Tuesday, January 24, 2012

FIRST Robotics Competition Kicks Off: IIS Prepares to Hoop It Up

It’s that time of year again: early January means the annual FIRST Robotics Competition has kicked into full gear. With teams formed, sponsors on board, and mentors eager to assist, the first big event of the season occurred on January 7: Competition Kickoff!  As experienced competitors know, that’s the day when we finally find out what, exactly, we’ll be competing at. Just in time for the return of the NBA, this year’s contest is called Rebound Rumble, and it’s just what it sounds like: a basketball game.
In future editions of this blog, we’ll take a closer look at how the 2012 FRC is unfolding. Today, though, we’ll learn more about Industrial Indexing System’s involvement and history with the contest, and a bit more about the contest itself. One of the great benefits of the in-depth knowledge provided by years of experience is the opportunity to pass it on, and there are many involved in the FIRST Robotics Competition who take up those reins, offering an unprecedented combination of education and fun to thousands of kids, nationwide. From the FIRST organizers themselves, to sponsors like Xerox and J.C. Penney, to mentor groups like IIS, we all get to have a little fun ourselves, while serving our community in one of the best ways possible.
Dating back seven years, IIS has been contributing time and expertise to FIRST Team 1559 at the Victor Senior High School in Victor, NY (from 2005 to 2008) and FIRST Team 3003 at Canandaigua Academy High School here in Canandaigua, NY (from 2009 to 2012), helping students in areas from marketing and promotion, to electrical systems, to drive train mechanics. Of course, our knowledge of robotics comes in handy as well. Working with students with several years of competition experience under their belts, as well as first timers to FRC and to robotics, we view the commitment of the team members as an inspiration to everyone. Beyond school-night commitments during the week, teams even come in on Saturdays to work on their robots!
Stay tuned for more information on the competition and the team! Fellow competitors or past participants, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out via the comments, our Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

ARC 2012 Preview Part 1: A Look Back at sercos

As the ARC 2012 World Industry forum approaches, we thought it might be a worthy time to take a look at the software and protocols behind our automation systems. As regular customers and readers probably know, this means an in-depth look at sercos, specifically some of the latest uses and breakthroughs in device-to-control communication. Leading up to the February 6th, 2012 conference, which features ODVA as a co-sponsor, we’ll take some time in our next several blog postings to look at both the big picture of sercos, and it’s specific applications.

First, a bit of history. Although sometimes identified as a motion control system, sercos is actually but a means to that end. In reality, it is a communication system – one that allows the intricate functions of motion control to take place with precise repeatability through constant communication and feedback between the operating device (the one doing the work) and the control device (the one where instructions – a desired time interval or cutting width, for instance – are input). This may sound a bit simplistic to experienced users familiar with the full potential of sercos, but, in a nutshell, this is the philosophy behind the system. 

From the original implementation of sercos, the protocol has been upgraded and updated to the current sercos III, which addresses the reality of the prevalence of computer network communication with full Ethernet support. The “Plug and Play” motto of sercos III is a clear indication that the system now aims to be a complete communication system for all types of devices and functions – and also aims to make it as user-friendly as possible.

Future postings on this topic will address the role of sercos in power efficiency, energy standards, and even marketing tactics. Contact us with your own thoughts or experiences with sercos!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

No Bottlenecks: Motion Control Keeps Plastic Container Production Moving

A few weeks ago, we wrote about servomotors and bus communication systems in beverage can manufacturing. This week, we focus on plastic bottles. The extremely high volume and commensurate speed requirements for these products make them great examples of the uses and applications of motion control, which is why we keep returning to this industry. Beyond just soda bottles, this technology applies to other consumer containers as well: shampoo bottles, for instance, or food products like ketchup and mustard. Besides the high speed and precision molding required for most of these containers, motion control’s main contribution to their production is speeding tool changes for different sized bottles, shortening a process that can take valuable minutes, down to mere seconds.

Plastic container production also led IIS to an area of manufacturing that we might not have thought of just a few years ago: equipment upgrades. We’ve always offered our repair expertise for many types of machinery, but we’ve recently noticed that the increasing scarcity of parts for obsolete equipment was making repairs prohibitive, both to factories and to us. Using our production and motion control expertise, we’ve begun offering a hydraulic conversion upgrade packaging, featuring a number of benefits:

  • Up-to-date machinery: less repairs and more available parts.
  •  Reduced cycle time: by half, in many cases. Faster speed and less energy lead to much greater efficiency, which takes us to . . .
  • Tax credits: There are a number of state and federal programs that offer tax breaks for equipment upgrades and purchases that reduce overall environmental impact.

There aren’t many reasons not to upgrade, according to these! For further details on this still-new service, be sure to contact IIS with your equipment details today.