In another post I described an air filter tester built with NAS in the late 1990s. These testers were for automotive filters and generally were built around a single automation concept; a Cosmo leak tester or vision system for instance. At that time most of the machines I worked on or built were fairly small and generally made of aluminum extrusion.
After I closed my small integration and machine building company in 2006 I went to work for a much larger machine building company where I am currently still employed. The first project I was assigned to was another filter tester, this time for respirator filters. This machine was much larger than the single purpose machines I had built for testing previously.
It illustrates the integration aspects of machine building pretty well. The infeed section was purchased and integrated to a cleated conveyor built in house.
Parts were transferred from the infeed section into an inspection area where a computer based Cognex vision system was used to inspect the printing on the filters. Rejected filters were dumped into a tote. The filters exited the rotary dial in two lanes and were transferred to a cell where a robot placed the filters into one of eight testers.
Failed filters were once again ejected into a plastic tote from a cleated exit conveyor. Filters wer then conveyed into a packaging machine, another example of integrating machines made by a third party into a complete system for the customer.
This system was my idea of the ideal machine to work on. It had many different automation elements from vision to robotics to integration, it went through the progression of design-build-startup-installation (I’ve already mentioned my love for travel…). Overall the most enjoyable system I have worked on in my current position. Three of these systems were built and I was able to travel to two different locations for installation including one international site. If only all systems followed such a logical progression!