In the 1980s, the automotive industry’s push for “lights-out” manufacturing put a significant focus on automation, a phenomenon borne out by the fact that the industry analyses consistently show that the automotive industry has a higher number of robot installations than any other industry, globally. And rightly so. Automation can deliver lower operating costs, decreased down time, improved quality, and higher throughput.
Similar to the improvements that automation has brought to the automotive industry – and to industry in general – fluid application methods have undergone a transformation in the past three decades, from manual application with crude tools such as socks and rags, to precise fluid applicators that reduce waste and ensure accuracy, to semi- and fully-automated systems that integrate with manufacturers’ automated work cells.
Automated systems for control and monitoring
An automated fluid application system starts with a part as simple as the applicator track, which supplies a fixed number of applicators to an exact, repeatable position, allowing a robotic end-of-arm tool (EOAT) to precisely connect to the applicator. When it’s time for the robot to change applicators, it simply ejects the used applicator over a waste receptacle and procures a new applicator directly from the applicator track. Sensors on the applicator track ensure that an applicator is present and correctly oriented and monitors when the applicators are running low. These “in-position” and “low applicators” sensors are wired to the customer’s master controller for input to the robot’s program.
Automated applicator systems also include functionality to ensure the fluid is dispensed properly, from start to finish throughout the process. Case in point: when a robot picks a new applicator from the applicator track, a “wet test” is performed. Designetics e3 series of automated fluid application systems include a “line fill” function, in which the user can specify the amount of time and the pump speed that should be used to fill the line and wet out the applicator. This ensures the system is primed and the applicator is ready for the dispense cycle.
Of course, production is not always continuous. Other processes or down-time on the line can cause idle periods where the applicator system remains active but isn’t dispensing fluid. While idle periods are sometimes necessary, they pose the risk of the applicator “drying out,” which often requires swapping the applicator for a new one before dispensing can begin again – which means down time and unnecessary scrap.
This is why the e3 series also features an “applicator wet” function – to keep the applicator moist during idle times when no dispensing takes place. The “applicator wet” function includes an interval timer, which specifies for how long the system can remain idle before the applicator needs to be re-wetted (10 minutes, for example), and an application wet timer, which specifies the amount of time for the pump to run in order to re-wet the applicator (2 seconds, for example) once the specified interval, or idle time, is up.
At the end of an application cycle, when the pump stops operating, fluid remaining in the applicator can lead to drips. To prevent this, the e3 series automated systems include a “snuff back” function in which the pump runs in reverse for a specific amount of time and at a specified rpm. The “snuff back” function prevents scrap and re-work due to drips that can cause quality or aesthetic issues.
Designetics’ e3 Series: Flexibility for Automation
One of the benefits of automation is that it allows multiple functions or processes to be executed simultaneously. In terms of fluid application, that can mean two or more applicators running in conjunction to expedite a single process or multiple applicators executing different processes side-by-side. Whether your process requires one or multiple applicators running simultaneously, Designetics e3 series automated fluid application systems have you covered. The e3mini and e3minimax are precision, single-pump platforms (with and without an HMI, respectively), while the e3multi can control up to three pumps, for the utmost in flexibility.
Automated fluid application helps manufacturers remain competitive
There’s no question that automation can increase productivity, improve quality, and reduce costs – all of which are priorities of manufacturers across virtually all industries. Automated fluid application systems from Designetics support these goals by providing precise, repeatable fluid flow, with no drips or leaks, while minimizing waste and maximizing uptime.
Functions found on our automated fluid application systems, such as applicator “in-position” monitoring on the applicator track and the “applicator wet” function are more than just “nice to have” features. They provide real benefits to operators and end users by ensuring that fluid is applied exactly as needed, when needed – virtually eliminating rework and scrap. These functions also improve productivity by eliminating downtime that would be necessary for operators to manually inspect and monitor the condition of the applicator, pump, and system.
The e3minimax takes Designetics’ commitment to automation even further. With the e3minimax, configuration is handled through a web-based interface, eliminating the need for a separate HMI, and the system can be controlled remotely via Ethernet/IP or Modbus/TCP communication networks. This means that control of the e3minimax can be handled by the customer’s higher-level controller, allowing the pump’s operation to be tightly coordinated with the robot or machine automation system.
Fluid application systems for today’s manufacturing processes
As manufacturing has evolved, so too have Designetics’ fluid applicators. From precision handheld applicators suitable for virtually any viscosity and fluid flow, to fully automated fluid application systems with one or multiple pumps, Designetics helps manufacturers meet their goals of increasing throughput, improving quality, and decreasing costs. To learn more about our automated systems, please reach out to us. We’d love to hear about your process and help you find the best fluid application solution.