Tri-Bot Linear Robots for Better, Faster Picking and Packing

May 20, 2020

Increasing demands for the rapid production of high-volume products have given rise to the popularity of delta robots in modern-day manufacturing. A delta robot consists of three lightweight arms connected to universal joints at the base. Macron Dynamics has innovated that design by utilizing our modular belt driven linear actuator components to provide the mobility required in a unique way. This solution is available as a kit with the belt-driven actuators and the connector kit and can be configured with various end-effectors.

A Brief History of Delta Robots

Animation of a Delta Robot

The delta robot was first introduced over 30 years ago. Inspired by a visit to a chocolate factory, Reymond Clavel and his team at the Robotics Systems Laboratory at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne produced the first prototype of the delta robot in the mid 1980s. Having studied the production of chocolate pralines, Clavel and his team found the ideal high-speed robotic solution for repetitive labor applications.

As with any new technology, many manufacturers were hesitant to include the delta robot into their product line because they were skeptical about the return on investment (ROI) and how the tools would really increase productivity. However, today they are seen as an essential productivity-enhancing tool for many industrial manufacturers. With unparalleled pick-and-place, sorting, and other high-speed low-mass applications, delta robots are now a mainstream robotic solution.

While many manufacturers within the industry continue to rely on delta robots for faced-paced production of high-volume products, this automation often comes with steep capital investments and limited, inflexible capabilities that impact overall ROI. The Macron Dynamics Tri-Bot Linear Robot is helping manufacturers benefit from the fast, scalable, repeatable characteristics of traditional delta robots, but without some of the classic challenges of the technology.https://www.youtube.com/embed/toteQ_gVuZo?feature=oembed&rel=0

Why Use a Tri-Bot?

  • Lower Cost: The Macron Dynamics Tri-Bot Linear Robot is a much more cost-effective option when compared to traditional delta robots. Often costing a fraction of the price, the Tri-Bot is affordable and the ROI for the purchase is realized sooner as a result.
  • Key Features: With payload capacity of 5kg and the ability to complete fast, repeatable movements of up to 125 picks per minute, manufacturers receive the same benefits of the traditional delta robot.
  • Flexibility: Compared to other competing linear solutions, our Tri-Bot can be configured to provide a larger range of work envelopes. Like all of Macron Dynamics’ linear robotics, this solution can be built on its own platform, engineered into your infrastructure, or outfitted with an array of end-effectors in order to meet the specific needs of your unique application.

Who Needs a Tri-Bot?

Many industries and applications can leverage the design of our Tri-Bot Linear Robot to increase productivity, worker safety, and overall capabilities.

According to National Sales Manager Michael Giunta, “Any application that can be improved with a reliable, repeatable, high-speed pick-and-pack solution for low to medium payloads is an excellent candidate for a Tri-Bot. Its ability to provide conveyor tracking and up to 125 picks per minute at a fraction of the cost of more traditional delta platforms is unbeatable.”

Learn more about Macron Dynamics’ Tri-Bot Linear Robot.

Originally posted at:

https://www.macrondynamics.com/news/tri-bot-linear-robots-for-better-faster-picking-and-packing

Automation Is Making The Fast Food Industry Faster

March 16, 2020 by Lisa Eitel

Recently Macron Dynamics’ National Sales Manager Michael G. Giunta was interviewed by Motion Control Tips: A Design World Resource about current automation trends burgeoning in the fast-food industry. This interview is excerpted here with permission.

To the relief of those who are indecisive at the drive through, McDonald’s Corp. will soon be ramping up its use of voice-activated order taking. That’s according to a Wall Street Journal report last year — which also details how designs coming to the restaurant also include automatic systems to operate the deep fryers for its chicken patties and nuggets, fish filets, and French fries. Of course, what we in the automation industry call machine-to-machine (M2M) networking already helps quick-service restaurants (QSRs) remotely monitor operational data related to food supplies as well as the status of restaurant refrigerators, security, and safes with many M2M functions even to levels qualifying as IIoT.

McDonald’s chief aim in applying automation and connectivity technologies is primarily to address wait times that have lengthened in recent years. Other fast-food chains and QSRs have begun using these technologies to boost safety and consistency. One company is using actuators to scoop up eggs and flip them over. Other companies are automating the process of placing items on buns, and all major chains are looking to automate tasks — even down to filling the beverages.

Macron Dynamics technology is helping Quick Serve Restaurants.

Fast-food automation deep dive with Macron Dynamics

In a recent conversation with Macron Dynamics national sales manager Michael G. Giunta about the quick-service restaurant industry, we learned more about how restaurant chains employ motion designs for physical tasks to optimize operations. Here’s what Giunta had to say on this growing industry for automation.

Eitel • Design World: When we think of fast food, we think efficiency. Of course, we’ve heard of self-operating dishwashers and semi-autonomous cook stations under testing in select pilot locations. How is automation already helping chains boost throughput of meals?

Giunta • Macron Dynamics: Efficiency is everything. After all, every restaurant is basically like a miniature factory … and the fact that there’s a menu means customers are essentially choosing from a catalog of options. QSRs face the same challenges as many U.S. factories in preparing products and getting them into customers’ hands with quality, consistency, accuracy, and quickness. This includes McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A, and Burger King. For example, most Panera Bread locations now have ordering kiosks. There are less front-counter staff as the kiosks are becoming a more efficient way of order taking.

Linear Automation is helping the fast-food business deliver a better, safer experience for guests and staff..

Eitel • Design World: A lot of consumer coverage of automation in QSRs includes imagery of collaborative robots as well as SCARAs tending fryers and the like. Are there places where these and other automated motion designs are already in place?

Giunta • Macron Dynamics: Though I can’t say much, I can state we’ll see more of these installations in the future. Some franchises are fully owned and operated by franchisees … and some of these restaurants will ultimately make their own decisions about when to automate. In other instances, corporate mandates could spur the adoption of more technology by owner-operators.

In fact, European fast-food locations that face relatively high labor costs will likely lead adoption. It’s the job of motion-component and system suppliers such as Macron Dynamics to help these companies develop the technology … though a caveat is that the technology must be cost competitive.

Macron Dynamics Robotic transport units.

Eitel • Design World: The National Restaurant Association cites a labor shortage for quick-service chains. Where have you seen automation help address this issue?

Giunta • Macron Dynamics: There’s definitely a shortage of labor in the workplace, so restaurants must often fight for whoever is left in the labor pool. Many QSRs keep business afloat by employing minimal staff at every location.

Reconsider kiosks: These mean workers aren’t forced to sit behind registers all day … which in turn frees these employees to help prepare food and assist customers with seating. Automation also helps prevent the biggest source of complaint customers have — orders that aren’t correct. Again, kiosks let customers enter orders how they want … and if the order is wrong, it’s kind of on them. They’re the ones who entered the field with the data.

Eitel • Design World: Most people probably aren’t aware of how much McDonald’s beverage fulfillment is automated.

Giunta • Macron Dynamics: At most McDonald’s restaurants there is a machine with a carousel that drops cups onto an indexer with a small conveyor to the right of the beverage location. The system fills the cups with ice and the correct fluid volumes. Then the person working at the drive through just needs to put a lid on the cup and hand it to the customer. Soon we’ll see similar systems for coffee drinks.

Eitel • Design World: Labor unions warn that automation could eliminate jobs. If that’s not true, how can industry help assuage concerns? Give some examples of technologies complementing the efforts of employees.

Giunta • Macron Dynamics: Well, consider Chick-fil-A, which publicly advertises all the time about service and quality and consistency. McDonald’s touts these values as well. Both companies aim for continual improvement of efficiency and consistency … especially for their most popular items such as chicken tenders and nuggets. At McDonald’s, one of the most-sold products is actually chicken nuggets.

Eitel • Design World: What? I never would have guessed.

Automation powering the drink dispensing process.

Giunta • Macron Dynamics: I didn’t always know that either. But chicken nuggets and French fries are top orders … I mean, everybody gets fries. So automation makes a lot of sense for these high-volume items because machines can completely prevent cross contamination. More specifically, there’s zero risk of an employee accidentally putting a fish filet into the oil vat meant for fries. Most people won’t know this, but those vats of oil are application specific — and you don’t want to cross contaminate.

Macron Dynamics has helped develop a linear robot for the industry to execute the accurate transfer of product in and out of the fryers for chicken nuggets, breaded chicken sandwiches, fish filets, and French fries. This delivery system includes an automatic way of getting food out of the freezer, putting it into a basket, putting the basket into the oil, taking the basket out of the oil at the exact amount of time, and dumping it into either a basket or tray — to let a person grab the items for garnishing and wrapping.

In practice, Cartesian systems for these settings install behind a shield to prevent any oil from splashing on employees.

Eitel • Design World: To be clear — when you say linear robot — is that another term for Cartesian robot?

Giunta • Macron Dynamics: Yes, that’s correct. Just consider the motion of a fryer basket going in and out of a fryer: It’s going up and going down and left and right — and that’s it. It doesn’t require a six-axis robot to do this simple linear motion. In fact, it’s our perspective that many of the repetitive processes associated with frying foods and delivering ice into a cup and so forth are very linear moves and not complex enough to justify the high-tech motions that a human or 6-DOF robot can do.

Linear-based motion technologies shine here, as they come at a price point that’s far more economical than collaborative robots.

Eitel • Design World: So does the equipment around the Cartesian robot require customization to accommodate the grippers or hooks or whatever end effector you are using?

Giunta • Macron Dynamics: Yes indeed. Everything is as low technology as possible in order to grasp the metal fryer basket. Of course, there are any number of ways to grab a product —but in the case of baskets, a hook or a simple gripper is basically all the application needs. A high-technology end effector would be overkill, because again — the job is to grab what is essentially a piece of tooling. All the handles on these baskets are the same exact size, and they don’t change — so the automated system is repeating the process over and over and over and over again.

Eitel • Design World: Do automated systems perform jobs as well as actual employees?

Giunta • Macron Dynamics: Automation does indeed improve food quality. Picture a restaurant’s lunch-hour rush with employees running around and a drive through that’s going crazy. People in the restaurant’s front area are ordering off kiosks and from employees … and there’s a huge spike in food-order volume. All fast-food chains deal with this.

What happens? Employees rush to get meals to customers as quickly as possible — so in some cases, they may take French fries out of the fryer too soon. In other cases, if they become busy helping customers, they may take the French fries out too late. The whole situation makes for inconsistent French-fry quality. In contrast, putting oil-vat operations on exact timers is perfect every cycle.

Another factor that makes the automation of French-fry cooking so successful is that QSRs all standardize their potato cuts’ shape and size — so a preset cook time yields the same consistency … whether you’re in Chicago or South Carolina.

Eitel • Design World: Unfortunately, accidents and injuries such as burns do happen. That’s exacerbated by the fact that many fast-food restaurant workers are there for temporary work. One study found that Panera Bread loses 100% of its employees every year. How exactly does automation help boost safety for even inexperienced employees?

Giunta • Macron Dynamics: Fryers are especially dangerous because of the hot oil — and because a lot of times, the floor near the fryer can become slippery. So protecting humans from this immediate environment efficiently renders QSR working conditions safer. That’s especially relevant to restaurants that aim to provide empowering work to individuals with developing skill sets and learning disabilities. It’s absolutely a priority that no one gets hurt. So designs based on linear robots are already helping eliminate one of the most dangerous areas.

Eitel • Design World: When the product is a $3 sandwich, it’s got to be hard for some franchisees to justify the upfront cost of automating tasks.

Giunta • Macron Dynamics: Another challenge for QSRs besides cost is space. Just think about the land a restaurant uses and where these QSRs are usually located. The owner can’t just say, “I’m going to blow up the back of my McDonald’s and add an addition.” That’s because they’re usually landlocked and must accommodate a drive through … and some of these restaurants are in densely packed cities. So retrofitting for automation usually requires replacement of existing equipment with new automated equipment that’s identical in size. That’s a big problem for solutions based on collaborative robots and conventional 6-DOF robots … because even though they’re compact, the actual motions they execute takes up a lot of space.

Eitel • Design World: So Cartesian robots must shine here. What exactly do such linear-motion systems look like? Do they hang from above like a gantry? Or is the Cartesian setup mounted to the wall behind the fryers?
Giunta • Macron Dynamics: There are certainly different ways to automate these areas … though the solution must usually fit into an existing space. Few restaurants could mount robotics from above, because most cooking stations require large kitchen hoods to vent smoke and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some Cartesian systems might mount from below or on the side of the cook station; it depends on the exact equipment type, model, and location. One thing to remember is that with Cartesian designs, the product orientation is irrelevant, as the design can run in any direction to satisfy specific applications.

Eitel • Design World: These new applications for motion systems and other automation seems to bend our regular industry definitions. For example, should we call kiosks HMIs? Does automation behind the counter count as bin picking and conveyance?

Giunta • Macron Dynamics: Most people probably couldn’t succinctly define the term automation anymore, because today we have automated designs that people never would have imagined 40 years ago. Automation is in entertainment — just think of Disney and Universal Studios virtual-reality rides — and now fast food and even in our homes. It is mind boggling that we can now open our cell phones with facial recognition to tell Google with our voice to adjust the thermostat. My own Nest doorbell tells me when packages are delivered. I define that as automation employing software and hardware.

Eitel • Design World: Right. Now we just need robots to shuttle our Amazon Prime orders to safety when the UPS guy can’t get into the garage. Or maybe one day we’ll see automated platforms complementing Ring doorbells to launch porch pirates away.

Giunta • Macron Dynamics: Just flip them onto the grass — very gently of course.


For your next automation system project, explore Linear Robots as an economical solution. For help selecting the right Linear Robot for your unique needs, please contact one of our expert representatives located near you.

Originally posted at:

https://www.macrondynamics.com/news/automation-is-making-the-fast-food-industry-faster

Macron Dynamics is Growing. Grow with Us!

Macron Dynamics begins 2020 with growth in mind.

Strong demand for linear and mechanical motion components and systems is providing Macron Dynamics with a strong growth outlook for 2020. To manufacture the volume of components used in automation solutions for clients throughout the U.S. and around the globe Macron Dynamics plans to double its plant capacity and needs skilled team members to join its Croydon, PA manufacturing team.

Featured in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article, Macron Dynamics is set to prosper supporting a diverse list of industries ranging from high-volume bakeries, pharmacies to e-commerce warehouses. “Right now the best markets are warehousing, moving products quickly through buildings and sorting food and beverage,” noted Craig Marshall, COO of Macron Dynamics.

If mechanical automation can be used to streamline a manually intensive process and help clients control their labor costs, Macron Dynamics has an answer.

Serving Alternative Needs With Automation

Material Handling & Packaging Automation might be a big market driving growth in 2020, but other higher-profile projects also drive growth, like the development of the three-dimensional Coca-Cola billboard in Times Square, which uses 1,760 belt drivers to create a visually distinctive billboard experience.

Originally posted at:

https://macrondynamics.com/news/macron-dynamics-growing-in-2020

Macron Dynamics Releases New MRG Right Angle Gearboxes

Macron Dynamics, Inc. just updated and expanded its line of planetary gearboxes with the new MRG Right Angle Gearboxes. This product-line expansion complements the Improved MPG Inline Planetary Gearboxes.

Macron Right Angle Gearbox

Macron Dynamics’ gearboxes are designed to eliminate the need for motor mounts used in a typical linear actuator drive system setup. Similar to the MPG line of in-line planetary gearboxes, the MRG gearboxes offer a direct bolt-on installation for all Macron Dynamic linear actuators and gantry systems.

The lightweight design:

  • eliminates the need for couplings and large mounting brackets
  • makes the actuator and drive assembly a seamless integral unit
  • require little to no maintenance
  • offers a single screw clamping collar attachment for the pulley housing

The MRG line shares many similarities with the MPG in-line planetary gearboxes, including integrating with the same actuators and sharing the same max motor input shaft diameter. Output torque between the MPG and MRG lines does differ slightly.

MPG-084 Cutaway Diagram

Released in Fall 2018, the MPG inline planetary gearboxes were improved to have a single clamping collar attachment which matches the Macron pulley housing precisely. MPG gearboxes have gears designed for infinite life when operated at the rated torque. Bearings and lubricants are selected to achieve maintenance-free operation for long operating periods.

Both the MPG and MRG gearboxes are available for a wide variety of Macron Dynamics belt drive and screw driven actuators

Originally posted at: https://macrondynamics.com/news/macron-releases-new-mrg-gearboxes

Premature Damage to Actuator Bearings?

Are you hearing unusual noises or seeing blackened grease leaking out of your pulley housings resulting in unplanned machine downtime? If you are, you’re not alone. Your actuator may be degrading due to a phenomenon known as electrical discharge (ED).

Premature actuator damage due to ED?Stray electrical voltages are traveling from motor shafts through couplings, pulleys, bearings, and housings in a search for ground. Since ball bearings are rolling contacts with lubricant between surfaces, the voltage arcs the gap and causes material erosion, lubricant failure, heat, and ultimately premature bearing failure.

This damage can reduce the life of bearings that should last 6 to 10 years to as little as 2 to 6 months. Your root cause investigation should focus on the motor grounding system as voltage discharges as low as 3.2 volts will cause current discharges across a ball bearing and raceway lubricant gap.

 

How it works:

Electrical Discharge Machining, sometimes called “spark machining” is a common manufacturing process where material removal is done by triggering a rapidly recurring current discharge between two electrodes separated by a dielectric liquid and subjected to an electrical voltage. One of the electrodes is the part being machined and the other is the “tool” electrode, typically a wire or carbon shape.

The gap between each electrode is precisely controlled and the dielectric liquid fills this gap. As voltage is applied and increased, the intensity of the electrical field in the gap rises and becomes stronger than the dielectric liquid, allowing current to flow or arc across the gap. As a result, material is removed from each electrode and carried away by the dielectric fluid. Performing this arcing at a high frequency results in an efficient erosion machining process that is very good for hardened materials.

Whereas EDM is a practical manufacturing process, it is not desirable in Motion Control systems and applications.

How do you recognize Electrical Discharge?

Stage One:

At first, the continuous arcing will start pitting the bearing raceways and reduce the ball diameter. Ball retainers will also start eroding and break apart. The heat builds due to arcing and friction causing the grease lubrication to breakdown and become contaminated with metal particulate. Blackened grease may leak out of the bearing and be visible on the pulley housing and pulley shaft.

Stage Two:

As the bearing degrades and becomes unlubricated, heat and friction build causing metal to metal contact noise. If the actuator drive shaft is decoupled from the motor, you may feel a roughness or bumpiness when rotating the drive shaft. The electrical discharge continues and works its way to all the bearings in the actuator as these are the points of arcing.

Stage Three:

As the bearings degrade (balls, retainer cage and polymer seals disappear) and become non-functional the actuator will begin running erratic and make significant noise. In a fully catastrophic case there are no bearings remaining and the pulley is unsupported, the actuator timing will be compromised and other parts of the machine system will be affected.

Here is a Stage 2 ED-damaged drive pulley housing that has been disassembled.

The shaft-side bearing (left) shows no seal, blackened lubricant and damaged ball cage. The pulley housing and bearing (right) show no visible damage but the bearing rotates with a rough feel indicating Stage 1 damage.

Determining if your actuator has been damaged by ED:

  1.  Measure actuator pulley housings and shafts for a voltage using an Oscilloscope or an Electrical Discharge Pen TKED1 made by SKF. Presence of voltage is a good indicator that ED is contributing to the failure.
  2.  Check all drive system ground connections and cables for proper ground bonding and shielding. If inconsistencies are found, correct and recheck for voltages.
  3. Measure temperatures of the motor, adaptor and pulley housings for excess heat generation. Hot spots may indicate failure point.
  4. Replace noisy drive or idler pulley assemblies. Record change dates and monitor the performance over time. It is quite rare for a pulley assembly to fail within 6 months of installation

What the World Would be Like if Palletizer Machines Didn’t Exist

Hello Automation, Goodbye Manual Palletizing

palletizer-system

Palletizer machines have become an essential part of automation, replacing human error and injury in manufacturing with efficiency and speed. In addition to such benefits, palletizers can handle environments that would otherwise be injurious to workers. Instead of requiring the hire of more laborers to do this work, many companies have adopted palletizers into their workplace environments in order to get the job done more quickly, effectively and safely.

Read more