Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Servomotors and Your Holiday Shopping

Trudging through the stores over these past few weeks, you probably didn’t give much thought to the bags you were carrying – other than how heavy they were. Now that it’s time for a breather from the holidays, though, we thought we’d take a closer look at that mainstay of the retail experience, the plastic bag. At its most simple, the plastic bag is created from an enormous roll of plastic (think in the thousands of pounds), fed through a series of processes on one machine – picture a giant web –  or several, culminating in a handy, lightweight way to carry your purchases. With more features – handles, perforations, gussets, internal seals or zippers – comes more machinery and greater need for precision, which is where servomotors and motion control come into play.

Some estimates place plastic bag usage in the United States at 60,000 per second. Obviously, production needs to occur at an incredible speed just to keep up with this demand. There can be, however, no tradeoff in accuracy. Movement and placement are critically important to ensure a uniform product with very little waste. The feedback and communication capabilities of motion control are ideal for all of these needs. Take, for instance, a heat seal process for plastic bags. This seal not only needs to be placed at precisely the same location on millions of bags – the heating element also needs to just touch the material – too much, and it will sear right through, too little, and the seal will not occur. With motion control, all elements of the process are occurring in perfect choreography, with the heat seal knowing just where the bags are on the roll, and when to lower and raise itself. Without an integrated motion control system, this just would not be possible.

Contact us or see our site for more uses of motion control, or let us know how we can help achieve your manufacturing needs!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

SPS IPC Drives 2011: Our Recap

Exhibition SPS IPC Drives Presenter

Late last month, in the German industrial center of Nuremberg, automation companies from Europe and beyond convened at the SPS IPC Drives conference to explore some of the latest developments in motion control, drive systems, software, and more – and to discuss the future of these technologies, and manufacturing at large. Fitting for a nation renowned for its efficiency, the common thread connecting all of these technologies is that they refine manufacturing to unparalleled levels of precision and repeatability, all the while enabling faster and more accurate production than could be achieved through manual or mechanical methods. While the demands of a busy manufacturing shop did not allow us at IIS to make it to the trip to Germany, our partners at ODVA, sercos, and CC-Link were all exhibitors there, and we eagerly observed the developments from the show via its informative website.

Among some of the trends that exhibitors and conference participants alike showcased were:
•    Energy efficiency
•    Wireless control and communication among devices and equipment
•    “Future-safe” machinery, or equipment designed for both forward- and backward-compatibility

In terms of upcoming, future developments for automation:
•    Integrated safety controls
•    Modular motion control systems
•    Improved motor and transmission selection steps

For more, see this link. In addition, ZVEI, the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association, shared some state-of-the-industry information. The main points? With a 13% increase in motor sales and a major, 35% jump in AC drive sales, there is great cause for optimism in our business. Great news as we continue to improve manufacturing and help production facilities worldwide do their work more quickly, safely, and accurately.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Beverage Cans as Artwork? With Motion Control, Yes!

Catchy jingles, iconic logos, unforgettable catchphrases, and eye-grabbing color schemes. To this short sampling of the many ways in which beverage companies compete for your taste buds and dollars, add another: embossed cans. Seeking to add yet another sensory differentiator for a step up on their rivals, many firms have gone the route of including raised logos and designs on their cans, branching away from the familiar uniform cylindrical shape. This Basics of Design Engineering release details the process in greater depth, and, dating from 1999, shows that the practice is nothing new. The technology described, though, is no less impressive for being several years old, and wouldn’t be possible without motion control.

In manufacturing embossed cans, two factors are of utmost importance: speed and accuracy. The embossing locations must be perfectly positioned on the can’s face, and the process must be near-instantaneous. Why? At the time the article was written, Americans consumed 275 million beverage cans per day. Mind-boggling. Obviously, can production must occur at a similarly spectacular rate, and the sheer speed of this process is the most impressive aspect – and, combined with the need for near-perfect accuracy, is what makes motion control an indispensable tool.

Get ready for this: the system for which IIS designed a servomotor produces 1,700 cans each minute. That’s 28 per second! The diagram within the above link shows the process better than any description could, but the key takeaway here is that, including time for lifting cans on and off of the embossing die, the entire process is done in 713 milliseconds for one can. Simple mechanical automation processes just don’t have the accuracy or capability to maintain the high level and quality of production necessary in an operation like this – servo motion control was the only answer. 

With superior monitoring, testing, and performance analytics, our servomotor system enabled the manufacturer to increase efficiency and reduce waste even further. For more information on our full line of motion control devices, visit the Industrial Indexing Systems website.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

2011 Looks to Be A Success For Motion Control

Great news from the Motion Control Association today: ( 3rd quarter results indicate that 2011 will show an overall increase in motion control product orders. With 19% growth through the 3rd quarter, the industry looks to end the year on a healthy note, barring an unprecedented downtown in the 4th quarter. Fortunately for anyone who follows the MCA’s reports, and those of us who can’t stand surprises, they’re in the habit of projecting outcomes for the next two quarters as well. As you might imagine, these are well-researched forecasts, and this one in particular indicates, at worst, a flat 4th quarter. With those kinds of results guaranteeing a more prosperous 2011 than 2010, the adage of recent years does indeed prove true, that “flat is the new growth.”

Of course, in the face of all this good news, we’d want better than a flat 4th quarter, wouldn’t we? Absolutely. The flip side of all this good news – and it most certainly remains good news – is that while the 3rd quarter did show growth, at 4.2%, the first quarter showed a 29% increase over 2010. Obviously, that represents a downward trend, even as the year is recorded as a success. We’re confident in a bounce-back as 2012 begins, based on overall growth in manufacturing, and our experience in market fluctuations and cycles. Stay tuned to our blog for more information!