Monday, December 23, 2013

Automation’s effect on Manufacturing: Case Study – the Plastic Bag

The idea of automation sounds foreign in the home or the course of a typical day for most Americans, but the products of automated processes are things we interact with on a daily basis.  Every time we pack a lunch, throw garbage away, or go shopping, we are interacting with products that are a direct result of automated manufacturing.

For us at IIS, one of the best examples of an industry that exemplifies the power of automation is the fabrication of plastic bags.  From a shopping bag to a sandwich bag, the processes that exist to bring a bag into existence from a roll of extruded plastic are numerous and modular – a perfect candidate for an automated solution.  Depending on whether the bags will have zippers, re-sealable strips, handles, or any other configuration of features, the amount of steps in the process of creation on an industrial scale can be very complex.  All of this requires a sophisticated system of control, for the timing of each step along the way from slitting and printing to punching handles and heat-sealing the edges.  With a modular system such as is common for plastic bag making machine manufacturers, customization of control and ease of use become paramount objectives in the search for automation control solutions.  Many other manufacturing processes have similar constraints that make automation incredibly attractive as a solution – but only insofar as the technology is dependable, consistent, customizable, and easy to work with.  

The evolution of automated control has a significant impact on the availability and widespread use of things like plastic bags – things that may not appear at first to be the result of countless innovations and iterative steps along a continually evolving process, but bear the mark of incredible consistency in manufacturing that can only be a result of a carefully controlled automated process.  

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Multi-Axis Advantage in Advanced Manufacturing

Ever since the industrial revolution gave us the assembly line, manufacturing has sought to improve it.  Conveyance, progressive assembly, interchangeable parts, and repeatable processes are all pieces of the modern manufacturing puzzle that were pioneered then and priceless now.  The digital revolution, lean manufacturing, and automation are among the latest advances that make modern manufacturing possible, and are the latest places of engineering research and improvements in our time.
One of the biggest recent advances in automation is the availability of multi-axis robotics.  For a variety of applications, multi-axis systems offer a dramatically increased range of motion and flexibility, which can in turn potentially increase the number of processes that can be automated; this may dramatically increase the efficiency of a production line.  6-axis machines are fairly common for many operations including pick-and-place, welding, finishing, and other robotic “arm” manipulations.  Another common instance is in CNC machines, where, without rearranging the orientation of the part, multiple processes can be performed on the work piece, eliminating time-consuming secondary processes. 

Often, these systems are controlled by servomotors, for efficient automation of each process in the system.  As sensors and automation control interfaces like SERCOS continue to progress, you can count on IIS to be on the cutting edge of the latest iterations of innovation in advanced manufacturing.  Check back here at our blog to get our perspectives, and tweet @MichaelHupf1 to get in touch on Twitter – we’d love to hear what you have to say.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Custom Capabilities at IIS

As technology and time progress, more and more businesses are realizing the many benefits of automation.  The wide range of applications, the increased production capabilities, and reduction of costs are among the top reasons business decide to incorporate automation into their manufacturing processes.  One implication of this broad range of application of automation and control systems is that many times, the specific nature of the application necessitates a custom configuration of several technological options.  While this may pose a considerable problem to many automation solution providers, the more than 35 years of experience we have here at IIS have allowed us to identify this problem and come up with a great solution: our Intelligent Drive System design.

At IIS, we offer several different automation options for controllers, amplifiers, and connectivity.  We are also continually improving our products, improving the designs and decreasing the size of their physical footprints to offer increased custom configuration options.  Our team will work with you to come up with the optimal configuration to integrate seamlessly with your workflow.  The personalized support we offer to each customer is a point of pride, and a commitment on our part to provide unsurpassed service to our customers.

So whatever your specific requirements are, we are confident that our Intelligent Drive System designs will streamline your production processes, and bring real practical improvements to your factory floor.  Get in touch today to see how IIS can serve your automation needs.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Getting the Word out on the Sercos Portal

At last year’s Members Meeting of Sercos International in Hanover, Germany, Scott Hibbard of Bosch Rexroth Corp. gave a report on the status of Sercos North America, in which he announced that the website would create a Sercos portal with a quarterly newsletter dedicated to promoting use of the standard.

It took a little while to get going, but the portal and the newsletter are up and running, and they’re filled with interesting information.

Hibbard, the vice president of technology for Bosch Rexroth, also called for member participation and emphasized that this opportunity to promote your Sercos products will only continue to exist if members support it. At IIS, we were glad to answer the call.  We used the portal recently, for example, to promote our move to add Sercos II and Sercos III capabilities to our EMC-2100 Emerald Automation Controller, and we’re one of the sponsors of the newsletter. publishes English-language e-newsletters on dozens of automation topics to an audience of more than 100,000 industry professionals in 150 countries, with the majority in

North America. You can participate by sending press releases to and application articles and other materials to Advertising opportunities on the portal and in the newsletter are also available.

Remember, if you want to get noticed by potential customers, you have to get the word out on what you have to offer them, and this is a potent new tool for doing just that.

Friday, May 17, 2013

New Look, Same Automation Expertise

Keeping up with the continued evolution of our servo drives, motion control systems, and automation solutions, Industrial Indexing Systems (IIS) recently unveiled a new look and new functionality for our online home. It’s now easier than ever to not only read about our drives and motors, but also to see them on full display. Describing the versatile yet intuitive features of our products can sometimes be easier shown than told, and our new site covers both of these areas in great depth. It’s also easier than ever to access our full library of case studies and custom design capabilities, letting you know just how much we can really do.

The upgrade is more than just cosmetic, however. Along with enthusiasm for our new site, we’re also excited to roll out new products like the Luminary Servo Motion Series. Our increasingly in-demand retrofit services are also front-and-center (just about), illustrating the growing popularity of modifications and upgrades as repairs to older machinery become less and less tenable. Of course, the expertise behind all of our products, designs, and services is still fully intact, and our greatest service is the ability to help OEMs and other manufacturers acquire or design just the right automation system for them. Welcome new our new home, and thanks for stopping by.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Our Team 3003 Advances at the U.S. FIRST Robotics Competition

We have a winner.

For the past five years, IIS has sponsored a team made up of local high school students in the internationally renowned FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). Thousands of groups compete across the country in regional matches during March to winnow down finalist to challenge one another in the World Championship in late April. And this year, we’re proud to announce, that our kids won the Rochester Regional and are going on to the finals.

In Rochester, our team (aligned with teams from Victor and Penfield) beat out 49 rivals in a match between student-built robots playing a game called Ultimate Ascent, in which competing alliances attempt to shoot as many Frisbee-style discs into goals as they can during a two-minute and fifteen-second match (please see images). Our own Chris Englert participates as a mentor with Team 3003.

FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology” and was founded by famous inventor Dean Kamen (the man who brought us the Segway scooter) in 1989 to foster interest in science and technology among young people. Sometimes called the varsity “Sport for the Mind,” FRC combines the excitement of sports with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, teams of 25 students or more are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors.  It’s as close to “real-world engineering” as a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team.

The benefits include:

     -Learn from professional engineers
     -Build and compete with a robot of their own design
     -Learn and use sophisticated software and hardware
     -Compete and cooperate in alliances and tournaments
     -Earn a place in the World Championship
     -Qualify for more than $16 million in college scholarships

The FIRST Championship will be held in St. Louis, Mo., on April 24-27, 2013, at the America’s Center Convention complex and Edward Jones Dome (where the NFL Rams play).

UPDATE: After the success in Rochester, some of the students we sponsor separately competed in the FIRST regional in Cleveland on March 30 (as a back-up plan originally). Forty students from the Canandaigua Academy (Team 3003) and ten mentors took the six-hour trip to Cleveland. They did well in the qualification matches, coming in 22nd out of 52 teams. Their performance during the qualifiers was not forgotten, as one of the top eight squads picked Team 3003 to be a part of its RED Alliance. This enabled Team 3003 to participate in the elimination matches. This round pitted the RED Alliance, consisting of three teams, against a BLUE Alliance, another three teams. The elimination matches started with eight alliances, four RED and four BLUE. Each alliance had to win two out of three matches not to be eliminated.

Due to difficulties during the second match with the Frisbee shooting-arm positioning system, aiming was difficult and Team 3003 did not secure the points they normally would have, so the Alliance did not win the first two matches and were eliminated.

Team 3003 is still headed to the world championship in St. Louis the last weekend in April.  Again, during the Rochester RIT Regional in March, Team 3003 was part of the winning alliance, which qualified the team to participate with over 200 teams from around the world. Englert (mentor for the team from IIS) commented, “The Buckeye Regional in Cleveland was just the experience the team needed in preparation for the intense competition they will encounter in St. Louis.” 

Team 3003 also won the Industrial Design Award given out by General Motors for having a design that held up very well during the competition during offense and defense.

Join us in congratulating these outstanding young people for their success so far – and wish them luck. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Look at Future Trends in the Automation & Control Systems

The Automation & Control Systems (ACS) industry faces a time of great opportunity, as well as some upheaval.  Changes in the marketplace and in industry as a whole mean that automation systems and personnel must adapt not so much to survive, but to take full advantage of the chance to define manufacturing in the 21st century. Let’s take a look at some of the major trends that we’ve seen and that we predict.
Open-Source Interoperability. With the possibilities of automation integration growing almost exponentially, it is now possible for an entire plant to basically be an automation system. Far less likely is the chance that all the equipment in that plant will be from one vendor, on one control system, with one reporting system, and so on. For this reason, end users are placing increasing emphasis on open-source compatibility and standardization.

It’s the Application. . . Frost & Sullivan asserts that there is an increasing convergence in the technology and products offered by different automation and control suppliers. Thus, as is very well summarized here, the main differentiator and selection criteria lies in a vendor’s ability to match technology with application, and to do that better than anyone else can. The benchmark for success there will be results driven, in areas ranging far beyond automated manufacturing. Plant integration, process efficiency, and big-picture results on and off the manufacturing floor are now the critical components of a system.

Cloud-Wireless-Smart Automation. Buzzwords that seem to be multiplying across all industries are no stranger to manufacturing and automation. The plant of the future could very well be controlled, or at least accessed and managed, through a smartphone. How well a system can integrate with cloud systems, wireless controls, and, probably most importantly, the next developments coming down the way, all will play a big role in how its success is measured.

Some built-in benefits of automation, like efficiency, sustainability, and quality measurability, are also seeing increased attention after some time as “secondary benefits” of ACS. We thought we’d try and provide a look at the future, and look forward to whatever that may hold in store.

Monday, January 21, 2013

ARC 2013 Preview

Automation is grounded in the routine – in fact, it’s kind of the basis for the entire concept – but is flush with the potential for innovation. The possibilities of automation are constantly developing and evolving, with its benefits becoming more apparent with each advance. Sometimes it’s not even an advance, but just a sea change in the industry. For instance, for a long time, automation was seen as a great way to make repeating processes quicker and more accurate. At that time, energy conservation wasn’t something that many facilities thought about. Now, though, the energy saving potential of automation is seen as a key factor. Nothing changed about automation, views just shifted.

The ARC Advisory Group is a major supporter of innovation in automation and manufacturing, and the ARC World Industry Forum 2013 is the annual showcase for the best of these breakthroughs. More than that, it’s the best place to generate ideas and possibilities for what’s next. With energy savings such a hot topic, that will certainly be discussed at length. Other automation advances like Ethernet integration, unique equipment replacements and upgrades (like those provided by IIS), and even process control via cloud computing, will all be explored. Have you been to ARC before? Are you going this year? Let us know your best remembrances – or what you’re looking forward to!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Going Green With Motion Control

With keeping a “green” mindset in energy usage no longer a simply a PR move or a long-term investment for manufacturers, automation and motion control systems remain among the best ways for facilities to reduce their energy consumption quickly and efficiently. As energy and fuel costs remain high, the energy savings and cost savings realized an investment in motion control machinery to a plant are tangible and immediate. Servo control and increased automation can in some cases reduce energy expenditures by 20 – 30%.

Servo control. Servo motors draw, on average, 20% less energy than their induction counterparts to produce the same amount of power. This much greater efficiency adds to the overall efficiency of the system and provides a major contribution to energy reduction.

Increased automation. Automated, feedback-driven production creates additional efficiencies in the manufacturing process by placing greater emphasis on each action of a machine being the correct one – using no more nor less energy than is absolutely necessary. Servomechanisms aid in this, as do other meters and monitors that can be installed in a system.

The availability and relatively easy installation of these systems has made them more and more prevalent in manufacturing facilities around the world. Cost savings combined with more stringent standards from OEMs and other suppliers in terms of carbon footprint and energy consumption simply add to the factors in support of automation.