For me, day two of this year’s Assembly & Automation Technology Expo was just as interesting as day one. It began and ended with learning about medical-device assembly and manufacturing.

Thousands of people from the assembly and automation industries took part in Assembly and Automation Technology Expo 2011. Photo by Jim Camillo

For me, day two of this year’s Assembly & Automation Technology Expo was just as interesting as day one.

I began with a visit to Virtual Industries Inc., where I tried out the company’s vacuum tweezers. Under a magnifying glass, I used the tweezers to easily find, lift and place a 100-micron component used in electronics assembly. Operation is simple: turn on the vacuum, push the button to begin vacuum and lift a component, then release the button to place the component.

Daren Palmer, executive vice president for Virtual Industries, says the company’s most popular tweezer is the model TV-1000 because it handles a wide variety of parts used in electronics assembly.

The TV-1000 features a long-life diaphragm vacuum pump that is very quiet and generates up to 10 inches of mercury with an open air flow of 2.3 liters per minute. Nine vacuum tips come with the tweezer, which has a 5-foot-long, 1/16-inch-diameter coiled vacuum hose.

The unit is compact, measuring just 7-1/4 by 3 by 2-1/2 inches. It plugs directly into a 110 Volt 50/60 Hz outlet.

Various controllers were at the show. ASG, a Div. of Jergens Inc., makes the X-Paq controller for screwdrivers. Less than one year old, the X-Paq offers torque control with angle monitoring, as well as angle control with torque monitoring.

“This controller requires no computer or software and can be integrated into any spindle or robot setup,” says Chris Consolati, manufacturing engineer for ASG. “Multiple assembly set-ups are possible thanks to six quick-tap task keys on the touch screen, and eight parameters are available within each task.”

The X-Paq performs data collection and run down graphing. It features a network interface for advanced data storage and interfacing with plant controls. X-Paq also features a programmable I/O for process control.

Consolati says the controller is capable of automatic tool recognition and can be programmed for multi-bolt fastening. There also is a parameter status bar that allows clockwise and counter-clockwise rotation control.

TV-1000 vacuum tweezers handle a wide variety of parts used in electronics assembly. Photo courtesy Virtual Industries Inc.

After nearly 15 years Mark-10 Corp. has replaced its model BGI force-torque indicator with the model 5i, which is designed to work with various company remote force and torque sensors. This new indicator has a sampling rate of 7,000 Hz, enabling it to produce accurate results even for quick-action tests.

“Because of Plug & Test technology, all calibration and configuration data is now saved within the sensor’s smart connector rather than the indicator,” says Mark Fridman, sales and marketing manager for Mark-10. “This technology allows for true interchangeability.”

On-board data memory can store up to 1,000 readings as well as statistical calculations. Data can be transferred to a PC or data collectors via USB, RS-232, Digimatic or analog outputs.

The 5i also features a LCD that displays backlit graphics, including large legible characters. An analog load bar on the display graphically represents applied force or torque. Simple menu navigation allows for quick access to the indicator’s many features and configurable parameters.

Manufacturers looking for ways to error-proof their assembly processes might want to look into Sequence software by FFD Inc. Sequence lets companies quickly and easily create paperless work instructions for workers who perform assembly and manufacturing-related tasks.

“Authors of instructions aren’t creating and formatting a document,” says David Wade, product manager for FFD. “They simply organize information on a visual process flow tree and the software takes care of the deployment.”

Editing tools for text and graphics are included, eliminating the need for multiple software packages and third-party graphics. The software also allows multi-user network collaboration, integration with manufacturing resource planning and manufacturing execution systems, and electronic feedback from assemblers on the shop floor.

Sequence software lets companies create paperless work instructions for workers who perform assembly and manufacturing-related tasks. Photo courtesy FFD Inc.

Epicor also offers software, but it is enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. The company’s Manufacturing Express Edition is a comprehensive ERP system deployed in the software as a service (SaaS) model to help job shops and small manufacturers reduce costs, streamline operations and improve the bottom line.

Many job shops and small manufacturers have held back from implementing an ERP system due to high initial costs, long implementation times and competing demands for time and resources.

A white paper posted on the company’s website,, describes how the SaaS model delivers financial, implementation, and operational benefits to job shops and small manufacturers.

“This software helps manufacturers track material and labor in real time,” says Jenna Tomczik, solution engineer for Epicor.

Finally, I spent some time at Applied Medical Coatings LLC to learn more about how medical devices are manufactured, assembled and coated. AMC is a full-service contract manufacturer that has served the medical device, diagnostic and biotech industries since 2004.

Medical-device assembly is done manually at a Midwest facility, says Edward Robb, project manager for AMC. Surgical and electrosurgical devices are assembled there, including those for implanting artificial intraocular lenses. Such lenses are used to restore vision and replace the natural lens of the eye after it is removed during cataract surgery. Creating and applying coatings is AMC’s main business. The company produces coatings through physical vapor deposition, which involves the transfer of material on an atomic level.

The coatings are chemical- and thermal-resistant and either conductive or non-conductive. They are applied to devices made of metal, alloy, oxide or nitride.