Kenson Plastics Inc. uses pressure forming to make components out of a variety of thermoplastics, including Kydex (PVC and acrylic), polycarbonate and styrenes. Photo by Jim Camillo

Forget about the sophomore jinx. My second visit to the Assembly & Automation Technology Expo, held September 20-22 at McCormick Place in Chicago, was excellent.

For starters, I stopped in at an “Innovation Brief” by David O’Leary, vice president of sales and marketing for Kenson Plastics Inc., about pressure-formed plastic components used in the assembly of aerospace, medical, and electronics products. Kenson makes components out of a variety of thermoplastics, including Kydex (PVC and acrylic), polycarbonate and styrenes.

“Pressure forming is definitely a niche process in manufacturing,” says O’Leary, “But it’s great for mow to mid-volume applications, as well as large parts.”

In business since 1972, Kenson makes components for several well-known OEMs, including GE Healthcare, Siemens, Philips and Eaton. The company makes industrial breaker box covers for Eaton and various sub-assembly pieces for Philips’ home healthcare facility (manufacturing plant) in Murrysville, PA.

Several workers at the Kenson plant in Warrendale, PA, also do some manual assembly, including attaching rubber gaskets, fastening screws and applying brass heat sunk inserts.

A few aisles away I came across Stueken LLC, which uses the deep drawing process to create small metal components used in the assembly of automotive, medical, white goods and electronics products. Stueken does some assembly, but mostly it is done by OEMs in the aforementioned industries. . Metal types include steel, stainless steel, and inconel.

In deep drawing, a circular metal blank is drawn into desired shapes via series of precise and gradual successive steps without destroying the material grain structure. Compress-ion is used to make the blank into a hollow shape or reduce the circumference of a hollow part without intentional change in wall thickness.

“This process offers significant material cost savings compared to machine parts,” says Uwe Wasner, account manager for Stueken LLC. “Turned parts normally retain less than 50 percent of originating stock, whereas the deep drawn process retains about 80 percent.”

Bosch Rexroth’s a new series of cordless nutrunners feature an integrated transmitter that securely sends data to a receiving station. Photo courtesy Bosch Rexroth

Bosch Rexroth showcased several new products, but the one I found most interesting was a new series of cordless nutrunners. I was allowed to try the tool and soon learned the limits of my nutrunner-handling skills. Within a couple seconds, the LED screen on the tool turned red and informed that my attempt at fastener tightening was NOK-which means not okay.

“The tool’s wireless interface and integrated control system greatly increase assemblers’ versatility,” says Thilo Vogler, branch manager of tightening and welding systems for Bosch Rexroth. “This is very important in applications such as working inside a car, where bolts are in hard-to-reach positions.”

Fastening data, such as torque and angle measurement, is stored in the tool and can be output for documentation purposes. An integrated transmitter securely sends data to a receiving station. Control electronics buffer data in the event of a temporary disconnect and forward it as soon as the network is available again.

The nutrunners can be used in tightening applications up to 50 newton-meters and are endurance tested to 500,000 cycles. Power is supplied by high-performance lithium-ion batteries.

Loctite AssureCure is a system to quantifiably measure the degree of cure of adhesive bonds. Henkel Corp. makes this system, which includes an interface module/light source, detection system and software.

Andy Scott, application engineer for Henkel, did a quick demonstration of the system for me and other attendees. And I do mean quick: one-half second.

“AssureCure is frequently used for medical devices,” says Scott “However, the device to be assembled together must be light transmissible.”

In operation, light illuminates the adhesive bond line and the detection system optically measures how much the adhesive changes during polymerization. Software then analyzes the resulting data and provides a quantifiable output directly related to the progress of the curing reaction.

Sent to a user-supplier PC or PLC, the output signal can be configured to yield a go or no-go status, or a numerical value directly related to the level of cure achieved. Scott says AssureCure integrates easily into production lines immediately following the light curing system.

Siemens PLM Lifestyle Management Software Inc. demonstrated Tecnomatix. The software simulate four aspects of an automated assembly process within a very realistic robotic-welding work cell. Graphic courtesy Siemens PLM Lifestyle Management Software Inc.

At the Siemens booth I got some insights into the latest version of Tecnomatix, which is product lifecycle management (PLM) software that improves worker collaboration and cost-effectiveness within a company’s manufacturing and or assembly operations.

Jeffery Miller, marketing programs director for Siemens PLM Lifestyle Management Software Inc., demonstrated Tecnomatix. I watched the software simulate four aspects of an automated assembly process within a very realistic robotic-welding work cell (including an operator standing just beyond the guard rails).

First, a steel component was placed between two robots. Next, each of the performed some welding on the component, followed by the latter robot lifting the component and moving it onto a conveyor belt that transported the component to the next work station.

“The software’s assembly planning and validation feature can determine the best way to perform processes and sequences in one or multiple cells,” says Miller. “It also can help with robotic programming and developing work cells for new and existing facilities.”

Finally, I paid a visit to Misumi USA Inc. to get the scoop on its new Modular Assembler web site. Misumi offers more than 1 million different automation components for assembly to OEMs and designers of industrial machinery, and factory automation equipment and systems.

“The new web site groups together various functional parts frequently used in machine designs and offers them in conveniently packaged modules," says Paul Wozniak, assistant manager-rotary automation components for Misumi. “This modular approach significantly reduces time and effort required to select and specify common sets of components. Customers can quickly configure components, download 2D and 3D CADs and order.”

Currently, about 46 modules are available for use in rotary and linear motion, positioning and detecting, retention and connection applications. Engineering, design assistance and technical support are also available to users.