and Supervision

Similar to how workers can be moved away from repetitive tasks into areas that reflect and encourage skill development, there is a positive effect felt with the management staff. Rather than spending more time micro-managing, automation allows managers to be more creative with their resources. Of course, they will always be available to step in where required, but with more concentration focused in other areas of the business, they too can utilise their experience and skill more wisely. Management are typically in possession of years of experience, and being able to implement this within the company on a more widespread basis will only prove to be hugely beneficial.

 

Introducing New Products

The introduction of a new line of products opens the door to increased commercial possibilities but also creates new manufacturing problems to be solved. More often than not, new items are combined with existing products on the same line. Using traditional manufacturing methods this naturally slows down production due to increased changeover time, lowering the overall effectiveness of the machine. Automation, through the use of integrated robotics, can provide the ideal solution. Improved end-of-arm tooling can help maintain and improve the speed of production that existed before the implementation of the new products.

 

Conclusion

This is only a brief insight into how productivity can be improved through the addition of automation. Improved efficiency and significant cost savings will also be felt once the technology has integrated fully into the operational set-up. From production, to employees and ultimately the consumer, automation encourages a far more productive manufacturing process when compared to manual production lines.

Every manufacturing and production facility faces individual challenges that are unique to their business and market. We have worked with companies of all sizes to find sustainable solutions that can be implemented in real-time.

If you are looking for ways to increase productivity within your business, you can contact one of our sales team who can talk through the options available to you. Simply email our helpline helpline@granta-automation.co.uk, or call us on 01223 499488.

 

 

Why not use our productivity calculators to calculate the productivity of your production process and see where productivity could be improved? 2 Ways to Measure the Productivity, Effectiveness or Efficiency of your Machinery or Factory

 

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What are the Benefits of Production Automation?

production-automationThe concept of production automation is nothing new of course, with rudimentary automated machinery being put to use as far back as the industrial revolution. Human interaction with machinery has become more intertwined as the decades have passed and we are now stepping into a new age of advanced technology. Manufacturing is more reliant than ever on automation to increase capacity and enhance efficiency, all in the aim of being more productive. Modern automation is generating a lot of discussion around the role it will play across the manufacturing sector, but what are its advantages and how can it be best put to use in production facilities?

Improving best practice

Production automation provides the opportunity to analyse manufacturing methods and make noticeable improvements to current processes. The use of vision inspection systems is a prime example, automating quality assurance and control in ways never before possible. Not only are defects and issues highlighted and handled quickly, but the accuracy of production increases, improving overall throughput and productivity. This is vital for companies working in industries such as food or manufacturing, where they must adhere to particularly stringent industry guidelines.

 

Bespoke and tailored solutions

There are a number of off-the-shelf production automation devices available on the market but given the differing size and scale requirements of manufacturers, a more tailored approach is often required. Bespoke automated machinery is built with the intention of addressing the individual requirements of the facility it is being installed within. Bespoke machines are designed and built to work within existing environments, and quickly enhance the production line. In some quarters, the word bespoke can be translated as meaning “more expensive”, but this is not always the case. The initial cost is an important factor when building a business case for automation but the short and long-term returns need to be taken into consideration.

 

Improve traceability

The tracking of products is a vital part of any manufacturer’s long-term strategy. Not only does it provide invaluable information about where improvements can be made during production itself but also for the quality of the finished product. Not only do data logging systems retain detailed data generated during manufacturing, the technology will identify issues the moment they occur. The key advantage here is that downtime is easier to manage as problems can be quickly analysed and resolved. This type of production automation is ideal for use in conjunction with vision inspection systems. When configured within the same production line, quality control rapidly improves due to the amount of big data that is now readily available.

 

Eliminate potential bottlenecks

The main objective of automation is to improve efficiency and productivity within the manufacturing process. In order to achieve that, machines need to be operating at full capacity and ensuring their element of the production chain is not creating a bottleneck that slows down the workflow. One method of automation that excels in this area is robotic automation. Robotic automation increases the speed at which parts are removed or loaded from the production line, helping to ease congestion. When throughput is running as close at it can to optimal levels then this also helps to lower costs and strengthen productivity.

 

Making the most of existing machinery

Companies looking at investing in production automation invariably view the cost as one of the driving factors behind their decision. The concept of automation brings to mind new, futuristic machinery that replaces old, out-of-date technology. In many cases this is true but there are cost effective ways in which you can modernise without reinventing the wheel. Old machinery can be adapted to accommodate bespoke automation, bringing many of the benefits that come with newer versions. While you may not achieve the sort of optimisation that comes with the installation of brand new automated machinery, efficiency, accuracy and speed will all certainly advance.

 

Optimising factory space

With growing demands being placed upon distribution centres due to the rise of e-shopping, this also places stress onto the manufacturing element of the supply chain. Companies performing well could be looking to increase capacity which may require new premises, but this is not always a financially viable option. Automation can be designed to make the most of the space available, sometimes even offering vertical solutions, rather than spreading outward across floor level. Automated machinery can be more compact and yet still produce more efficient returns, allowing you to reclaim valuable floor space.

 

 

The 2017 Annual Manufacturing Report by Hennik Research revealed that 65% of those surveyed had invested in some form of automation in the past 12 months. Even amidst the uncertainty of Brexit, investment in automated systems is allowing manufacturers to upgrade their facilities and find those all-important competitive gains. Automation is as adaptable as you need it to be, finding new and inventive ways to assist companies in maximising their production output.

 

To discuss how production automation could benefit your production process, contact us on 01223 499488 or email us at helpline@granta-automation.co.uk .

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Why is the UK Government so Interested in Automation?

Why-is-the-government-so-interested-in-automation

As Brexit talks slowly edge towards deeper and more complex negotiations, the process has highlighted a range of issues across a number of industries that may otherwise have remained untouched. Production investment in the UK has been an ongoing cause for concern as lack of improvement in post war productivity becomes more highlighted than ever. Industry planning outside of the EU will require considerable organisation and investment and automation will remain central in the new manufacturing landscape.

 

The current status in the UK

Five years ago the UK, which at the time was the 7th largest economy in the world, held a worldwide ranking of 19th in terms of robot density within the manufacturing sector. According to a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, in 2015 the UK were behind countries such as the US, Germany, Japan and South Korea. For every 10,000 employees working in general industry, in the UK there were only 33 robots in use. In addition to this, there were only 10 robots per million hours worked. When you compare this to 133 for Germany, 167 for Japan and 131 in the US, we can see there is still some work to do.

Automation is a key global industry that will prove pivotal to the sustained growth of future economies, and these figures suggest the UK has some ground to recover. The restructuring of the manufacturing sector that occurred throughout the 70s and 80s meant that many began to see the industry as outdated and secondary to the importance of the newly deregulated financial institutions and markets. In the decade between 2005 and 2015, it is worth noting that productivity in the manufacturing sector grew three times faster than the entire UK economy. The sector is currently responsible for 45% of all UK exports which see us positioned as the 9th largest industrial nation in the world. With technology becoming more accessible and cost effective, the fourth industrial revolution is moving at a rapid pace, and the Government is keen to see the UK working on the cusp of these developments.

 

The government’s plans

At the start of this year, the government unveiled its Industrial Strategy. This outlined a plan to invest £2 billion per year by 2020 for new research and development in the tech sector. Only last week Prime Minister Theresa May announced additional funding of £17.3 million for research and development into AI in universities. These ambitious plans aim to place the UK at the centre of the next tech-driven industrial age, in an attempt to recover the shortcomings that have occurred over the past few decades.

Smart manufacturing and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIot) will build upon the work that automation has already forged over the past decade and a half. By focusing on the possibilities that automation allows, it presents the opportunity to push the boundaries of technological innovation so vital to growing the UK economy in a post-Brexit world. Robotics and integrated automation is set to revolutionise the entire supply chain. For example, when you consider that approximately 80% of warehouses still rely on manual processes, you can see the environment is ripe for development.

 

What the future holds in store

With augmented and virtual reality technology becoming far more accessible, the next generation of automated tools will provide a more interconnected landscape. This will find use in areas such as plant maintenance, predictive maintenance, virtual reality tools and processes and, of course, the continued implantation of robotics using this technology along with advanced AI.

Now is the ideal time for government and businesses to build a coherent strategy that will position the UK as a leader in the field of technological innovation. Both are aware that manufacturing will remain at the forefront of these changes and blueprints for regulatory reforms, as well as skills training, will need to be identified and clearly structured.

The good news is that many companies are planning to solidly invest in automation over the next two years. The annual EEF/Santander Annual Investment Monitor survey surveyed 328 businesses in August and over 51% stated they intended to increase their spend in this area. What the results also reveal is that this is mostly to satisfy current demand and capacity, rather than to improve productivity and increase production. Understandably, many companies are in a state of flux due to the uncertainty produced by our planned exit from the EU. This makes the need for an industrial strategy to be delivered by the government more urgent than ever.

 

 

As a market leader in automation, Granta will be a key player in the changing face of manufacturing over the next few years and beyond. For manufacturers uncertain of what Brexit holds in store, the opportunities that automation offers right now can add significant benefits to your business, providing a crucial competitive edge.

The first step is to look at our innovative project builder to gain an idea of the type of automation that suits your organisation. Our sales team are also able to answer any further questions you might have and they can be reached on 01223 499488 or by email helpline@granta-automation.co.uk.

 

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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?

How-can-I-improve-quality-control

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?

vision-inspection

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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