The introduction of modern automation technology into the sensitive production areas of pharmaceutical and medical technology was rapid. However, the conditions for the entry of systems, components, and robots into this sector are anything but easy to meet. For example, systems for medical technology must in most cases meet demanding cleanroom classifications and the components must also be suitable for use under such adverse environmental conditions.
In the search for a new gripper solution for a newly developed application that is part of an automatic packaging line of a pharmaceutical company, the Tunisian automation specialist SEA electronics therefore found what it was looking for at Zimmer Group France – a French subsidiary of the German Zimmer Group. This is because the company's extremely broad product range includes a number of cleanroom-certified and clean-room-suitable components such as grippers and swivel units. The fact that the Tunisian automation specialist has already been working successfully with the French company on other projects for many years was a great advantage.
SEA electronics from Sousse – a port city and at the same time the third largest city in Tunisia – was founded in 1994. Initially, the young company helped the local industry to increase its productivity. Relatively quickly the company became successful and became a certified Siemens Solution Partner. A few years later, the company founded SEA Trading and SEA International to devote more attention to foreign projects.
Automatically cleaning glass vials
But now back to the application: The original automated cleaning machine, which can clean small sterile glass bottles called vials, consisted among other things of a rotary table and eight standard pneumatic rotary grippers from a market companion. By means of a filling device, the vials are filled with sterile water, then reach a rotary table for cleaning. Afterwards, the vials are grouped in a fours and fixed by a gripper attached to a swivel unit. The gripper then rotates through 180° to empty the vials again. The turntable then moves to the second position. There a cleaning process is started for the gripper or for the vials which it still holds with the opening pointing downwards. A washing needle penetrates into the bottles and cleans them with a jet of water. The gripper then moves back to its starting position (180° turn in the opposite direction). In the last step, the gripper places the bottles on a conveyor line for the drying and product filling process.
Problems with downtimes
The Tunisians were particularly worried about the many successive stoppages of the washer due to alarms (malfunction of the encoder). During an inspection of the machine's functional sequences, it was discovered that one of the grippers used was turning with difficulty, which jammed the transfer turret at the discharge guide and subsequently caused the machine to come to a standstill. After a precise diagnosis of the malfunction, for which the gripper had to be removed, the experts from SEA electronics had noticed signs of corrosion and rust on the bearings and inside the cylinder and could therefore conclude that the problem was primarily due to the gripper's tightness.
It was decided to replace the existing gripper with a new sealed gripper, which can ensure perfect functioning and adapt to the very humid climatic conditions of the washer. The Zimmer Group was able to score here with its pneumatic GPP5004N-21-A gripper.
Designed for universal use
The grippers of the GPP5000 series, with their robust, hard-coated steel-in-steel profile linear guide, were designed for true universal use. Depending on the variant, they have a number of features (speed, high gripping forces, long gripper jaw lengths) and thus offer the right solution for every application. When using a protector, the grippers have a sealing class of IP67 – ideal for use in clean rooms or in the damp ambient conditions of a cleaning machine.
Space problems in the bottle washer
The space available at the customer's premises was limited, so a very compact design was required. Here, the Zimmer Group grippers, which feature a variety of detailed solutions and thus facilitate daily use, were able to gain further plus points by often eliminating the need for accessories. For SEA electronics it was also not insignificant for the trouble-free operation of the machine that the GPP5000 grippers with their low coefficient of friction and good emergency running characteristics are able to handle 30 million cycles without maintenance.
Since the grippers must perform a rotary movement within the cleaning machine, the developers at SEA electronics also installed the flat swivel unit MSF44N-D2 from the Zimmer Group. The swivel unit ensures a gripper rotation of 180°. With a weight of the gripper, jaws, and the bottles of about 600g this unit had to ensure the rotation in 0.2 seconds.
After the successful commissioning of the bottle washer with the new grippers, Nouira Majdi of SEA electronics draws an all-round positive conclusion: “The machine runs well and absolutely trouble-free. Our expectations of the grippers have been fully met. The speed or cycle time with the grippers from the Zimmer Group was identical to the previous models. Productivity was also significantly increased because there were no more machine stops.”
The end customer was also impressed by the technical performance of the Zimmer Group grippers and its wide range of products.
Kitamura Machinery, a manufacturer of precision horizontal, vertical and 5-axis machining centers, announced a new strategic distributor partnership with Next Industries, machine tool sales, services, and shop floor solution providers with headquarters in Shelby Township, Michigan and a facility in Henderson, Kentucky. The partnership includes exclusive distribution of Kitamura’s vertical, horizontal, and 5-axis machining centers, accessories, spare parts, and software in Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky.
“I cannot convey enough how excited and honored our team is to be selected by Kitamura to represent the product in MI, IN, and KY,” says David Cochenour, director of operations at Next Industries. “Knowing the history of quality, accuracy, and speed of the Kitamura brand made the decision an easy one for our team. Next Industries has worked hard to set the bar at the highest level by providing our customers with unsurpassed solutions and services. As a full-service solutions provider, our team has been recognized for putting the customer first and providing value added solutions. Whether it be a fully automated turnkey system, a stand-alone machine, or parts, service, and applications support on your existing equipment, Next Industries has an extensive team of experienced experts to support you. Adding Kitamura to our lineup allows us to provide our customers with extremely rigid and accurate machining centers without sacrificing speed. This is true in not only the world’s fastest 2,362ipm rapids they achieve on solid box ways, but also through their 20,000rpm high torque, 4-step gear driven spindles.”
Jerry Pizzimenti, president of Next Industries, built one of the most reputable Industrial Supply companies in the country before selling it to Grainger. Pizzimenti has a passion for customer service, which is why he recruited Cochenour, a highly regarded machine tool sales and service professional from the largest machine tool builder in the world. Together their focus on service and support has rippled through the industry.
“In signing Next Industries as our exclusive distributor in Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky, we have partnered with an owner and team built to provide our customers with world class service, applications engineering, tooling and machine accessory support,” saysa Dave Lucius, Kitamura’s vice president of sales. “With Next Industries as our distributor, we increase our presence in three very important markets with a service first philosophy that mirrors Kitamura Machinery’s focus.”
Mike Frantzen, national service manager at Kitamura Machinery says, “I am extremely impressed with the professionalism and technical knowledge of the Next Industries service and applications team.”
Cobot Nation, one of the largest global sellers of collaborative robots (cobots), is excited to announce the release of the first publicly available Collaborative Robot return on investment (ROI) calculator. As a thought leader in manufacturing automation, Cobot Nation is confident in the services they provide, so much so that they have created a mechanism to allow manufacturers to have a completely transparent experience when searching for collaborative robots, accessories, installation options, service and support plans, training, and custom engineering solutions.
Cobot Nation’s mission is to democratize manufacturing and lead the charge toward “hands-free manufacturing,” which is the ability to run a manufacturing cell with few to no humans and automate repetitive human processes. The launch of the ROI calculator marks a monumental step toward achieving this goal. “We are proud to bring manufacturing an easier way for end-users to calculate their return on investment in months amongst other metrics,” says Cobot Nation CEO Gil Mayron. Cobot Nation believes in allowing manufacturers the opportunity to consider all their options when exploring automated manufacturing. Using the ROI calculator, manufacturers can see pricing for both Cobot Nation and their competitors, compare their ROIs, and compose an order.
The work Cobot Nation has done since its founding in early 2020 has already garnered a great deal of attention. Cobot Nation recently partnered with Kenmar Securities LLC and is working to raise a combined total of $15 million in company Series A equity and convertible notes.
Introducing cobots to manufacturing helps decrease errors, master throughput, and automate with or without humans. Cobot Nation designed the ROI calculator to optimize the entire experience of transitioning to automated, hand-free manufacturing. Cobot Nation plans to build upon this application with the long-term goal of incorporating more metrics into the ROI calculator as they increase their product and service offerings.
December orders of manufacturing technology totaled $456.7 million, nearly a 40% increase from November 2020 and a 17.6% increase over December 2019, according to the latest U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders (USMTO) report published by AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology. This is the highest monthly total since November 2018 and the second-straight month of year-over-year gains. Total orders in 2020 were $3.87 billion, a decrease of 15% from 2019.
“In December, the manufacturing technology industry saw growth in all geographic regions of the country as well as across the majority of manufacturing sectors,” said Douglas K. Woods, president of AMT. “Given the reduced holiday schedules of most companies in December, this is particularly striking. The aerospace industry, which has been anemic since the spring due to the collapse of global travel, did significantly better than it has in many months. The November FAA approval of the Boeing 737 Max led to increased capital equipment investments by both small and large companies who had financing dependent upon FAA approval in place for these investments.
“Last spring, industry economic forecasters were predicting a 50% decline in manufacturing technology orders for the year amid U.S. industrial production contracting at a lower annualized rate than any point during the Great Depression. But as 2020 closes, we can now confirm that orders were down only 15% for 2020. Given the strength of December, and with pent up demand, depleted inventories, continued reshoring, several COVID vaccines, and a lot of cash on the sidelines, things bode well for a positive start to 2021.”