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Sprovieri J.,ASSEMBLY Magazine
Assembly | Year: 2014

The article discusses how on November 13, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer from Boeing that would have kept manufacturing of the company's new 777X jet in Washington state. The IAM voted down the proposed eight-year contract extension because it would have cut benefits. If the story sounds familiar, it is. In 2009, Boeing threatened to set up a second assembly line for the 787 in South Carolina unless the IAM agreed not to strike for 10 years. (The union had gone on strike for a month in 2005 and again for 57 days in 2008.) The union called Boeing's bluff-and lost. The company got some $450 million in incentives and built a massive new factory in North Charleston, SC. By last count, the plant expects to add 2,000 jobs by 2020, bringing total employment at the facility to 8,000.


Sprovieri J.,Assembly Magazine
Assembly | Year: 2014

Integrating new technologies into custom automated assembly systems can sometimes be daunting. It can require many hours of research, development and engineering to verify the validity of the concept. ATC Automation recently did just that by completing an engineering study for a customer in the life science industry. The customer presented the task of isolating and orienting thin cylindrical parts from a bin as the first step of an optimized assembly process. Preventing deformation or damage to the parts throughout the feeding process was of utmost importance. However, that was going to be particularly challenging because of the delicacy of the parts. Two steps were necessary for the vision process: acquiring the 3D area map and locating the individual parts. Since the robot had to be clear of the bin for both of these processes, the vision process would take place while the robot was placing the previously picked part. If more time was needed, the robot would dwell outside the vision area and wait for the part location to be relayed.


Weber A.,Assembly Magazine
Assembly | Year: 2014

The Missouri University of Science and Technology is at the forefront of this additive manufacturing trend. Its Laser Aided Manufacturing Process Laboratory (LAMP) is focusing on how to use cutting-edge technology to produce metal parts that are stronger and better than what can be produced with traditional manufacturing processes. LAMP was initially funded by the National Science Foundation in 1998. The objective was to test how a blown powder metal deposition process could be used for rapid prototyping and rapid manufacturing. Three faculty members and 25 students are involved in LAMP research. Most R&D activity has focused on the aerospace industry and lightweight materials, such as titanium and Inconel. Research projects have centered around process modeling, repair and cladding, hybrid manufacturing, and advanced materials using additive manufacturing.


Weber A.,Assembly Magazine
Assembly | Year: 2014

Going paperless on the production line has never been easier. A variety of systems are available that allow manufacturers to use visual work instructions to boost productivity and improve quality. Although paperless systems have been around for more than 25 years, new software tools and mobile hardware platforms, such as low-cost tablets and the soon-to-be-launched Google Glass, provide engineers with more options than ever. Visual work instructions incorporate a number of validations to ensure that the correct components, tools, jigs and skills are applied to a process. So, if operators try to work on a process for which they are untrained, the system will automatically prevent work being carried out. One manufacturer that's bullish on visual work instructions is Hydro-Air Components Inc., which specializes in hydronic-based heating and cooling products. The company prides itself on its ability to design and assemble custom HVAC equipment with short lead times.


Weber A.,Assembly Magazine
Assembly | Year: 2014

The 'Extreme Makeover Home Edition' was a popular reality TV show in which an old house gets transformed in a matter of hours. If a similar show existed for factories, an automotive assembly plant in Lake Orion, MI, would be a good candidate. General Motors recently invested more than $500 million to revamp the facility and turn it into a showcase for lean material handling. Production lines were reworked, creating more space to house material onsite that once took up valuable space on the line. The Orion plant's CMA, which is managed by a third party, contains small-lot quantities of parts, such as nuts and bolts, that are packed in totes and cardboard boxes on pallets that would take up a tremendous amount of space line-side. There are roughly 1,800 different part numbers handled by the CMA. Everything they need is either kitted or sequenced to them line-side. That way, they are able stay within their footprint and perform their operation.


Weber A.,ASSEMBLY Magazine
Assembly | Year: 2014

Collaborative robots can perform a variety of repetitive assembly tasks all while safely and intelligently working next to people without the need for traditional safety barriers. One of the best-known collaborative robots is Baxter, which was unveiled in 2012 by Rethink Robotics Inc. The easy-to-use interactive robot was designed to handle light payloads and operate alongside people. It features advanced force sensing technology, back-drivable motors, and a moderate velocity that combine to reduce the likelihood and impact of a collision. Unlike traditional robots that require extensive software programming, Baxter can be trained quickly, just like a person. Assemblers interact with the robot directly to teach it to do a task. A German company called pi4 Robotics has developed a similar product called Workerbot. Universal Robots A/S developed its UR5 device to allow manufacturers to automate easily, inexpensively and flexibly.


Sprovieri J.,ASSEMBLY Magazine
Assembly | Year: 2014

Engineers have multiple options and many factors to think about when choosing a linear actuator. Frank Langro, director of marketing and product management at Festo Corp, advises that there is a need to consider what loads are to be moved and how fast one wants to move them. For the most part, pneumatic actuators are designed to move to only two positions. 'If all engineers need is two positions, there's no point in dealing with servos and controls,' advises R.J. Ruberti, team leader for linear systems at SCHUNK Inc., which offers both pneumatic and electric actuators. If the actuator must move to more than two positions, some units can be equipped with proportional flow valves to modulate air on both sides of the piston. The choice of motor depends on the application and the control technology. Stepper motors are best for applications with low speed and acceleration requirements. The choice of belt or screw drive depends on the application.


Weber A.,ASSEMBLY Magazine
Assembly | Year: 2014

Engineers at Honda Motor Co. have developed a new, continuous process for joining aluminum and steel using friction stir welding. The technology generates a stable metallic bond between steel and aluminum sheets by moving a rotating tool on the top of the aluminum, which is lapped over the steel with high pressure. The Honda engineers also developed a new way to apply the welding technology to mass-production vehicles, such as the Accord sedan. Traditionally, friction stir welding requires large equipment, but the new continuous welding system relies on a six-axis robot. In addition, Honda developed a nondestructive inspection system using a highly-sensitive infrared camera and laser beam, which enables inline inspection for every unit. General Motors' resistance spot welding process uses a patented multi-ring domed electrode that does what smooth electrodes are unreliable at doing, welding aluminum to aluminum. A team of engineers at Brigham Young University developed friction-bit joining process, which uses a small, consumable bit to create a solid-state joint.


Weber A.,ASSEMBLY Magazine
Assembly | Year: 2014

The US furniture manufacturers need help implementing state-of-the-art assembly lines to revamp domestic production after more than a decade of offshoring. Many of those companies are seeking assistance from the Franklin Furniture Institute (FFI) at Mississippi State University. The 27-year-old organization is operated by the Forest Products Department of the College of Forest Resources. However, the multidisciplinary effort also taps experts from Mississippi State's architecture, business and engineering schools. The FFI boasts a 5,000-square-foot laboratory equipped with machines and fixtures for testing components and joints. Several years ago, FFI focused heavily on frame design and structural performance. For instance, a major study examined the mechanical properties associated with using oriented strand board (OSB) as a frame stock, because of its cost-saving advantages.


Sprovieri J.,ASSEMBLY Magazine
Assembly | Year: 2014

The origin of an innovative, new high-speed assembly system from Canadian systems integrator Transformix Engineering Inc. came not from a project to assemble small parts in high volumes, but rather a need to plant sugarcane. Since Transformix opened its doors in 1995, the company has designed special machines for a wide range of industries. It has built machines for reworking nuclear fuel rods and machines for cleaning newly pilgered metal tubes. The company has designed machines to assemble small products, such as IV sets and aerosol valves, and large products, such as train axles. Transformix's engineers solved the problem with a vision system and a high-speed servo, says Larry Allingham, vice president of operations for Transformix. Razor-sharp blades are mounted to the shaft of the motor. The cane is fed into the machine lengthwise. The stalks pass beneath a camera, and the vision system locates areas with buds. It then signals the motor to speed up or slow down to cut the billets at just the right time.

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