Getting the right parts, to the right spot, at the right time is a requirement for any assembly line. If that’s your challenge, you would have found plenty of interest at The ASSEMBLY Show, which hosted some 37 suppliers of conveyors, material handling equipment, and modular structural framing components. Here is a small sample of what you can find on the show floor.


Flow Rack

Creform Corp. displayed its pipe-and-joint modular structural system. Using Creform components, engineers can quickly design and assembly a variety of common structures, including flow racks, workstations, stands, display boards, carts and AGVs. Structures can easily be reconfigured and recycled to meet changing needs. More than 700 components are available.

For example, this flow rack lets assemblers easily move heavy totes and boxes from a standard conveyor to a workstation or cell. Constructed of 42-millimeter-wide plastic pipe, the rack has two or three levels, each of which features a short conveyor with 3-inch-wide Placon rollers. These rollers are designed to smoothly transport totes with soft bottoms or open designs, corrugated boxes and odd-shaped parts without packaging. Separators on both sides of each level ensure single-lane flow for each type of product being conveyed. Level height is easily adjusted with simple hand tools. Antistatic roller wheels are also available.


Configuration Software for Conveyors

Glide-Line showed versatile multistrand panel conveyors and pallet-handling conveyors for assembly automation.

A new, advanced configuration tool, called IMPACT (Interactive Modeling Program and Application Configuration Tools), enables engineers to configure the conveyors exactly as needed. It downloads CAD models once, then provides real-time visual and price feedback as engineers change part number elements and application requirements. When embedded within the company’s SolidWorks CAD model, the software offers more than 600,000 standard configurations, not counting length and width combinations, or location customization for drives, legs and cross-members.

Once the design is completed, Glide-Line’s digital manufacturing process allows that specific configuration to be built quickly and efficiently.


Flexible Chain Conveyor

Bosch Rexroth displayed the VarioFlow plus chain conveyor. Easily configured, the conveyor is designed for a wide range of applications, such as transporting small items to workstations, or moving large products over complex routes or through limited-space environments.

The motor mounting position can be selected on-site. Smart connection technology saves time during assembly and allows for easy conversions and system extensions. Slide rails with lateral mounting minimize wear and ensure reliable assembly and quiet operation. Ascending and inclined conveyor sections can easily be built thanks to a holder with centering lugs that can be broken off. Reversible operation is possible.

A wide variety of chain types are available to suit different applications. Improved sliding characteristics and low-friction materials result in a quiet working atmosphere. Fewer joints and rolling friction in the horizontal curves ensure low wear and reduce downtimes.

Assemblies can ride directly on the chain or on a pallet. Pallet conveyor systems can be supplemented with the RFID system for identification, data storage and material flow control. Standard pallets are available in widths of 135 and 160 millimeters and any length up to 500 millimeters. The conveyor can position pallets with an accuracy of ±0.15 millimeter.

Components subject to constant friction are made from FDA-compliant materials. Stainless steel ball bearings are sealed on both sides and lubricated with special FDA-compliant grease.

To simplify conveyor module selection and layout, the system includes Tpro planning software. It helps engineers quickly select components, design single- or multi-conveyor systems, and output the results to a CAD file.


Conveyor Based on Linear Motor Technology

MagneMotion Inc. showed its MagneMover Lite, an assembly conveyor based on linear synchronous motors. The concept is based on a “smart” track—consisting of multiple linear servomotors—and a “dumb” mover outfitted with powerful magnets. Coordinating the activation of electromagnetic coils in the motors propels the movers around the track.

With few moving parts, it requires little maintenance. Also, the system is very reliable because it has no belts, chains, gears or external sensors.

Instead of large pallets, the conveyor moves pucks that are 60 millimeters square. Each puck can carry a 1 kilogram payload. Pucks are available in single and tandem versions. Up to nine pucks can be in motion per meter of track, and up to 12 can sit in a queue.

Straight sections are available in lengths of 1 and 0.25 meter. Left and right switches, and 90- and 180-degree curves are also available.

Maximum speed is 2 meters per second and maximum acceleration is 0.2 g. Positional repeatability is ±0.5 millimeter or up to ±0.1 millimeter at process stations in the direction of motion.

An IP 65-rated version is available for applications requiring washdowns.


In-Floor Assembly Line Conveyor

SI Systems showed the SideFinger in-floor tow-line conveyor.

The conveyor’s tow chain is built with vertical rivets and rollers that have a pusher extending horizontally away from the chain’s centerline. This sideways mounted pushing finger allows the cart’s tow pin to be transferred positively from the mainline to a transfer loop and vice versa.

The track is designed to protect the chain, isolate and mitigate contaminants, and minimize installation and maintenance requirements. The track’s low-profile cross section (8.56 inches wide by 3.63 inches tall) requires only a 6-inch deep trench for installation.

Chain guards help keep contaminants, such as fasteners, wood, scraps and other items, from engaging with the chain. A void area in the track allows contaminants to accumulate harmlessly, while the active tow pins automatically level the track until all debris is cleaned out. This design mitigates contaminants and eliminates chain jamming.

The system can be configured as a straight line, single loop, or multi-loop with loop-to-loop transfers. It can include powered and unpowered spurs, as well as precision and nonprecision stops. The conveyor can also be configured for multi-floor operation via lifts or elevators.

The conveyor’s maximum towing capacity is 210,000 pounds. Maximum speed is 100 fpm. The conveyor can be designed for crawling, synchronized, asynchronized and speedy-return operation. In addition, the conveyor can work with MES software to ensure that each workstation has fully completed its task before forwarding an assembly to the next workstation.

Carts can be designed to handle a wide range of workpieces and assemblies using custom work-holding devices for maximum access and improved productivity and throughput.


Modular Framing System

Flex Craft LLC showed its modular framing system, which lets engineers build flow racks, workstations, carts and pneumatic scissor lifts efficiently using only nuts and bolts. Five kits are available: show, intro, sampler, kaizen and conveyor. All of them feature standardized and reusable components engineered to bolt securely to tubing and create robust joints. System components include tubes (6 to 84 inches long), hex cap and round machine bolts, threaded metal and plastic inserts, and rigid or swivel plate casters (with or without side brakes). Only the kaizen kit includes a 1,200-pound-capacity turntable.


Maintenance-Free Casters

Hamilton Caster & Manufacturing Co. featured a full line of industrial casters and wheels with load capacities from 200 to 40,000 pounds. The company also manufactures a broad line of industrial carts and trailers with rated capacities from 2,000 to 100,000 pounds.

Among the company’s new products are the heavy-duty Spinfinity casters, which feature a swivel assembly with an internal nitrile butadiene rubber seal that keeps grease in and contaminants out, eliminating the need for maintenance. Extra thick forgings enhance durability. The ZFWH series is rated at 2,500 pounds and features 2-inch-wide wheels and a 4-by-5-inch mounting plate. ZFHS casters also feature 2-inch-wide wheels, but come with a 4.5-by-6.25-inch mounting plate and have a 3,000-pound rating. The ZFFM series has 3-inch-wide wheels, a 4.5-by-6.25-inch mounting plate and a 3,200 pound rating.