In recent decades, manufacturing technology has been moving towards automated operation, allowing humans to step back from many processes. Press equipment is a key part of these developments. More and more tools and features are being developed to increase press automation. Let’s take a look at a few of the best press equipment tools for automation in use and in development now.
The Best Press Equipment Tools for Automation
1. Force and Distance Monitoring
Force and distance monitoring systems provide real-time analysis of the press cycle. The system can be programmed with set parameters for “pass” and “fail,” which helps to assure that the assembly operation was performed correctly, which in turn prevents non-conforming assemblies from making their way into the final product, resulting in field failure. Graphical outputs also make it easy to analyze the press’s activity, allowing operators or engineers to make corrections in the process or design where needed. This can also help determine if the press is not operating correctly and requires preventative maintenance or service. Force and distance monitoring features are one of the most powerful and best press equipment tools for factory automation.
2. Rotary Index Tables
There are many different types of rotary index tables, all which have improved efficiency across a variety of manufacturing processes, including pressing operations. Rotary index tables are a cornerstone of efficient press automation. These rotary devices allow materials to move sequentially between various processing stations, ensuring that each process is completed quicker and more continuously, without interruptions. With a rotary index table, manufacturers can reduce or eliminate manual material handling, reduce cycle times, and achieve consistent results across production runs. This tool maximizes throughput and efficiencies, making it an indispensable press equipment tool for automation.
3. Vision Systems
The integration of vision systems adds a layer of intelligence and machine learning to automated press equipment. These systems are among the most recent, and perhaps the most impressive, new developments in press equipment tools for automation. The potential of these systems is still being explored, especially as artificial intelligence systems become more sophisticated.
Vision systems utilize cameras and image processing software to “see” the component in ways that are similar to a person’s vision. However, these systems have the processing speed and programmatic, single-focus of a machine, allowing it to inspect and verify components and workpieces before, during, and after the pressing process. These systems can detect defects, irregularities, and misalignments that might otherwise go unnoticed. They’re also useful in assembly, sorting, counting, and similar tasks. This allows humans to step back from repetitive or dangerous tasks which machines can be optimized for.
Sensors have been used for decades to provide more data, prevent problems, and optimize manufacturing systems. Each year, the potential and power of these sensors increases, while they also become more affordable and accessible to smaller operations. Sensors play a pivotal role in automated press environments by providing the necessary data for accurate control and decision-making. The previously mentioned technologies all rely on sensors of various types, though sensors can also be used on a case-by-case basis for individual improvements.
Pressure sensors are commonly used in automated presses to monitor the force applied during the pressing process, ensuring consistency and preventing overloading. Pressure sensors are also used to monitor air pressure and optimize pneumatic press systems, or monitor oil pressure in hydraulic systems.
Force sensors are also common, offering real-time feedback and allowing the system to adjust parameters on the fly for optimal results. Linear position sensors provide precise measurements of tooling positions, aiding in the alignment of materials and dies. These sensors collectively contribute to safer, more efficient, and highly adaptive automated press operations.
Conveyors are an older technology, but their designs are continually improving and their usefulness has continued to expand. Incorporating conveyors into press equipment automation streamlines material handling and transfer. Conveyors efficiently transport materials between various processing stages, minimizing the need for manual intervention. They enhance the overall flow of the production line, reduce cycle times, and improve the utilization of resources. By integrating conveyors with automated presses, manufacturers can achieve a continuous and synchronized workflow, boosting productivity and minimizing bottlenecks.
6. Robots and Cobots
The rise of robotics has revolutionized press automation. Robots and collaborative robots, or cobots, can execute a wide range of tasks, from material loading and unloading to complex assembly processes. These robotic systems work in tandem with press equipment, offering unmatched precision and speed. Cobots, specifically designed to work safely alongside human operators, bring a new level of flexibility and versatility to the automated press environment. By integrating robots and cobots, manufacturers can achieve higher levels of efficiency, reduce manual labor, and enhance workplace safety.
The journey towards automation in press equipment requires the integration of advanced tools and features that enhance precision, productivity, and quality. All of these technologies collectively contribute to a seamlessly automated press environment. As manufacturers embrace these innovations, they position themselves at the forefront of efficiency and competitiveness in the ever-evolving landscape of modern manufacturing.