The German machine building industry has been badly affected by the global economic crisis. Despite the slight lift in spirits in Germany's economy, which was reflected in the Ifo Business Climate Index at the beginning of the year, order rates in the industrial goods industry are unsteady. Pessimists anticipate not only a decline in exports, but also a slump in production investments at home. Reduced workloads on existing equipment and machines are an additional concern to those in positions of responsibility. Work places are in danger. However, within the crisis there is also opportunity. There is a recognizable trend in systems technology, which moves away from large fully automated machines and leans towards variable manual systems.
According to the January survey of the Munich Ifo Institute for Economic Research, approximately 7000 companies reported increased business expectations in comparison to last month. However, in these times of economic uncertainty large capital investments are avoided. Instead, the industry is concentrating on manually loaded “single cell solutions" or “smart work stations". The company DEPRAG SCHULZ GMBH & CO. KG, specialists for automation, air tools and screwdriving technology based in Amberg, Germany, have also observed this development. “We have registered an increased demand for operator based systems in particular", confirmed Sales Manager Jürgen Hierold.
The processing reliability of the manual “smart work stations" or “intelligent work stations" is just as secure as that of automated production. Even with alternating operators, well-prepared production does not present any processing difficulties. Example: The automation expert DEPRAG, located in Amberg, equips its manual work stations with EC- or EC-Servo screwdrivers and sequence controllers, which are part of the standard program.
These EC screwdrivers enable free programming of the screw parameters. Within the performance range of each spindle torque, speed, waiting period and rotational direction can be individually customized to the screw assembly task. Varied torque parameters can be set for several screw positions in one cycle when using mobile spindles. Integrated torque and angle recording allows precise control of the screw parameters as well as documentation of important processing parameters.
The addition of a DEPRAG motion controller ensures additional processing reliability and the controller coordinates the entire production process. The sequential order of the various screw parameters can occasionally play a vital role for processing reliability when assembling several screws on one component. An “intelligent" position control stand supervises the procedure: Screws can only be assembled if the operator has followed the correct assembly order.
The motion controller controls the sequence of all manual procedures. This includes such functions as clamping and locking work pieces, automatic feeding of joining elements and activating measurement functions. The complete assembly sequence, including all measurement data ascertained, is processed in the controller module. This enables such actions as the opening of receiver equipment for part removal, printer activation or data transfer of assembly results.
Manual work stations such as the DEPRAG “smart work stations" consist of standardized components which can be chosen from a wide selection and tailored to the customer's requirements. They provide a low-cost answer to market challenges in periods of stagnation and economic crisis. Equally effective is the use of so-called “single cell solutions" - assembly cells which can either be loaded manually or with an automatic loading mechanism.
In times when order volumes are unstable, small assembly cells enable flexibility and adaption in production. Fully automated systems are sometimes inflexible. In times when order volumes are unstable, small assembly cells enable flexibility and adaption in production. However, when demand is high, large systems working at capacity may not be able to manage the required quantities. This is where the automation specialist DEPRAG SCHULZ GMBH & CO. KG is superbly positioned to meet the ever-changing market demands. Apart from fully automated assembly systems and standardized manual work stations, DEPRAG also manufactures compact, extremely flexible, “stand-alone assembly cells". These are known as DCAMs (DEPRAG COMPACT ASSEMBLY MODULES).
At the Automatica trade fair 2008, amongst other innovations DEPRAG presented their new DCAM-XS the smallest member of the DCAM-family that features extreme small dimensions (450 x 802 x 680 millimeters) and the module's fast changeover time of below a minute.
The entire DCAM product group of “stand-alone assembly cells" combines top efficiency with the best possible processing reliability. Numerous companies, which assemble electronic parts, have voiced their appreciation for these flexible assembly machines. Hundreds of these production systems manufacture worldwide tens of thousands of cell phones on a daily basis. The DCAM assembly system is either manually loaded by an operator or can be equipped with an automatic part-positioning system. Whether equipped with a linear transfer assembly line or a rotary indexing table, these systems combine the fastest assembly cycles with the highest flexibility.
The smallest member of the DCAM-family, the DCAM-XS, impresses through its unbeatable changeover-time of less than a minute. Feeders or processing modules are exchanged without having to readjust the pick-point. Also this system has short times to exchange bits or a screwdriving module. To refit from a “pick-and-place" system to an “automatic feeding" system, requires little effort.
Many different small components need to be assembled to create an electric razor or toothbrush, a digital camera, a GPS, automotive electronics or a cell phone. The DCAM assembly cells designed for mobile phone manufacturers are predominately based on multi-spindle concepts A four spindle DCAM, XYZ-programmable and equipped with a rotary indexing table enables a cycle time of 1.6 seconds per 4 screws. Calculating the performance of the machine on the basis of mobile phones with 6 screws results in a three shift production rate of 36,000 mobile phones! While the machine assembles the screws, the system automatically checks all assembly related quality control issues. This includes testing for screw presence, screw depth and torque and angle values. Errors are displayed on an interface module and must be acknowledged and reset before the system is approved for the next assembly cycle.
High investment costs and long ROI periods are associated with fully automated, larger systems. Flexibility is a deciding factor for an economic success during times of crisis. By using smaller and more flexible assembly systems, the amount of operators can be adjusted to correspond with the required production rates. Costs are proportional to demand. The “intelligent" production systems, such as the DEPRAG manual work stations or the DCAM assembly machines, guarantee a continued high quality without neglecting the standards for processing reliability.
For decades the engineers at DEPRAG SCHULZ GMBH & CO. KG have been creating innovative automation concepts. The company provides full service for almost every sector of industry supported by 600 dedicated employees and representatives in almost 50 countries. DEPRAG technicians work together with the customer to create a tailor-made final result which consists of products from the company's wide range of standard components. DEPRAG finds innovative and cost-effective production solutions even during an economic downturn.
DEPRAG SCHULZ GMBH u. CO. KG
Tel: 09621 371-343
Fax: 09621 371-199