New Product of the Year Awards
Hundreds of exhibitors display the latest products and services at The ASSEMBLY Show. Fasteners, power tools, adhesives, dispensing equipment, conveyors, robots, software and, of course, automated assembly systems are among the myriad new products on display.
To help draw attention to the breadth and quality of new technologies on display, The ASSEMBLY Show holds an annual "New Product of the Year" contest at the show, and attendees get to be the judges.
Below are all of the incredible nominees from The 2021 ASSEMBLY Show. 2022 Nominees will be announced in September.
Assembly Machines & Systems
Smart Press for High-Mix Assembly
FlexIQ is a new smart assembly press with fully integrated servo drive, force and position sensing, and controller in a single light-weight package. Designed for high-mix assembly environments, the press has built-in algorithms, called “process types,” that handle common applications such as bearing pressing, staking, crimping, bushing insertion and compliant pin pressing, as well as press-to-shoulder and press-to-distance applications. Simple, web-based software walks newcomers through initial setup in a wizard-like fashion without requiring any programming skills. The software also provides a web-based dashboard that displays force graphs, live force and position readings, quality measurements and limits, and overall part quality results. The press can produce up to 3 kilonewtons of force, has 300 millimeters of available stroke, and can move at 200 millimeters per second. It runs on 24 VDC, making it ideal for assembly environments demanding quick changeover for varying part models. The low voltage obviates any concern over arc flash, and the low weight makes it easy to move the press from one assembly station to another. It can also be ordered with a fieldbus interface for integration with a PLC.
Automated Line Assembles Micron-Sized Parts
Lanco Integrated recently designed and built an automated assembly line to build three variants of a rice-sized subassembly for a microelectromechanical system used in consumer electronics and medical devices. Before this, the subassemblies were manually built. Engineers knew that working at the micron level meant that every part of the process would be subject to movement that could not be seen. They also wanted a space-efficient line, as well as one that requires minimal worker effort to change tooling. The line features a rotary dial, a pallet-transfer system, many compact workcells and 18 six-axis robots, which build subassemblies at a rate of 1,440 per hour with the help of machine vision. A comprehensive data collection system lets the customer monitor more than 500 different data points for each part as it moves through the assembly process.
Ultrasonic Spot Welder for Metal
The Branson GMX-20MA ultrasonic metal spot welder joins nonferrous metals, including bus bars, foils, switches, and wire terminations in automotive electrical systems, electric vehicles, batteries and battery packs, power storage systems and related applications. The welder is built around a rigid pneumatic actuator with dual linear bearings and a digital load cell to ensure smoother vertical motion and more precise downforce control for maximum weld quality and repeatability. Actuator travel and tool positioning relative to the welded parts are tracked and measured using a linear encoder. Once contact is made, a digital load cell measures and maintains a precise level of downforce on the parts, ensuring that weld energy is accurately delivered and consistent weld quality is assured from one weld to the next. The controls enable operators to manage the welding process in multiple modes: time, energy, peak power and distance. Throughout the production process, the controller continuously compiles and stores quality and traceability data. It also conducts amplitude stepping for optimization of weld strength and appearance, with built-in cycle counters to track production. The unit’s Visual Quality Screen displays real-time quality data so that even small variations can be identified and corrected immediately.
The flexfeeder X-Series of feeders work with all types of robots and are controlled by feedware XOS software. Models X185, X250 and X350 feature an integrated vision system and a toplight tower, and are designed for frequent part changes. The feeders precisely handle parts from 0.5 to 120 millimeters in diameter, and automatically discharges non-in-order (NIO) parts. To save time when changing parts, only the suitable or individualized feeder surfaces need to be replaced. This can be done without tools and within seconds. The feeders offer high performance and also come with an embedded touchscreen, which uses feedware CX software for simple entry of feeding parameters and operation. During production, the touchscreen continually provides valuable status messages to the operator. The feeders are robust, feature servo-electric drives and work well with cobots. End-users include manufacturers in automotive, medical technology, electrical, cosmetics, consumer goods and jewelry.
Flexfactory North America
Adhesives, Dispensing & Curing
Flashbond UV-3607HT epoxy cures with UV energy, heat or both, but does not have to be activated with UV light to cure, making it distinctive from other dual-cure epoxies. The one-part epoxy cures in less than 10 seconds with 365-nanometer LED light, or within 30 minutes at 125 C. It can be used as an adhesive, sealant or coating in applications that either require a fast tack or have shadowed areas. These include doming, fiber optic terminations, electronic packaging, sensor sealing and optical alignment. The epoxy has a low cure shrinkage, can be cured in any thickness up to 2 millimeters and produces strong bonds to glass, ceramic, metal and most engineered plastics. Once fully cured, it has a glass transition temperature of 125 C. It has excellent electrical insulative properties and can withstand temperatures from -55 to 200 C.
Environmentally Friendly Pretreatment for Automotive Metals
Pallumina is a new, environmentally friendly pretreatment process for metal car and truck bodies prior to painting. The process improves paint adhesion to the vehicle body while preventing corrosion. The process is effective on all major metals, including 100 percent aluminum. Compared with conventional pretreatment processes, the new process cleans and prepares metal for painting in four steps rather than seven. The new process eliminates zinc, nickel and manganese phosphates and reduces sludge generation by up to 90 percent. In addition, it requires 40 percent less energy and 50 percent less water.
Adhesive Is Flexible, Fire Retardant and Thermally Conductive
Permabond MT3836 is a two-component hybrid adhesive that cures fully at room temperature to form a flexible, thermally conductive material capable of bonding a variety of materials. The adhesive contains a filler that conducts heat away from components and is suitable for electronics and electric vehicle battery modules. The adhesive meets the UL94 V-0 standard for fire retardancy. It is flexible and compressible, which helps minimize stress on sensitive components, especially if they have different coefficients of thermal expansion. The cured material absorbs impact and vibration forces and is electrically nonconductive. It bonds to many substrates, including steel and aluminum. Its flexibility makes it more suitable than rigid epoxies for bonding Zintec alloys. It also bonds plastics, laminates, phenolic materials, and composites, such as glass-reinforced plastic, fiber-reinforced plastic. The high-viscosity adhesive can bridge gaps as wide as 5 millimeters.
Permabond Engineering Adhesives
Meter-Mix System Handles Difficult Adhesives
The eco-DUOMIX mixes and dispenses two-part silicones, epoxies, polyurethanes, polyesters and acrylates. The system was designed to handle hard-to-mix materials for which purely static mixing is insufficient. Instead of a mixing spiral, the system is equipped with a motor-driven mixing capsule optimized for dead space. The capsule is installed directly at the outlet of the dispenser. The rotor, stator and the capsule itself are made from materials that are compatible with virtually every adhesive on the market. Material consumption in the capsule is significantly lower than with conventional mixing systems. The system accommodates fluids with similar or different viscosities and mix ratios ranging from 1-to-1 to 10-to-1. It can dispense quantities as small as 0.008 milliliter.
ViscoTec America Inc.
Virtual Cord for Cordless Tool
Cordless tools are flexible, efficient and ergonomic. Their only shortcoming is that they can easily be moved to another place on the assembly line—creating a risk of incorrect fastening. The “virtual cable” option for cordless tools solves that problem. This radio-supported feature lets engineers define a radius in which the tool can be used. If the tool is moved outside of that predefined area, it will not function. The virtual cable option works with the company’s Connect control unit, which communicates with the tool and monitors its position on the line. Only two things are needed to set up a virtual cable: a tracking base, connected to the control unit, and a tracker, attached to the tool. Communication between the base and tracker takes via an ultra-wideband radio signal that will not interfere with other factory networks. The resolution of the system is approximately 30 centimeters. One base can monitor eight tools in one area or eight areas with one tool each. In turn, up to eight tracking bases can be controlled via each Connect. One acts as the primary base; the other seven can be installed within a radius of 20 meters and managed in slave mode. These additional bases synchronize with the primary base via radio, so no additional cords are required.
SCARA Robots Install Fasteners
The ERS series of preconfigured robotic workcells are designed for automatic installation of threaded fasteners. Two sizes of SCARA robot are available. The THE400 SCARA has a maximum reach of 485 millimeters and a Z axis stroke of 160 millimeters. The THL900 SCARA has a maximum reach of 1,000 millimeters and a Z axis stroke of 160 millimeters. The robot can be equipped with a Handy 2000 Micro nutrunner for fasteners ranging from M1.7 to M6 or a Handy 2000 Touch nutrunner for fasteners ranging from M3 to M12. The cells can be ordered with or without a linear actuator to move workpieces in and out. Alternatively, the cell can be configured to interface with a pallet-transfer conveyor. One controller governs both the nutrunner and the robot. This simplifies programming and reduces communication time. Tightening points can be taught by moving the robot directly. An optional vision guidance system automatically corrects misalignment of the tool with the fastening location. Z axis thrust control prevents workpiece overload and cam out during tightening.
ESTIC America Inc.
Dual-Action Torque Wrench
The TAC torque wrench is fast and agile like a mechanical click wrench, but provides final torque and angle values like a digital torque wrench. Assemblers and engineers like click wrenches because they are fast and easy to use. But, managers want the data from a digital wrench. The TAC provides the best of both worlds. The tool has a black radio case signifying that it is a digital torque and angle wrench. It also has two LEDs on the case, closest to the handle. One flashes green for OK or red for not OK. The other LED is blue. When the parameter with which the tool is paired becomes active, the second LED flashes blue. When the batch is complete, the second LED turns solid blue, indicating that the batch is complete. When the preset torque value is achieved, the internal mechanism moves, striking the side of the flattened case. That creates a distinctive sound. The operator stops pulling when the wrench clicked, the LED flashes green, and the display on the controller advances the batch count and flashes green. Although the wrench reports like a digital wrench, it is calibrated and set like a traditional preset click wrench. It does not change torque output based on a digital input. The torque value is changed by compressing or relieving the spring, just like a preset click wrench. The controller displays two values: the click torque value and the peak torque value.
Self-Adjusting Ratcheting Wrenches
The 6004 Joker is a universal ratcheting wrench that automatically and continuously adjusts itself to tighten a range of fasteners in both metric and standard sizes. The hand tool is available in six sizes covering a total range of 7 to 32 millimeters or 1/4 to 15/16 inch. At its resting state, the mouth of the wrench is at its smallest size. Pressing the tool onto the fastener will cause it to automatically open and adjust precisely to the size of the fastener. No setting required by the user. The parallel smooth jaws allow surface pressure to be evenly distributed on the fastener, preventing fasteners from rounding out during power transmission. When pressure is taken off the tool, the jaws will relax enough to rotate the mouth around the fastener. It will readjust to grab either the point or flat of the fastener without ever having to remove the tool from the fastener, allowing the user to work quickly and use the wrench just like a ratchet. Due to the corner-width rectangular prism design in the mouth, a return angle of only 30 degrees can be achieved. This makes working in tight spaces easier.
Gripper Inspired by Geckos
Inspired by gecko feet, the ADHESO gripper consists of hundreds of fine polymer bristles that adhere to various materials without leaving a residue. It does not apply mechanical force to a part, but instead works on the principle of Van der Waals forces. To pick up a part, the gripper is gently pressed against it. The part is released by rotary, tilting or sliding movement, or with the help of an active wiper. Holes or other interruptions in the workpiece surface are no problem. The gripper does not require external power nor does it emit particles. It leaves no marks on the part when released. The gripper comes in four sizes. However, because it consists of bristles, it can be customized to the size and shape of the part. The size and types of filaments can also be optimized for holding force depending on the workpiece. It is ideal for gripping circuit boards, silicon wafers, or glass and plastic parts for medical devices.
Flexible End-Effector Platform
Zimmer Group and J. Schmalz GmbH have collaborated to create MATCH, a multifunctional end-of-arm tooling platform for robots. The lynchpin of the platform is a universal communication interface that enables engineers to quickly swap end-effectors on robots manually or automatically. The interface is compatible with most robots. The interface works with mechanical grippers from Zimmer as well as vacuum grippers from Schmalz. The interface mounts to the robot flange and sets up with a few manual adjustments. Configuration is intuitive and easy thanks to support from joint digital services. The quick-change system features a mechanical interface, pneumatic and vacuum connections, and electrical interfaces. As a result, one robot can use a variety of end-effectors. A robot can be programmed to swap out end-effectors itself, or grippers can be exchanged manually. Either way, the process takes a few seconds. Thanks to an ergonomic click system, integrated on the end effector, it’s possible to carry out a manual change with just one hand. Engineers can consult a variety of digital services to facilitate setup and programming.
Zimmer Group US Inc.
The IXA series of high-performance SCARA robots are available with arm lengths from 180 to 600 millimeters. The robots are designed for speed and rigidity. With a 2-kilogram payload, the standard model, IXA-NNN, can complete a standard pick-and-place cycle (300 millimeters across and 25 millimeters down) in 0.38 second. The high-speed model, IXA-NSN, can complete the same cycle in just 0.26 second. The robot has a double-arm structure for better rigidity and less vibration. Heat dissipation has been improved for shorter continuous cycle times. The Z axis is covered for dust-proof operation. Cables are built in for reduced height and effective use of space. The robot is equipped with a battery-free absolute encoder.
IAI America Inc.
Autonomous Bin Picking for Machine Tending
ActiNav is a UR+ application kit that enables engineers to use UR cobots for machine tending applications involving autonomous bin picking of parts. ActiNav synchronously handles vision processing, collision-free motion planning and autonomous real-time robot control, eliminating the complexity and risk usually associated with bin picking applications. The system requires no vision or robotic programming expertise, but is instead based on a “teach-by-demonstration” principle using a six-step, wizard-guided setup process integrated into the cobot’s teach pendant. The cobot autonomously locates and picks parts out of deep bins and places them precisely into a machine. The system works with the UR5e and UR10e cobots, an end effector, and application-specific frames or fixtures. The kit includes the Autonomous Motion Module (AMM), ActiNav URCap user interface software, and a choice of 3D sensors.
Factory of the Future
Gateways Move Data to PLCs
The 435NBX, 435USB and 490NBX gateways move ASCII serial data and Ethernet bar code, weigh scale and RFID data to Allen-Bradley PLCs. The new gateways are five times faster than previous models. Update rates are now 15 to 20 milliseconds instead of 80 milliseconds. Another enhancement is the ability to do PLC troubleshooting via a newly added uniform data transfer system. One enhancement specifically for the 490NBX gateway is the ability to communicate via User Datagram Protocol. This feature allows customers to use yet another type of Ethernet technology in their application.
Real Time Automation Inc.
3D Printer for Mass Production
The TruPrint 3000 is a medium-format 3D printing system that uses powder-bed-based laser melting to produce parts with a diameter of up to 300 millimeters and a height of up to 400 millimeters. It can handle all weldable materials, including steels, nickel-based alloys, titanium and aluminum. The system can be equipped with a second laser that doubles its productivity, making the printer suitable for mass production. Two 500-watt lasers scan the machine’s entire build chamber in parallel. With the Automatic Multilaser Alignment option, the system automatically monitors the scan field during printing and calibrates them to each other. With each laser scanning a contour, the process does not create weld seams. The flow of inert gas from back to front is steady and uniform. This improves the quality of printed parts and enables the operator to remove excess powder from the part while it is still inside the machine. The gas prevents the powder from becoming contaminated, which is an advantage for sensitive industries such as medical device manufacturing. A melt pool monitoring function safeguards the quality of the part during printing by automatically monitoring melt pool emissions and other metrics.
Library of Configurable Apps for Frontline Operations
Tulip has published a newly upgraded version of its downloadable content library, which now features 60 configurable industrial apps, 12 app suites, 18 connectors and 100 device drivers to help manufacturers accelerate digital transformation. Tulip’s no-code frontline operations platform removes IT bottlenecks and enables citizen development of manufacturing software, allowing the teams closest to operations to own and update the systems that power their processes—while following company guidelines and fulfilling IT requirements. The apps enable assemblers to create and configure software that elevates their processes without locking them into vendor-specific data models and static applications that require heavy customization.
Artificial Intelligence for Robotic Assembly
SymbioDCS is a robot-agnostic AI software platform that empowers automation teams to build and deploy high-quality applications to assemble anything, in any factory, at any scale. It enables industrial robots to adapt to variation and optimize execution in complex manufacturing environments. The system uses real-time feedback from force sensors, torque sensors and computer vision to enable robots to adapt to variations in the geometry or trajectory of workpieces, just like an assembly line worker would. Traditional automation workcells rely on factory PLCs and proprietary robot motion control systems. SymbioDCS moves most process logic to powerful general-purpose hardware using modern programming languages. Its layered architecture enables real-time control to coexist with intensive computations like those involved in visual processing, machine learning and AI. A dashboard enables operators to view process performance displays, manually tweak control values, and observe the results immediately, so they can continually and rapidly improve operational performance. The system can be used for applications such as fastening, insertion and dispensing on stopped or moving lines. The system is already being used at major OEMs, such as Ford, Toyota and Nissan.