Productivity Increased and Footprint Reduced by Half with iTRAK

Improving Productivity and Footprint with iTRAK

Challenge

  • Maga Active was challenged with building an automated assembly machine that not only offered higher throughput and greater precision, but also took up less space.

Solutions

Results

  • Greater throughput
  • Higher speeds between stations
  • Smaller footprint
  • Enhanced speed and accuracy
  • Excellent platform for future projects

Irrigation-dripper assembly machine jumps in performance but shrinks in size thanks to Integrated Architecture and iTRAK

Background

Established in 1992, Maga Active specialises in the design, build and automation of assembly machines and lines, offering turnkey projects for customers in, among others, the irrigation equipment industry.

During a recent project, Maga Active was approached by a customer in Greece to develop a new machine for the automated assembly of insertion and drilling systems for drippers for agricultural irrigation lines. The new solution was to replace a much larger existing fixed-pitch assembly system with a much more compact, variable-pitch machine based around the use of high-speed servo systems and cameras for quality control.

With both variable pitch and speed forming the crux of the new machine, Maga Active turned to Rockwell Automation with its innovative iTRAK® Independent Cart Technology, which offers multiple movers that can traverse a track independently of each other.

Limited shop floor space coupled with the need for greater throughput and product flexibility were the primary challenges

Challenge

Limited shop floor space coupled with the need for greater throughput and product flexibility were the primary challenges of this machine, in conjunction with the accuracy needed to precisely place various small and sometimes flexible components. Complete integration was also essential with the line’s vision system, which monitored the in-line and end-of-line product quality.

The customer was also looking to improve both throughout and output volumes for what are small but precise commodity products that face demanding constant use in agricultural applications.

Solution

The iTRAK solution deployed by Maga Active is comprised of independently controlled movers running on straight and curved paths, instantly removing the limitations of fixed-pitch systems. Its highly innovative capabilities combine both linear and rotary motion, resulting in a flexible, fully integrated solution that can increase production throughput, reduce maintenance and overall machine size.

The customer was looking to improve both throughout and output volumes

Maga’s machine has 10 work stations along the iTRAK. Some work stations undertake sub-assembly operations, while others carry out inspection of the assembly operation using high-resolution cameras, which sort them as pass/fail. The last working station on the track ejects the drippers in to good/reject boxes.

Each iTRAK mover carries eight products in dedicated assembly jigs - a per-batch product count which immediately ramps up the production rate compared to the incumbent solution. As the mover presents each batch at the individual assembly station, various operations are undertaken to add components or orientate the assembly ready for the next step. Each station has three levels – corresponding to the component parts (base, silicone seal and cover) – and servos are used to move the parts from one level to the next depending on the operation being undertaken.

Complete integration with the line’s vision system was essential

The iTRAK system is part of a Rockwell Automation® Integrated Architecture® solution, which is used to both actuate and control the majority of the machine’s primary functions. At the heart of the automation infrastructure is an Allen-Bradley CompactLogix® programmable automation controller (PAC) working in conjunction with an Allen-Bradley PanelView™ Plus 7 operator interface. In addition to the iTRAK servo solution, the machine deploys a number of Allen-Bradley Kinetix® 350 servo drives to control Allen-Bradley TL-Series™ Electric Cylinders, which undertake the Z axis movement between the three levels at each assembly station.

Each iTRAK mover carries eight products in dedicated assembly jigs

Results

“The customer already had an automated assembly machine based on a popular indexing-table solution,” explains Yehuda Duenyas, CEO of Maga Active, “but it was big, slow and was only single pitch/speed, so the whole machine was dependent on and throttled by the speed of the slowest operation. With this new system, we can achieve a throughput of 180 - 205 pieces per minute – far more than the older system it is replacing. The next machine will target 220-230 ppm.”

Another major factor behind the productivity gains is the independent movement of each iTRAK mover. By operating independently, there is no “weak link” caused by long dwell times that would prevent the other assembly jigs traversing quickly between stations when their operations are complete.

Maga’s machine has 10 work stations along the iTRAK unit

The iTRAK movers can move at speeds up to 5 m/s while still maintaining an accuracy of up to 0.5 mm. Finally – and just as important to the end user – the new machine’s footprint is 40% smaller than the machine it replaces. “We have been able to deliver a state-of-the-art assembly solution that not only offers significant performance benefits, but also takes up less valuable real estate,” Duenyas enthuses. “We enjoyed great support from Rockwell Automation in Israel and we thought the team helping us was very effective in dealing with the technical aspects of the solutions. The Integrated Architecture solution and iTRAK, with its outstanding performance, functionality and reduced footprint, will be used as a basis for future Maga Active machines.”

Allen-Bradley, CompactLogix, iTRAK Kinetix, PanelView Plus Rockwell Automation TL-Series are trademarks of Rockwell Automation, Inc.

Trademarks not belonging to Rockwell Automation are property of their respective companies.

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