Attend Our Automation Seminar & Learn Where “Gripping Meets Robotics”

On Thursday January 11th 2018: Discover Schunk’s End-of-Arm Expertise! For Every Robot, Every Industry, Every Handling Task.

Air Automation will be conducting a “Day of Automation” seminar for our valued customers free of charge. You will learn hands on: The newest automation products from Schunk including: Robotic grippers, accessories & linear motion actuators.

Limited space available. Register today!

Thursday January 11th
Air Automation Eng.
230 Commerce Circle S.
Fridley, MN 55432
Seminar hours:
8:30am-1:30pm
Snack & lunch provided

Enter to win a Makita 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless Bluetooth Radio!

Tolomatic Electric high force linear actuator is tough enough to process lumber

The lumber industry has relied on the toughness and high force capabilities of hydraulic cylinders for years.  But lately that reliance has been shaken.  Hydraulic cylinders leak and can contaminate the fragile eco-systems in which lumber processing operates.  Plus, hydraulic systems are only 40-55% efficient and cylinders require frequent maintenance.  When combined, these factors can make hydraulic cylinders an expensive choice in the long run. The introduction of electric high force linear actuators has given the lumber industry a new option for linear motion

Lumber planing machine needs leak-free actuator

A manufacturer of lumber processing equipment was using hydraulic cylinders to position rollers on their planing machine. The manufacturer needed a robust, long-lasting alternative, though. Their customers were concerned that leaking hydraulic fluid would damage the environment.  Customers also didn’t like the high total cost of ownership of hydraulics due to a combination of maintenance costs and the low efficiency of hydraulic systems. Also, low and high temperatures impaired hydraulic cylinder performance.

Electric high force linear actuator is solution

The application requires force output of 7,000 lbf (31,138 kN) and speed of 6 in/sec (152 mm/sec).  Our RSA64 HT electric high-force linear actuator with roller screw meets this challenge, allowing the OEM to eliminate the leaky, expensive hydraulic system.

Not only does the RSA-HT meet the application’s force and speed specifications, the electric rod actuator delivers 70-80% system efficiency and has minimal maintenance requirements.  The RSA operates without a glitch in all temperatures and is sealed with an optional IP67 package to handle the wet, dusty environment.

The RSA roller screw electric rod actuator withstands shock loads caused when the machine’s rollers encounter gaps between boards travelling through the planer. Due to these high shock loads, a custom steel head with an integrated trunnion is used.

POSTED BY AARON DIETRICH (Tolomatic)

FasTest Quick Connectors for Leak & Pressure Testing

FasTest Quick Connectors for Leak & Pressure Testing

FasTest Inc. is the leader in leak and pressure testing quick connectors for a wide variety of manufacturing industries. FasTest uses advanced engineering to create safe, reliable connections for various tubes and threaded profiles. Learn more about the different FasTest product lines available through Air Automation Engineering below!

 

Shedding Light On Encoders In Solar Energy Applications

Article by: Kuebler Inc.

As solar energy continues to grow as a modern-day source of power, components must be designed to ensure continuous and efficient operation of the energy generation process. Because heliostats are often placed in remote desert areas, they are exposed to a number of harsh environmental factors, such as high temperatures during the day, dust exposure and daily temperature swings.

To keep the system running smoothly, encoders, which are used in the control of the mirrors, must combine ruggedness with innovative technologies, yielding a reliable product that can perform under these tough conditions.

There are a number of factors in the energy generation process that can help determine if an encoder is up to the challenge.

Elevation and azimuth position control. Heliostats demand high precision in order to maximize the amount of sunlight being received. Therefore, the efficiency of the overall system depends on their positioning accuracy in both elevation and azimuth. Here, precision optical encoders are best suited for the job.

Angular position control of Parabolic Trough Systems. Parabolic mirrors concentrate sunlight onto a heliostat’s receiver pipe—a process that requires rugged, yet flexible encoders. Depending on installation space, simple magnetic rotary encoders or inclinometers can be used in order to accurately measure the system’s angular position.

Rugged outdoor design. Encoders must integrate a number of characteristics that make them suitable for outdoor applications. These include robust housing, a wide temperature range, high resistance to shock and vibration, insensitivity to interference or magnetic disturbances and long service life.

Customizability. It is important for encoder manufacturers to work together with engineering teams to design custom control or motion solutions for solar. Depending on the application, the encoder may need to work with a wide variety of additional sensing systems, integrated drives or other types of feedback devices. To make integration easier, look for encoders that support SSI, BISS-C or common Fieldbus protocols.

 

Exhibition charts 500 years of evolution of robots

LONDON — Inspired by his belief that human beings are essentially terrified of robots, Ben Russell set about charting the evolution of automatons for an exhibition he hopes will force people to think about how androids and other robotic forms can enhance their lives.

Robots, says Russell, have been with us for centuries — as “Robots,” his exhibit opening Wednesday at London’s Science Museum, shows.

From a 15th century Spanish clockwork monk who kisses his rosary and beats his breast in contrition, to a Japanese “childoid” newsreader, created in 2014 with lifelike facial expressions, the exhibition tracks the development of robotics and mankind’s obsession with replicating itself.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s unstoppable Terminator cyborg is there, as is Robby the Robot, star of the 1956 film “Forbidden Planet,” representing the horror and the fantasy of robots with minds of their own.

There are also examples of factory production-line machines blamed for taking people’s jobs in recent decades; a “telenoid communications android” for hugging during long-distance phone calls to ease loneliness; and Kaspar, a “minimally expressive social robot” built like a small boy and designed to help ease social interactions for children with autism.

“When you take a long view, as we have done with 500 years of robots, robots haven’t been these terrifying things, they’ve been magical, fascinating, useful, and they generally tend to do what we want them to do,” said Russell, who works at the science museum and was the lead curator of the exhibition.

And while it’s human nature to be worried in the face of change, Russell said, the exhibit should help people “think about what we are as humans” and realize that if robots are “going to come along, you’ve got a stake in how they develop.”

A total of 100 robots are set in five different historic periods in a show that explores how religion, industrialization, pop culture and visions of the future have shaped society.

For Rich Walker, managing director of Shadow Robot Company in London, robotics is about what these increasingly sophisticated machines can do for humans to make life easier, particularly for the elderly or the impaired.

“I’m naturally lazy and got involved so that I could get robots to do things for me,” Walker said. His company has developed a robotic hand that can replicate 24 of the 27 natural movements of the human hand.

As humans have a 1 percent failure rate at repetitive tasks, committing errors about once every two hours, the hand could replace humans on production lines, he said.

Walker concedes further erosion of certain types of jobs if inventions such as his are successful, but says having repetitive tasks performed by automatons would free up people to adopt value-added roles.

“The issue is to rebuild the economy so that it has a holistic approach to employment,” he said.

This in turn leads to questions, raised at the exhibition as well as by the European Union, of whether or not robots should pay taxes on the value of their output as part of the new industrial revolution.

By LYNNE O’DONNELL The Associated Press

At Boeing’s 777X wing factory, robots get big jobs

Air Automation has your robotic solutions. Call us for more information or an on-site demonstration. (800) 231-9205

Article By: DOMINIC GATES Seattle Times (TNS) 

SEATTLE – As the first 110-footlong wing skin panel for Boeing’s new 777X jet moved slowly across a mammoth new factory building one recent morning, a small crew walked alongside, watching for any possibility of an expensive collision.

The “spotters” escorted the panel’s bright-orange transport platform as it followed invisible tracks embedded in the concrete floor and slid with a tight fit into the big cylindrical autoclave where the part would bake to hardness.

Until the automated system for moving these big wing parts is proved, “we do have four people watching it,” said Darrell Chic, acting director of 777X wing fabrication. “But the intent is to work our way to autonomous and allow the navigation system to do its thing.”

 Autonomous. Not needing any humans to guide it.

The 777X Composite Wing Center in the Seattle-area city of Everett, Boeing’s latest venture in advanced manufacturing, marks a significant step toward a future in which much of an aircraft factory’s work is done by automated machines and robots.

Once the wing skin was inside the giant pressurized oven, the lone operator at a computer station pushed a button. Lights flashed, a klaxon sounded.

Slowly, a 55-ton, 28-foot-wide circular door slid into place and locked to form an airtight seal for the seven-hour baking cycle.

Eric Lindblad, the newly appointed head of the 777X program, said having machines load the wing parts autonomously is safer and more precise. There isn’t room for error inside the oven: When the long stiffening rods called stringers are baked in the autoclave, they’ll go in six at a time with just 3 inches of clearance between them.

The only necessary human will be the person at the computer.

“There’ll be one guy that essentially runs this station,” Lindblad said.

The trend toward automated manufacturing was evident already at Boeing’s older area plants.

In Frederickson, robots drill 80 percent of the holes in the 787 and 777 tails fabricated there.

In Auburn, robots drill the engine heat shields for the 787 and 777 jets, and will do the same for the 737 MAX. Another robot uses lasers to clean the dies used to shape the heat shields.

In its most productive factory, the 737 final-assembly plant in Renton, Boeing has replaced the traditional multistory fixtures used to hold wings in place during assembly with smaller, flexible, increasingly automated equipment as it ramps up toward an unprecedented output of 52 planes per month by 2018.

Introducing new automation is a challenge: In another new building in Everett, Boeing is struggling to smooth out the kinks in a robotic system for assembling the 777’s metal fuselage.

Still, a new generation of airplanes like the 787 and 777X built with carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic composite structures have triggered a transformative shift taking automation to a new level.

Fabricating complete fuselage barrels or huge wings out of this material is simply not possible by hand. Only robots can lay up the strips of carbon fiber with enough speed and precision.

Mark Summers, head of technology at the U.K. government’s Aerospace Technology Institute, said increasing automation will allow Boeing and Airbus to ratchet up production rates without adding employees.

“Jobs will not be lost, but there will not be so many new jobs created,” Summers said during a panel discussion at the Farnborough Air Show in England in July. “I don’t see it as an impact on the current aerospace workforce. There’s just fewer jobs in aerospace in the future.”

He foresees blue-collar machinist jobs increasingly supplanted by “more technologically focused” positions operating the machines.

However wary machinists may be of what the new technology means for the future, Pete Goldsmith, who led automation-technology projects at Seattle-area companies Electroimpact and Nova-Tech, and now works for a third, MTorres America, said he got “a universally positive reaction” from mechanics at both Airbus and Boeing when he installed equipment to do repetitive riveting.

“That’s a job that beats you up all day every day,” Goldsmith said. “We were replacing an operation that was physically very debilitating for the mechanics.”

Gary Laws, a Boeing mechanic for more than two decades who operates computer-controlled machines assembling wings in Renton, said automation makes his job much easier.

And if this region wants new work in aerospace, he sees no choice but to embrace the shift.

“It’s the way it has to be,” said Laws. “Technology is obviously going to be the future.”

Today, the current 777’s metal wing parts are made largely by machinists in Auburn and Frederickson, then assembled into a wing by machinists in Everett.

Though Boeing doesn’t provide a detailed breakdown of employment figures, this work certainly provides hundreds of jobs.

With the new 777X, that work changes dramatically. But it does stay in the area.

Boeing is spending $1 billion to make the giant 777X carbon fiber wing in-house, rather than outsourcing the wing to Mitsubishi, as it did on the 787.

Lindblad said that after a production ramp-up that will take a few years, the new wing center will, at peak, employ somewhere between 600 and 900 people.

The first production 777X parts that will fly on an airplane won’t be made before April. Until then, workers in the wing center are making test parts, used to certify and fine-tune the new manufacturing process.

With wing skin No. 1 in the autoclave over on the fabrication side of the wing center, Jerry Schultz operated an Electroimpact machine making wing skin No. 2.

White lab coats are required in this “clean room” environment, where an overhead robot like a giant tape dispenser zips back and forth along a 110-footlong mold, building up the skin panel layer by layer.

As the robottraverses the part at various angles, it lays down plies of epoxy resin-infused carbon fiber in about 300 separately programmed runs.

Between setup, inspections and the robot work, completing a wing skin this way takes six shifts over three days.

The goal is to have just two people operating the cell, Boeing said, with possibly another worker floating between it and an adjacent cell also making wing skins.

Nearby, similar big Electroimpact machines are making the first 777X spars – the long, U-shaped, single-piece beams to which the leading and trailing edges of each wing attach.

Again, just three people will operate a pair of these spar manufacturing cells, says Boeing. The spars will then be inspected by robots that use an ultrasonic probe to check for invisible flaws in the material.

An exception to the full automation is the way Boeing is producing four of the 43 stringers, the rods that stiffen each 777X wing. These four are partly made by hand because of their more complex shape.

A half-dozen workers – five of them women, who are often preferred by manufacturers for jobs that require meticulous handwork – stood on each side of a long, thin stringer tool, positioning 4-foot-long ribbons of uncured, textilelike carbon fiber.

When they’d lain out each piece of fabric by hand, an overhead machine swung over and pressed down to secure it for curing.

“For this particular shape … it turns out to be more cost-effective to do it this way,” Lindblad said.

It’s a mistake to think robots can do it all, said Ben Hempstead, chief of staff and lead mechanical engineer at aerospace-tooling designer Electroimpact.

After these 777X skin panels, spars and stringers are fabricated in the wing center, Boeing will deliver them to the main Everett factory building where mechanics will first assemble the pieces into a basic wing box, then add the folding wingtip and the leading- and trailing-edge control surfaces.

That assembly process is inherently more labor-intensive.

“With wing-box assembly, if in the future it’s half-automated, that’ll blow my mind,” said Hempstead, whose company supplies Boeing and also provided much of the equipment Airbus to build the composite wing of the A350.

“Many of the steps require skill and judgment and are very hard to automate,” he said.

Hempstead said Boeing asked Electroimpact to look at automating one specific 737 wing process in Renton that’s done today by about a dozen mechanics.

“We couldn’t figure out how to do it faster with machines,” Hempstead said.

And don’t even think about robots doing intricate jobs like installing hydraulic tubes and electrical wiring in the crowded space of an airplane wheel well.

“Oh, man, nobody has even talked about automating that,” Hempstead said. “I can’t even envision how you’d do it.”

After World War II, Boeing gave Washington state a thriving middle class, allowing blue-collar workers – some with only a high-school education – to live the American dream.

As robots revolutionize the industry, the region has become a hotbed of leading aerospace-automation firms – including Electroimpact, Nova-Tech and MTorres America as well as Janicki Industries – that are hiring young engineers as fast as they can.

But is a golden age of manual labor ending with Boeing’s automation drive?

In 2005, almost 3,500 machinists in Renton produced 21 single-aisle 737s per month, according to employment data filed with the state.

In 2014, just over 6,000 machinists there produced exactly twice as many.

While production rose 100 percent, employment of machinists rose 75 percent.

As robotic systems and the automated processing of carbon fiber proliferates, that gap is certain to widen.

While Boeing employed more than 100,000 in Washington state in the late 1990s, it seems unlikely those days are ever coming back. Its payroll here is down to about 73,000 today.

Yet that’s still a big workforce, crucially important to the economy. And well-paid manual jobs remain a vital thread in the social fabric of the state.

“We can’t all be baristas and software engineers,” said Electroimpact’s Hempstead.

At the industry discussion of automation in Farnborough, Craig Turnbull, director of engineering at Electroimpact U.K. who oversees the company’s work at the Airbus wing plant in Broughton, Wales, emphasized that “there is a point where man and machine have to meet.”

Even in a highly robotized auto plant, he said, the car radio is installed by a mechanic. It’s too difficult for a robot.

And when it comes to hiring an operator for this new equipment, he suggested looking to machinists.

“The best person to operate a machine that drills holes is someone who has done it for 20 years by hand,” Turnbull said. “They know what they are looking for. They are then becoming more of a quality-control person than actually pushing the drill through a hole.”

To prepare the next generation of factory workers for such jobs, the state is pushing STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and providing community-college-level training for hands-on careers.

Becoming a machine operator will probably require a two-year associate degree with course work on the basics of electromechanics.

“These are some of the highest skilled and best compensated jobs in the factory,” Hempstead said.

John Janicki, president of Janicki Industries, sees the drive toward more automation speeding up, “driven by the need to get the price down.”

Though expensive to install, he said, robotic systems should allow plane makers to sell more jets over a production run that can last more than 20 years.

“If you amortize all the equipment over the life of the program, it’s not that big a deal,” Janicki said.

His firm – currently employing about 750 people in the state and expanding – still regularly hires local people straight out of high school and trains them to operate its sophisticated machines.

And he points to a big upside for the Pacific Northwest in having the 777X wing center: After investing so heavily, Boeing needs to use it to the fullest.

“It’s absolute state of the art. It’s not going anywhere,” said Janicki. “You have all that equipment and the personnel trained to use it. It’ll build 777s, yes. But 50 years from now, they’ll still be building something in that plant.”

New Epson Robot Force Sensors Enable Automation of Difficult Tasks

New Epson Robot Force Sensors Enable Automation of Difficult Tasks

– Allow robots to automatically modulate force –

s250-series-force-sensor                                                               s250-on-robot

Seiko Epson Corporation (TSE: 6724, “Epson”) today announced the development of its S250 series of high-precision force sensors. The S250 series, which will be rolled out worldwide from early June, will be available as an option for the company’s six-axis and SCARA robots*1. Employing Epson’s proprietary piezoelectric quartz sensing technology, the new force sensors are durable and sensitive, allowing them to accurately and consistently sense minimal amounts of force in six directions*2. This will allow customers to automate complex manufacturing tasks and will improve productivity. Epson also provides robot operation commands with the sensor, allowing customers to easily introduce the system.

Many manufacturers are turning to robots as labor shortages and falling birth rates and aging populations hit companies in the world’s leading economies, and the trend to reshoring continues in regions like Europe and North America. Epson’s innovative new force sensors answer these needs and are a significant step forward in achieving the company’s mission of using robots to improve the way products are manufactured. The S250 series enables robots to feel force as limited as 0.1 N, allowing the robots to automate complex tasks such as precisely assembling delicate components. The sensors can also be used on tasks that formerly relied on human sensory perception such as polishing and deburring, freeing people from repetitive manual work.

“The new force sensors are a significant development for Epson and for the manufacturing industry in general,” said Yoneharu Fukushima, COO of Epson’s Robotics Solutions Operations Division. “As a company dedicated to manufacturing innovation, the new sensors help to expand the applications for robots, and bring us a step further towards achieving our goal of creating a world in which robots support people in a wide variety of situations.”

Contact your local Epson sales company for the launch date in your region.

Along and rotating around each of the x, y and z axes.

Developments in Schunk sensor solutions enable optimum performance

Recent years have witnessed major new developments in sensor solutions for handling, assembly
and robotics. We are no longer confined to sensors choices from the past with components becoming
more powerful, compact, and universal, and are now merging directly with the actuator and
comparatively easy to set up.
Programmable Magnetic Sensor
In the past, industry has been confined to a limited choice of sensors including Inductive Proximity,
Hall Effect and Reed. Developments in technology have increased functionality and reduced size of
sensors and the new crop of products such as the MMS-P make set up easier than ever. Instead of
time-consuming mechanical adjustment of the switching points, the MMS-P sensor can be programmed
in a few short steps. The teaching tools required to do this are available either as cablebased
connection plugs or as contact-free magnetic teaching tools. Because the sensor is programmable,
hysteresis can now be adjusted allowing set points to be programmed tighter. Compared to
conventional magnetic switches, users can save up to 90% on set-up time.
Flexible Position Sensor
For applications requiring flexible sensing because of multiple sized parts the Flexible Position Sensor
FPS can be used allowing the system to recognize up to 5 points which are freely programmable with
the included FPS processor. The FPS sensor uses a touch pad interface with LED display for programming
set points. Improving flexibility even more, the FPS can be interfaced digitally through a
network allowing the sensor to be programmed remotely. For continuous quality control the FPS allows
data logging and monitoring of temperature and input voltage.
Analog Position Sensor
Today’s manufacturing environment demands even more precision requiring continuous quality control
that can determine good parts from bad in real time. Analog Position Sensors APS and MMS-A
provide continuous feedback of position with analog output allowing grippers to become part of the
quality process. The APS and MMS-A sensors create an analog signal output of the gripper jaw position
providing information to the controller that can compare the part to a baseline and monitor the
process for tool wear and part flaws. APS uses an inclined ramp to drive a linear transducer within
the stroke of the jaw providing 0-10v output. The MMS-A uses an electronic sensor to read the
magnetic field of the piston mounted magnet to create analog voltage output and no controller is
required, only an analog card to read the provided 0-10v output.

Optical Position Sensor
If you need to monitor the distance between the gripper and part, you can either use complex vision
systems or entrust the task to the OAS optical distance sensor. This turns simple gripping modules
easily into vision grippers with standard catalog items. The OAS can be integrated directly into the
gripper center, for example the PGN-plus universal gripper or the MPG-plus gripper for small components.
From there, it continuously supplies the control unit with distance information for the part
and whether there is a part to be gripped between the gripper fingers. The sensor makes it possible
for grippers to differentiate between parts, detect their position, pick them up “on the fly” from a
moving belt, stack them, detect wrongly gripped parts and increase reliability when moving the gripper.
SCHUNK, the competence leader for clamping and gripping systems, offers a vast line of products for
the manufacturing industry that can work in almost any environment. All components from grippers
and rotary units to workholding and toolholding are designed to work in synergy to create a complete
customer solution.

Epson is now hosting “Lunch with a Robot”

Epson will buy you lunch and show you how easy Epson Robots are to use.

At EPSON Robots, we’ve made thousands of customers and integrators successful by delivering True PC Controllers that are Open, Easy, Powerful, and software from point-and-click applications to advanced code tools that are Intuitive by Design.

Forgive us for making it sound easy, but it really is. And we will gladly show you, in person, with a hands on session with production hardware. We’ll come to your plant, buy lunch and in just 2 hours show your technical team how easy it is to install and program EPSON robots and controllers. We call it “Lunch With a Robot”, and there’s no more efficient way to get your team current on the best product line in the industry.

To learn more or to setup a “Lunch with a Robot” session at your facility, fill out the following registration form, and one of our experienced sales managers will contact you to discuss your applications and any special topics you want covered, and confirm the schedule and logistics. Or you can call us at (562) 290-5910 and we’ll be happy to set things up over the phone.

Please don’t delay – there are a limited number of “Lunch with a Robot” slots available each week, and we’re filling them quickly.

Important Note: EPSON Robots is currently only offering Lunch with a Robot sessions in the US and Canada. If your company is located outside of the these areas please contact your local EPSON distributor for details on how you can learn more about EPSON Robots.

Sign-up today! http://robots.epson.com/lunch-with-a-robot

Responsible for content: Epson