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Orientation Matters: Why Part Positioning is Crucial in the Design of an Automated Assembly System

It’s no big secret that one of the leading reasons companies choose to automate production is to improve their manufacturing efficiency. By automating their assembly, they are often able to increase the number of parts they can produce per minute, which often leads to increased profitability. But automation alone isn’t enough if the overall system design fails to move your part through the process in the most efficient way.

Part positioning or part orientation can be tricky, but getting it right is crucial to the overall flow and speed of the automated assembly system. To “orient” a part means to set or arrange a part in a predetermined position from an arbitrary position. Getting this right, sometimes down to the smallest tolerance levels, can be the difference between a machine that runs efficiently vs. one that becomes jammed causing costly delays.

When parts are presented to your assembly process in a pre-positioned manner, such as directly after a molding process, you may be able to retain optimal part orientation without adding other methods of manipulation. But more frequently, parts require a feeding system to isolate and orient a part.

There are many different types of feeding systems, so you want to make sure you select the most appropriate style to isolate and present each part using the quickest and most reliable method possible. This will often depend on the specific characteristics of your individual part. For example, is the part heavy or light, sturdy or delicate.

Some methods of part feeding include:

Parts being fed by a vibratory bowl feeder.

· inline feeders

· single (and dual)-belt feeders

· electromagnetic vibratory bowl

· motorized centrifugal bowls

For more intricate parts that need to be fed at a higher rate, some solutions include:

· tray feeders

· reel-fed tape

· pocketed tape

· die-cut on demand

· robotic and vision systems

These all work differently to accomplish the same goal – present your part in the correct orientation so that it will continue through the assembly process with the fewest number of steps possible.

Only your specific project needs will determine which method will work best for your application. However, taking part orientation into account in the beginning stages of a design is important and can help avoid the need to add more sophisticated and costly manipulation processes down the road. With enough forethought you can design an automation system that maintains the proper part orientation throughout the entire assembly process, allowing you to create a faster, more efficient system and often reduce the costs associated with needing additional feed systems.

If you are still struggling with choosing the best way to accomplish this, perhaps it’s time to call PrimeTest® Automation for a design consultation. Our years of experience handling a multitude of parts ensures we know how to position even the most complex one in the right direction, often saving you the time and expense involved in trying to go it alone.



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