A More Cost-Effective Way
Automation NTH determined that the production costs of the assembly process were driven by the extensive footprint of the system.
“The assembly system resides in a cleanroom, a costly environment,” Buck explained. “And scaling up production by increasing the manufacturing footprint would adversely impact product price.”
To develop a more cost-effective approach, Automation NTH turned to MagneMover® LITE™, an intelligent conveyor system from Rockwell Automation.
Instead of running at fixed speed and fixed pitch like conventional conveyors, MagneMover LITE enables independent control of magnetically propelled carriers on a track in a simpler, more compact footprint. The system is designed to run light loads efficiently – and as a contactless drive system, it performs well in a cleanroom environment.
Working with Rockwell Automation technical support, Automation NTH used simulation software to help guide the system design.
How It Works
An Automation NTH proprietary software engine serves as an interface between the MagneMover LITE carriers and the controller.
“By default, the software engine is configured to handle up to 100 carriers – and 100 stations,” Cocchini said. “It’s like a template and can be used every time we develop a system.”
Similarly to a robot, the MagneMover LITE system can be trained using a manual mode to jog the carrier to the precise position.
“You just walk the line and teach,” Cocchini said.
The station manager feature enables users to add, remove or change stations without additional programming. It also considers user-defined behavior and current machine conditions to determine the best station destination for the next carrier.
“Everything is dynamic,” Cocchini explained. “The MagneMover LITE system assesses the real-time situation – and then automatically chooses the action that has the least impact on Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).”
While the medical device is 100% machine-assembled, the manufacturer wanted the flexibility to use either a robotic or manual process for picking and loading items at the stations, depending on facility business requirements.
“We designed a hybrid approach – and that’s where MagneMover really shined,” said Cocchini.
Because accelerations, decelerations, velocities and positions are programmable, the same equipment can be modified to support either the manual or robotic “pick and load” process.