Category Archives: Flexible Manufacturing

Machine Safety: How to protect your workers and your bottom line


Whether you are looking at purchasing a large automated production line or are investing in new machine work stands, something that is likely top of mind is whether or not the equipment is safe. Even the most simplistic automated function can be hazardous if proper safety protocols and tools aren’t in place.  So how can you make sure operators are protected from harm, and the company is protected from liability, all while reducing costs? The answer is simple – design it to be safe in a smart way, not necessarily the standard way.

Many companies have long adopted machine guarding and fencing as standard safety protocols for their machines. This approach to safety can at times greatly hinder worker productivity, increase downtime, and increase machine footprint on your shop floor.  Newer technologies such as light curtains and area sensors, when implemented correctly, can save you valuable time when experiencing downtime.  While highly discouraged, machine guarding can easily be overridden to allow workers to enter the cell without stopping the machine. Light curtains and other presence sensing technologies have a safety redundancy built in, ensuring that if breeched, the dangerous machine activity will immediately cease.

It is important for any machine builder to be experts at performing safety assessments right from the project proposal, into design and build, and through run-off and training. By utilizing a combination of trusted perimeter guarding, fixed guarding, and presence sensing technologies, companies can be assured that what they are getting will pass even the strictest of safety regulations.

Want to find out how to cut project costs and increase operator safety? Call one of our experienced machine designers today +1.519.824.8711.

The Benefits of Composite Materials

Composite materials are being used more and more throughout various industries for a number of reasons. Aerospace, automotive, consumer products and building products manufacturers all benefit from using different composites to their advantage.

These composites are created by combining two or more materials with different physical or chemical properties to produce a new material. The end result is a composite, which has different characteristics from the multiple components that went into it. This is done to take the most useful qualities from materials while removing the weaknesses. Composites are often stronger, lighter or more cost effective than pure materials.

Boeing is one specific aircraft manufacturer that is taking advantage of these combined materials. The company’s Boeing 787 model is composed of carbon fiber reinforced plastic and other composites. Some of Boeing’s incentives for using these materials are a 20 percent decrease in weight compared to older models and maintenance reduction.

Carbon-fiber is a key component in aerospace manufacturing, but it is far from a new material. This composite was developed over 50 years ago and has been used in aerospace application heavily since the 1980’s. Boeing’s 787 model is a step forward with this technology because half of the aircraft is made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic and other composite materials.

While the composite material industry is valuable to aerospace; the aerospace industry is a crucial element to composites. Composite World went as far as calling aerospace, “one of the largest and arguably the most important [market] to the composites industry.” By using composites that are lighter, stronger and less expensive than alternative materials, manufacturers in the aerospace, automotive, consumer products and building products industries can make products that are more cost effective and efficient.

Automated Manufacturing and the Need for Flexibility

In our last two blogs we’ve talked about the changing mindsets of consumers, and the effects those changes have had on manufacturing. In particular, we’ve looked at how access to a global market has made consumers more discerning with their tastes and purchasing habits. To compete for a consumer base with more options than ever before, companies have to offer more diversity in their product lines. Increased product diversity has created a need for more flexible manufacturing systems.

In the past, systems have been geared towards high volume output of a singular product. More and more, companies are looking for machinery that can accommodate smaller runs across a wider variety of parts, materials and manufacturing operations. This can mean allowing for different types of product inspection as well. To achieve all of this, flexibility needs to be built into the base manufacturing system. In this way, the door is open for new and different manufacturing cells and tooling to be added down the line. Allowing for these additions can mean investing more in the base machine. But the cost of that base machine is spread across more parts, and a longer life span as the machine can evolve with your product line.

Flexibility allows manufacturers to not only handle different products, but product improvements as well. Today, companies are presented with a tremendous amount of feedback on their products, requiring them to constantly update and upgrade those products. Flexible manufacturing systems allow manufacturers across an ever widening spectrum of industries to handle the changes and upgrades that invariably take place over a product’s lifecycle.