Self-Contained Assembly System Offers Flexibility
A modular assembly platform can be reconfigured and reprogrammed on the fly to suit new products.
There are few characteristics more desirable in a product than flexibility. But despite industry demands for versatility, AGR Automation Ltd. (Arbroath, Angus, Scotland) noticed that assembly systems on the market were marred by restrictions and limitations. Conveyor and cam-driven applications required tedious modifications when an operator wished to change the product on the line, while a competing assembly platform tied users to an existing systems integrator, according to David Hook, North American sales manager for AGR. With the SmartPod, a self-contained modular assembly platform, AGR sought to fill this void.
“Once you take a cam-driven or hard-tool system, if you want to switch to [the assembly of] another product, it’s quite a chore to sit there and change all the cams and change the infrastructure to it,” Hook says. “With the SmartPod, it’s just a matter of taking off the old tooling and, through the software—which is a Windows-based .net software program—it’s easy to reconfigure the pallets’ location, where they stop, how they react, and how many stations you’re going to have on the platform itself.”
In fact, AGR boasts that the complete system can be easily configured and reprogrammed on the fly, while stations can be moved or changed over within 15 minutes. Access via gull-wing doors helps to expedite maintenance or modification processes as well.
“Also, end-users were not allowed to buy it [the technology] as a made platform like we sell it and be able to tool it up themselves, so it’s been a tremendous advantage to them now to be able to buy this platform themselves,” Hook says. “A lot of large companies have internal integration groups and want to do this work internally and just buy the components. Up until the SmartPod came out, this technology wasn’t available.”
The SmartPod is available as an untooled system that can perform a number of assembly, test, and packaging functions. Conversely, the system can be supplied fully tooled for a specific application. Tooling for two- to six-axis pick-and-place; laser cutting and drilling; laser, thermal, and ultrasonic welding; paper and foil punching; liquid dispensing; adhesive application and curing; testing, sensing, and vision inspection; microassembly; and mold-unload robot, cartridge, vibratory feed system, and belt conveyor integration applications are offered.
Product specifications include a 30-kg payload, a stop repeatability of ±0.05 mm, and production of 20 to 500 assemblies per minute. Furthermore, AGR equips the system with complete guarding, cable bases, controls, and pallets. The modules allow four pallets on each linear drive. The company also touts that the pallet can operate as an x-axis for expanded use of two- and three-axis pick-and-place units. “It’s more of an all-inclusive assembly platform than what traditionally you can put out there,” Hook says.
Designed within a sleek modular shell, the assembly platform is certified as a Class 10,000 cleanroom. The standard module measures 4144 ¥ 2000 ¥ 2046 mm, and additional modules are offered in increasing increments of one meter.
Though the platform had previously been available in Europe, it made its U.S. debut last fall at the Assembly Technology show in Chicago. The SmartPod system is suited for end-users who have in-house integration capabilities, or those who provide automated assembly services. Medical applications include the automated assembly of such high-volume items as single-point disposable products.