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References for Designing a Product for Fully Automated Assembly

References for Designing a Product for Fully Automated Assembly

References for Designing a Product for Fully Automated Assembly

Hi Folks,

I am preparing to start a project where we will take an existing design and cost reduce it in addition to design for robotic/automated assembly.

The product is basically a simple light switch for the home. It will have a few plastic parts and many stamped metal parts, including rivets for the stamped metal parts. No electronics.

I work as a mechanical engineer for this company and want to educate myself on types of robots/equipment and how to design the parts to accommodate the automated assembly.

I realize this is somewhat vague, but any links to books on the topic or websites that you frequent for components that are used to build the system would be helpful.

For example, some questions I have are:

Are there standard robotic grabbers and suction cups that everyone uses?
Are there standard sorting/orienting machines for stamped metal parts, or are they all custom?
Is there a good book that describes best practices for interfacing with your parts? Like when to use a suction cup or some sort of robotic gripper.
Are there any clear guidelines on when it makes sense to add cost to aid assembly, or is this all case by case?


RE: References for Designing a Product for Fully Automated Assembly

There are a lot of YouTube videos from prospective suppliers and a bunch of How it's Made videos that show factory production lines.

As with anything the interfaces between product and tooling is going to be custom. If there is a specific limited robot you have in mind then you can design for that robot, but generally that doesn't happen.

RE: References for Designing a Product for Fully Automated Assembly

There are standard pneumatic grippers and air cylinders and the like, but you are expected to make your own clamps, fixtures, and such. For example the grippers might have straight arms and a couple of bolt holes and move in a certain defined pattern, and you're expected to make something that attaches to those to hang onto whatever it is that you are building. Bosch makes pallet conveyors that may help with this, also.

The only advice I can offer is to keep it simple. A whole bunch of separate almost-independent stations, each of which do one simple operation, is more likely to achieve success than a complicated, messy attempt to do it all in one shot. And, at least for your first attempt, don't try to jam yourself into too little floor space. Once you have the process down THEN you can think about saving floor space.

Station 1 load base plate onto pallet
Station 2 insert inner piece onto base plate
Station 3 rivet
Station 4 load cover plate
Station 5 install screws
Station 6 function test
... and so forth.

This way if you have problems with one particular station, they don't screw up your entire machine, and you even have a fighting chance of doing the operations manually to maintain production if the automatic station decides to break or doesn't feel like doing anything for some reason.

Don't forget that there are standards which have to be met which pertain to operator safety, electrical safety, pressure vessel safety, etc.

In my area (Toronto) there are plenty of automation integrators who could design and build something of this sort. It will, of course, cost something.

RE: References for Designing a Product for Fully Automated Assembly

Thanks for the feedback.

Can anyone comment on how the the relationship with Chinese manufacturing is handled? For example, do you design everything in the U.S. ship it over and keep manufacturing in China, or do you just begin manufacturing in the U.S. now that labor is not such a high cost. Or is it best to work with your contract manufacturer to design the automated equipment?

Currently we are working with a Tier 2 CM in Shenzhen that can likely handle this automation, but I have heard of competitors bringing everything back to the U.S. when it is fully automated.

RE: References for Designing a Product for Fully Automated Assembly

Chinese labor costs are not the bargain they were 20 years ago; even they are looking to offshore cost-sensitive production with high labor content.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
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