Modular standards and a single platform help optimize design and development of custom automated assembly systems for many industries.
What do a pharmaceutical products plant and an automotive equipment line have in common? At first glance, very little. But equipment builder Eagle Technologies Group has uncovered commonalities that enable the company to create custom automated assembly systems for a diverse clientele efficiently and cost-effectively.
“We recognize that today's manufacturers face increasing pressure to speed their products to market,” says Brandon Fuller, vice president of sales and marketing, Eagle Technologies Group. “And they must do so in an environment where skilled labor is difficult to find.”
Eagle Technologies addresses these needs head-on with engineered turnkey systems that meet aggressive timelines. Established in 1953 and headquartered in Bridgman, Michigan, the company has grown from a regional tool-and-die maker to a global OEM specializing in custom factory automation solutions.
“From a project standpoint, we tend to say we'll do anything from automotive equipment to apple pies,” Fuller notes. “No matter what the industry, companies engage us in applications that require a new way of approaching a manufacturing assembly challenge.”
Modular Design Accelerates Development
A key common denominator between all applications is the conveyance system that transports parts to and from the processing stations on the line. These oftentimes massive systems can include 10,000 linear ft. of conveyors, 50 processing machines and hundreds of motors.
“While the processing equipment we build varies greatly depending on the application, the conveyance systems can be fairly consistent,” Fuller explains. “Our design and development process uses those similarities.”
To expedite development and delivery, Eagle Technologies builds their systems modularly and has standardized on Rockwell Automation control solutions. Modules on the line include Allen-Bradley® Compact GuardLogix® controllers and Allen-Bradley Kinetix® 350 servo drives for machine control. GuardLogix safety controllers provide overall system coordination and supervisory control.
Allen-Bradley ArmorStart® LT distributed motor controllers provide modulated speed control throughout the conveyance system. Mounted locally near the motors in each module, ArmorStart controllers help integrate combination starters, I/O and network capabilities. This On-Machine™ approach significantly reduces both enclosure space and wiring time.
The systems are integrated on an EtherNet/IP™ network and include Allen-Bradley Stratix 5700™ managed industrial Ethernet switches.
By standardizing on the GuardLogix platform, Eagle Technologies can efficiently achieve the safety functionality required by a range of applications.
“Keep in mind turnaround for a completed project can be 30 weeks or less,” Fuller says. “With the Rockwell Automation solution, we can typically reuse up to 90% of our control system design — and save significant time.”
The controller programming environment, Studio 5000 Logix Designer™, also integrates with the computer-aided design (CAD) program Eagle Technologies uses. Add-On Instructions (AOIs) in Studio 5000 further speed application development and consistency. With AOIs, the company can encapsulate commonly used control algorithms and easily reuse them from project to project.
Simply put, by using modular standards, Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture® platforms, and best practices, Eagle Technologies can optimize their total time to design, develop and deliver solutions — and ultimately help their customers improve time to market.
The Eagle Technologies campus, located within driving distance of both Chicago and Detroit, boasts a 100,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility where systems are assembled and tested before shipment to the end-user's location.
“Our customers are often surprised by the size and scope of our facilities,” Fuller explains. “We conduct the Factory Acceptance Tests (FAT) here — and make sure the entire system meets customer expectations before installing it.”
Eagle Technologies complements this turnkey approach with service and support offerings to help keep their systems running optimally. The company brings customers to their site for training as needed, and also serves as the point of contact for any additional required workforce development.
“We always connect our customers with the experts,” Fuller notes. “We work closely with our Rockwell Automation distributor, Kendall Electric, to secure any necessary control system or application training.”
EtherNet/IP connectivity allows Eagle Technologies to offer remote system monitoring to help maintain equipment health and to provide customers with key performance indicators — such as cycle data — that can lead to improvements and more efficient production. About half of the company's customers take advantage of the remote monitoring service.
“With remote monitoring, we can support our machines in Malaysia, China, Australia, Europe — anywhere,” Fuller says. “Our goal is satisfied customers, and we work hard to provide or secure the expertise they need throughout the lifecycle of their project.”
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