Smart window fans this week. Then smart floor lamps next month. After that, it’s a dual job; half the stations on the toaster ovens, half the stations on the air conditioners. Each product comes with its own set of specifications, its own production sequence. Reconfiguring the floor for each setup will be tricky, but that’s okay. It means you get to play with the tool controllers—the fun part of the job.
For contract manufacturers, versatility reigns. Faced with continually shifting technical specifications, the ability to plan and execute complex assembly procedures determines a company’s ability to compete. The more versatile a production facility is, the more contracts it can bid. Tool controllers that can manipulate tools through multiple passes give production lines the versatility they need to handle nearly any contract in their range while increasing speed and improving quality.
The Demand for Complex Assembly in Modern Manufacturing
Many industries rely on the manufacture of complex mechanical products, from toasters to tractors. Even relatively simple household appliances, like microwaves, are becoming more complex, as miniaturized electronics are regularly included. At the same time, production volume remains high, creating a need for speed in manufacturing.
To save space and increase efficiency in manufacturing, many products are now assembled at fewer stations. Each stage of a product’s assembly, therefore, involves more discrete motions, often in specific sequences. As products change over quarters and years, so do the actions required of a factory’s assembly tools. Factories able to rapidly prepare for new assembly processes will have a competitive advantage over slower alternatives. Their ability to do work in less space can reduce the footprint overhead as well, thereby improving profit margins for each bid.
Multi-Pass Tool Controllers Enable Complex Manufacturing
It takes versatile tools to build complex products. Even if a product requires three dozen fasteners, in six different sizes, it can still be put together by the same tool if it has the right controller. While this complex sequencing is simple for a human builder to grasp, the repetition involved in the actual fastening can lead to inattention and mistakes.
Advances in programming have led to tool controllers capable of storing and executing multiple complex fastening sequences, running several screwdrivers separately or in parallel. These tool controllers allow companies to quickly and reliably assemble multiple layers of products at the same station. This cuts down on assembly time, as it reduces the need to transport products between different stations. It also lowers the total number of tools required for assembly since one tool can fasten many screws or bolts on the same product.
Like human builders, automated tool controllers are easily able to learn new sequences. As new production contracts queue up, engineers can look at the product specifications and design a fastening sequence that suits your facility. Programmers can teach the new orders to the tools, and the same station that built a home speaker this week is ready to assemble a white noise machine the next.
These advanced tool controllers also increase product quality and reduce lost product. Tool controllers can detect common fastening issues like cross-threading, omissions, and unfinished rundowns in situ, then call for corrective action. This prevents errors from moving onto the next production stage. Relying on programmed sequences also limits accidental mixups in sequence or fastener choice. To keep the process flowing smoothly, fasteners for these systems are delivered either by fixed-point screw presenters or via pneumatic tubing from a central location.
Manufacturing companies trade on their ability—whatever needs to be made, they will make it. The companies more easily able to assemble a wide array of diverse, complex products will be able to broaden and deepen their revenue streams. Automatic tool controllers, capable of multiple passes, enable contract manufacturers to compete for an expansive realm of assembly jobs.