Assembly in Action: Custom Components Reduce R&D Costs
Luminex Corp. manufactures machines that are used to analyze nucleic acids and proteins in the life sciences market. The company's open-architecture xMAP technology makes it possible for researchers to conduct and analyze a large number of biological tests, or bioassays, quickly, cost-effectively and accurately.
Since its incorporation in 1995, one of the company's most daunting challenges has been the cost of the components used in the prototype units that it creates as part of its ongoing research and development efforts. However, beginning in 2005, the company found that it could reduce these costs dramatically by purchasing linear shafts, linear bushings, timing pulleys and belts from MISUMI USA (Schaumburg, IL).
"The availability of solid models, and the fact that I can order custom components finished and ready for assembly were the two big reasons we decided to begin purchasing parts from MISUMI," says Roland Schneider, director of instrument production and advanced manufacturing engineering at Luminex Corp. "This fact, combined with the large range of products available in inch and metric standards, made the decision much easier."
According to Schneider, "It became obvious that significant economies could be realized.... The technical calculation section of the MISUMI catalog offers guidelines for the design engineer to accurately specify the correct flat belt for use with the fully configurable timing pulleys also available from the company. Timing pulleys are fully configurable down to the number of teeth on each pulley. The flexibility available to the design engineer is unique. I don't know of another company that sells timing pulleys this way."
Schneider notes that in addition to cutting R&D costs, MISUMI's part information further facilitates product development by enabling extensive computer-aided design. "We use SolidWorks in the design phase of our product development. The rapid availability of CAD models enables us to do several design iterations before buying any parts. This helps us by reducing the amount of parts that never find their way into the finished machine," Schneider says.
Finally, as a new machine is prepared for production, the manufacturing engineering department at Luminex is responsible for sourcing components that are cost-effective. In the medical industry, this often requires extensive testing and validation of components. "I usually analyze the cost for all the engineering work and how long it would take to amortize this cost. Unfortunately, this often turns out not to be cost-effective. Therefore, it is even more vital for the designers to source the appropriately costed components from the beginning," says Schneider.
"We are now able to finish the design of a new analyzer by using the [MISUMI] CAD Configurator and downloading native CAD files directly into our assembly drawings. Parts are then ordered from MISUMI as purchased components and scheduled for delivery on the date we plan for a machine build. The fact that MISUMI publishes the ship dates for their components also contributes to our efficiency. We previously had to wait for parts from the local machine shops, which was often a guessing game. With MISUMI, we no longer guess, because the answer is printed right in the pages of their catalogs."
For more on custom and standardized automation components visit www.misumiusa.com.