Installed, switched on and ready to go
The degree of automation featured in industrial machinery and production lines continues to grow rapidly. Nevertheless, the approach typically followed by machine builders in practice is to wait until the control cabinet is being set up to take the control and I/O components from their packaging and install each one separately. This complex manual process slows down construction and provides plenty of opportunities for costly errors. The new X20 assembly line offers a much more sophisticated alternative.
Faster and more cost-effective
B&R now supplies compact, individually configured X20 systems as complete, pre-assembled units. These units are typically provided with modules and terminals already labeled and ready to be attached to the mounting rail and wired. Upon request, they can also be equipped with terminal and module locking mechanisms and pre-installed application software, which prevents assembly errors and accelerates the commissioning process. Logistics across the board are also streamlined – from order placement to its receipt and internal transport – while also reducing packaging and waste. Users also benefit from a guarantee that not only covers the individual components, but their correct assembly as well.
"We had to find a way to make assembly more efficient, or we would lose the ability to offer the customer a cost benefit," says Andreas Karrer, project manager for global industrial management at B&R. "After all, our goal is to offer our customers guaranteed high quality for less than it would cost with their own personnel."
To achieve this, B&R had to figure out how to intelligently use automation technology to provide optimal support for assembly personnel. The result is a whole new production line, developed and built in cooperation between B&R and specialist machine manufacturer Stranger KG. Customer-specific X20 racks can be assembled on this new line in a fully integrated, semi-automated sequence – from the collection of materials to packaging and labeling.
How does the X20 assembly line work?
First, the required items are collected in a container known as the "pirate ship", which is equipped with an RFID chip identifying the customer and order. The SAP parts list has a complete picture of the future unit from the very beginning.
When the pirate ship reaches the assembly station, the manual task of putting together the three elements of the I/O modules begins with lining up the bus modules on an assigned workpiece holder. Once this backplane of bus modules is completed, the electronic modules are added followed by the terminal modules.
Throughout assembly, each item's barcode is scanned and compared with the parts list to prevent errors and ensure the traceability of each individual module based on its serial number. Assembly personnel are guided by a pick-by-light system, a concept borrowed from high-tech circuit board assembly stations. After each completed action is confirmed, the screen shows which component needs to be picked next, while lights indicate where it needs to be placed. Sensors monitor the entire process and alert personnel of any errors.
As it continues on, the pirate ship can take the partially assembled unit to the labeling station in the interior of the line. Here, the labels for the modules and terminal plates are printed using the required background color and applied in the correct locations. After laser labeling, the X20 rack then passes through to the completion workstation. This is where module and terminal locking mechanisms are added to prevent careless disconnections.
Before continuing on to the packaging station, the rack is once again checked by an image processing system to verify that all components, labels and locking mechanisms have been placed correctly. If everything is where it belongs, the finished racks are packaged in specially developed adjustable-width boxes. The parts list and all other documentation are printed at the time of packaging to ensure that only accurate and up-to-date documents are included.
Andreas Karrer, Project Manager for Global Industrial Management at B&R
"B&R provides its customers with precisely the I/O control systems they need, when they need them – assembled to their specifications with a processing time of only two days. By doing away with inconvenient assembly work performed in the confines of the control cabinet – frequently in the field during an already stressful commissioning process – machine and systems manufacturers are guaranteed considerably higher process reliability."