Vacuum cups are designed to improve operational reliability, longevity, and productivity for pick-and-place parts handling.
Polyurethane material provides wear-resistance when compared to rubber, promoting longer service life and reduced maintenance. In addition, polyurethane will not leave marks on handled objects and has elastic memory, even after hundreds of thousands of cycles. The material rates 60 on the durometer scale, making it easier to pick up highly contoured panels, while withstanding elevated shear forces created by increased acceleration and deceleration rates.
In theory, it’s a great idea. Network every machine in a factory, record every action, analyze that data for patterns, predict when machines are going to fail, and use the power of modern computing to improve every aspect of the manufacturing process.
Call it the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industry 4.0, the hype is the same. Advanced computing technology will revolutionize how manufacturers design and build products and save everyone money along the way.
The biggest question is who’s in charge. Many toolmakers have developed monitoring technologies for their own equipment, but that doesn’t provide a universal control unless manufacturers get all of their tools from the same provider.
“Customers want to have the optimum milling machine, the optimum grinding machine for the application, so they will have a mix of different machine tool builders,” says Starrag Group Vice Chairman Frank Brinken. “Then, you want to interconnect these machines? Good luck.”
Sharing data and controls between machines from a variety of manufacturers creates a challenge. Who’s responsible for creating the system? Who’s to blame when machines fail to talk to each other? Who stores and analyzes the data?
Talk to machine tool producers, and the answer is clear – not us.
Tool producers are still focusing the bulk of their R&D efforts on improving their machines’ capabilities. Creating software tools is great, but it doesn’t generate nearly as much revenue as lowering cycle times.
“Our main purpose is still producing parts and components and making chips,” says Heller Group COO Manfred Maeir. “We as management have to be careful to divide what’s possible from what makes sense and what our customers are willing to pay us for. That’s the only thing that counts.”
Several of the participants urged control producers, such as Siemens and Fanuc, to take a dominant role in making data interoperable between machines. But even handing off responsibility to control makers doesn’t answer questions about data ownership and processing and what sort of costs manufacturers should face for adding these new capabilities.
As the conversations continued, the picture being drawn started to look a lot more like the three-letter enterprise software world – CAD, CAM, CRM, ERP, MES, PLM – a collection of systems that require third-party integrators to forge connections.
It’s a world where few products are usable off the shelf, often requiring months of custom software integration. And it can be a frustrating world where tracking down who is responsible for problems can lead to more finger pointing than answers.
Still, the advantages of connected manufacturing are clear, and businesses are spending resources chasing the Industry 4.0 dream. But a clear sign from the tool builders is that making it all work won’t be cheap or easy.
Brankamp X1 and X3 in-process monitoring systems for cold- and hot-forming, thread-rolling, and stamping operations provide real-time monitoring of machine parameters to identify manufacturing faults as well as part or tool variations. Process-integrated monitoring can detect quality defects such as cracks in components, broken tool elements, turned, or mis-introduced parts.
Sensors, placed in the right positions, convert energy into electrical signals that monitor tool and machine performance related to the forces applied. The systems learn the normal limits of the process, then the control unit observes the signals of each cycle and compares it with the stored curve. When the signal moves outside of the envelope curve, the formed part is sorted out or the machine is stopped.
The X1 and X3 systems provide eight channels for sensor signals and four others as zoom channels for detailed monitoring of specific, sensitive process areas.
Indexable punch broaches and holders machine shapes in workpieces where rotary broaching may not be feasible – such as greater depth of operation, tough materials, tooth height, chip evacuation challenges, and applications that require orientation.
Punch broaches are available to machine keyways, hexagons, Torx-style sixlobes, serrations, splines, and squares. In combination with the range of punch broach holders, users can expect high repeatability on lathes, milling machines, and presses.
The indexable punch broach holders use partial form broach tools and index either the tool or the workpiece, greatly reducing cutting pressure. This method of broaching benefits applications requiring no witness (pre-drill) marks, with excessive material removal, or when timing the form to a feature on the part is required.
Holders feature a rigid design with standard shank diameters ranging from 0.625" to 1.250". Metric shanks are also available.
PEM S-RT self-clinching free-running locknuts feature a modified thread for easier tightening of mating screws and vibration-resistant locking performance in thin metal assemblies. The modified thread formation allows mating screws to spin freely during attachment until clamp load is induced during the screw-tightening process. The applied clamp load then engages the locknut’s vibration-resistant locking feature, which locks the screw in place.
PEM S-RT self-clinching locknuts install into aluminum or steel sheets as thin as 0.030" (0.8mm) and become permanent parts of an assembly. Upon installation using a Pemserter or other standard press, the back side and assembly side of the host metal sheet will be flush or sub-flush for screw insertion.
Developed with the Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation (AEF), AEF high-voltage connectors transmit data and power for machinery from major agricultural machinery manufacturers.
The agricultural industry has traditionally relied on hydraulic or mechanical solutions for power transmission, but many equipment manufacturers are developing electrical and hybrid machinery and components, requiring new connectivity options. AEF high-voltage connections are designed to meet the future power requirements of ancillary equipment and attachments.
The C2X Middleware Platform uses wireless communication between two vehicles, or between a road and a vehicle, to support the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) standard specification of the United States, Europe, and Japan. The platform lets developers create software to exchange information, such as position, speed, and control of automobiles, and road infrastructure information obtained from surrounding signposts and roadside sensors.
There have been recent advances toward the commercialization of connected cars and automatic driving. However, the standard specifications for wireless communication are different depending on the country, and developers of C2X-targeted applications must do separate development according to each specification.
The VLS-128 light detection and ranging (LiDAR) unit uses 128 laser beams to generate high-resolution images for autonomous driving and advanced driver assistance systems, replacing a 64-laser system.
The sensor provides real-time 3D images around the vehicle and into the distance, producing billions of data points for computers. It is 70% smaller than the HDL-64 it replaces, with double the range and 4x the resolution. It operates in dry and wet environments.
PART 1 OF A 2-PART SERIES Part 1 looks at how poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can negatively impact productivity, product quality, and worker health. Part 2 will cover IAQ mitigation options and the benefits of implementing a qualified, well-designed system.
Lots of people love that fabulous new car aroma – but the processes that go into manufacturing automotive parts rarely smell so sweet. Automotive manufacturing can be a pretty dirty business. Welding, cutting, grinding, and machining processes all produce toxic particulates that lead to poor indoor air quality (IAQ) if not controlled. Working with plastics, rubber, vinyl, and insulation can also create air quality problems.
Each automotive manufacturing process has exposure risks, regulatory requirements, and mitigation challenges. Failing to control IAQ problems can hurt companies in many ways – some obvious, some less so.
Automotive manufacturers must comply with U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) air quality regulations or applicable regional/local regulations. Regulators set maximum permissible exposure limits (PELs) for compounds and elements released into the air during manufacturing. Companies with exposure levels that exceed PELs can be fined.
However, the costs of poor air quality go beyond regulatory repercussions. Failure to control fumes and particulates can harm:
Worker productivity: OSHA estimates that poor IAQ causes 6 lost workdays per year for every 10 employees. Resulting worker absences and reduced efficiency cost U.S. companies $15 billion annually.
Retention, recruiting: Manufacturers anticipate a shortage of 2 million skilled workers by 2025, according to The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte. The work environment, including IAQ, matters. Companies recruiting welders and other skilled tradespeople will find that a clean environment will lower turnover and improve recruiting.
Product quality: Uncontrolled particulates can permeate sensitive areas such as paint lines or electronic components.
Combustion risks: Some dust types are highly combustible, including aluminum, steel, fiberglass, and plastic. These dusts have Kst ratings (a measure of combustibility) 10x greater than wood, making them extremely dangerous if allowed to accumulate in the air.
The most serious problem faced by companies with uncontrolled fumes and dust are risks to worker health and safety. Different processes produce different kinds and levels of particulates, giving each process its own exposure risk profile.
IAQ risk by process
Welding – Manual and robotic welding produce fumes and smoke with widely varying characteristics. The toxicity and volume of fumes generated depend on three variables:
Type of welding
Materials (base, filler metals)
Composition of welding rod/wire
Weld fumes can contain toxic elements and compounds, including nickel, copper, vanadium, molybdenum, zinc, and beryllium. Fumes, made up of tiny particles that are inhaled deeply into the lungs, can have immediate and long-term impacts on worker health. Acute effects can include shortness of breath and respiratory irritation; eye, nose or throat irritation; or nausea. Long-term exposure to hexavalent chromium (hex chrome), manganese, and other elements can lead to chronic or deadly effects.
Hex chrome fumes are generated from elemental chrome found in welding consumables, typically when welding stainless steel or other chromium-containing alloys. Overexposure to hex chrome can cause asthma, eye irritation and damage, and ear drum perforation. A carcinogen, hex chrome is associated with elevated rates of cancer.
Manganese is found in virtually all types of welding wire and many base materials. When heated, it reacts with oxygen to form toxic, combustible fumes. Chronic manganese exposure can cause neurological damage (called manganism) that mimics multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Parkinson’s disease.
Weld fume overexposure can also cause a serious condition called metal fume fever or welding sickness. Metal fume fever causes non-specific, flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea, headache, muscle or joint pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue. With continued overexposure, the illness can progress to shock or convulsions, requiring immediate medical attention.
Aluminum welding produces magnesium oxide and aluminum oxide, both of which cause respiratory irritation. The filler metals used for welding aluminum components tend to be less dangerous than those used for welding steel, but breathing aluminum fumes is still dangerous. Long-term overexposure is associated with neurological effects, including cognitive impairments, peripheral neuropathy, and motor dysfunction.
Machining – Manufacturing engine blocks and other drivetrain components often involves precision machining. Machining lubricants create fine oil mists that can be invisible. As the mists settle, they can create slip-and-fall hazards for personnel. They also have health impacts when inhaled: depending on the size of the particulates and the chemistry of the lubricant, extended exposure may lead to asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronically impaired lung function, fibrosis of the lung, and cancer. Metalworking fluids can also become contaminated with disease-causing pathogens.
Cutting, grinding – Larger particulates from cutting and grinding don’t make their way as deeply into the lungs as the fumed particulates from welding, but the large volume of dust produced by these applications present special hazards. Fiberglass, metal, glass, plastics, and epoxy resins can all cause respiratory irritation; some materials are also carcinogenic when inhaled. Newer materials used in the automotive industry, including carbon fiber and composites, are associated with skin and respiratory irritation, contact dermatitis, and chronic interstitial lung disease.
Plastics – Molding cup holders, air conditioner vents, dashboards, and other plastic components creates its own set of health and safety challenges. Polymers and resins generate volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when heated during thermoplastic injection molding. The toxicity of the emissions depends on the type of plastic being processed. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) can produce hydrochloric acid gas, while acetyl plastics produce formaldehyde. Many of these chemicals are associated with long-term health risks – respiratory problems, central nervous system effects, and cancer – and some present an immediate asphyxiation risk of not controlled. Workers may also be exposed to plastic dusts when handling raw materials, which may come in the form of powders or pellets.
Rubber manufacturing – Like plastic manufacturing, rubber processing produces volatile emissions that can be toxic with overexposure. Breathing in fumes from rubber processing is associated with cancers of the bladder, stomach, and lungs, in addition to chronic respiratory problems, skin disorders, and possibly reproductive effects.
There are steps that you can take to ensure that your facility not only meets minimum regulatory requirements but, is prepared for any future changes. Meeting current OSHA PELs is a necessary start. However, many automotive companies are moving toward stricter internal standards for IAQ to meet productivity and sustainability goals. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has developed voluntary exposure guidelines based on rigorous science, which are rapidly becoming internationally recognized best practice for the manufacturing industry.
A well-designed air quality system can protect companies from legal liability and government fines, and sanctions while improving worker health, satisfaction, and productivity. A qualified air quality system designer can help automotive companies find solutions that balance costs, regulations, and goals. We’ll take a closer look at the mitigation options in our next IAQ article.