Rearrangeable modules in one automated assembly system

Introducing new automated assembly or processing systems to a production floor is often expensive and takes a long time to engineer, manufacture and install. 

Even the simplest changes to a product can demand significant alterations to production lines that could affect system footprints, tooling needs and labor requirements.

If you’re an evolving production operation that needs to know you’ve got the assembly equipment with the flexibility to handle whatever challenges lie ahead, the AMI Flexible Automation System assembly system from Arnold Machine comes pre-engineered, de-bugged and ready to assemble parts. 

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The initial system is engineered to assemble solid engine mounts, but it can be rearranged and re-tooled for a wide variety of components now and in the future. 

Problems with manual fabrication

We appreciate doing more with less at Arnold Machine.

So we were intrigued when one of our clients asked us to build an assembly cell with six individual machines and five complete control packages that required three operators. Each machine needed its own control, pneumatic, hydraulic and safety systems. 

Operators would transfer parts between the units. They would also pack approved parts and dispose of those that don’t meet quality standards. The speed at which they worked would heavily influence the operation’s output, adding an unwanted variable to production planning. 

We saw a lot of unnecessary systems, operator stations and other equipment. So we challenged our engineers to create a better, more versatile assembly system with improved cycle times, less labor, higher quality standards and a reduced footprint.

While we designed this system with engine mounts in mind, it can be customized to assemble many different components with assistance from just a single operator.

With the reduction of labor expenses, we estimated that transitioning to the AMI Flexible Automation System will offer up to 25% cost savings per part, offsetting the increased capital expense of the system in about seven years. Additional savings can be realized in reduced cycle times and repurposing existing equipment.

Modular capabilities

Each 8’-by-8’ module is dedicated to a specific process and arranged based on the needs of the products and operation.

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Because the modules are daisy-chained together, only one electrical, ethernet and compressed air connection is required for most operations. Everything else is already mounted within the modules.

While each module performs a unique process, maintenance and part replacement are made simple with consistent designs and tooling. For example, press stations have the same cylinders, press strokes and tooling mount locations.

Each module also contains a quality control system and automatically removes faulty parts from the line. The system can make these decisions faster than a person and alleviate another responsibility for operators, improving cycle times as well as quality.

Repurposing a line

With a modular system on the floor, starting a new program could be as simple as ordering new tooling.

Modules can be repurposed to process a new product. Technicians change out the tooling, adjust the robotic arms, update the programming and it’s ready to run.

Safety first, last and in between

The entire assembly process can be done with one safety system. 

The conveyor is the only moving part that operators are exposed to at any time. Safety gates are installed on the elevated exit and vision entrance, and all access doors include safety entrance buttons. 

Every module halts in an emergency stop. 

Modular possibilities

Rather than handling parts between each module, operators arrange them on loading pallets. A sensor scans the components to ensure they are within tolerances and loaded properly. If the components aren’t loaded correctly, they will be returned to the loading station for the associate to adjust, but otherwise it’s out of their hands. 

Each pallet is labeled with a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag to track production data. The part components cycle automatically on a conveyor from module to module. Failures are detected and automatically disposed so little time is wasted on faulty parts.

We recommended the following modules to meet the client’s solid engine mount assembly needs:

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The load module houses the main control panel, incoming power, compressed air and HMI system, which must be included in every production line. Other than that, each module can function individually, so singular modules can be moved outside of the full system for testing or one-step fabrications.

The sizing module implements a 30-ton press system. A hydraulic servo valve-controlled press sizes the parts while a robotic arm moves the part to and from the pallet, sizing die, and measuring system. The parts are measured and returned to the pallet.

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The bolt press/stake module offers a 20-ton servo-operated press that does not require hydraulics and is complete with force and distance sensors. Bracket and bolt assemblies are picked off the pallet by a robot and loaded into the tooling.

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Robots also pick bracket and bushing assemblies off the pallet and load them into the tooling. A three-axis robotic arm applies adhesive. Rubber dust shields are picked from the pallet and installed before the assembled parts are placed on a vertical conveyor for the glue to dry. After the newest part is placed on the drying rack, a dried part is removed and placed on the pallet. Process data is recorded on the RFID tag.

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Next, robots pick assembled parts off the load pallet and place them before a camera that inspects every aspect of the part. The robot then holds the part for the marking system for data collection before placing it in the finished tote. The inspection and marking systems can be customized for the products. 

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When full, the finishing tote is shuttled from the module and replaced with an empty one. We also can automate the tote unloading and reloading process to handle multiple part totes from different systems, all in one area.

Additional module options

We also offer modules for maintenance and fabrications such as: 

  • Alternate bushing sizing
  • Orifice assembly heat staking or welding
  • Leak testing
  • Dry fill and sealing 
  • Under-fluid assembly and sealing
  • Part washing
  • Pallet washing
  • MTS testing
  • Roll or press crimping
  • Bolt torque

Does this sound like an ideal system?

If your high-volume, low-margin operation faces financial and footprint constraints, the AMI Flexible Automation System platform could offer reliable manufacturing at higher speed and lower cost.

What do you need to accomplish? What are your workforce or facility limitations? Let’s talk.

Our experts will help your team create the perfect system for your current needs, and are prepared to help you modify the modules to accommodate new production requirements.

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