System integrator experiences cosmic ‘inflation’


Machine Control

EA-developed SCARA robot trims extraneous material from manufactured parts.

Astronomers tell us that during the first few nanoseconds, the universe expanded at a fantastically rapid rate—an episode they call “inflation.” System integrator Eclipse Automation (EA) reports experiencing its own inflation event. In a little less than four years, this custom-automation business has expanded from four owners working from the proverbial garage-sized shop to 95 employees building state-of-the-art manufacturing systems in 30,000 square feet spanning two buildings, with another expansion up to 60,000 sq ft scheduled by the end of September 2006.

Exceptional service is key to the company’s phenomenal growth, according to Bob King, marketing and sales engineer at EA. “Our customers really like the fact that we can provide all the services they need under one roof.

“All the services they need” includes expertise in material handling robotics, machine vision, assembly cells, and many other capabilities. EA has its own staff of mechanical engineers using SolidWorks to streamline the design, fabrication and assembly steps, as well as a complete fabrication shop with all the necessary craftsmen.

“Customers know that their project will be totally controlled internally,” King points out. “That gives them confidence that in the event something goes wrong, they have one point of contact for help. Since we carried the whole project through from beginning to end, we can fix any problems internally.”

One recent project involved building a station to test engine components for the Canadian assembly plant of a major overseas automaker. Components would arrive from a part washer. EA used a vision system to guide a SCARA robot to pick up the part, orient it correctly, and place into a nest that stabilized the part during testing. After fault testing, the robot would send the part to either a good part conveyor, or a reject part conveyor. Cycle time was approximately 4.6 seconds.

For another project, EA designed a cell to perform resistance welding of end caps onto muffler tubes. Here, a robot places each tube, with end caps in place, onto a fixture. The operator touches a pair of palm buttons (thereby ensuring his or her hands are out of the way) to forward the tube into a safety-guarded weld cell. Four weld heads then come down to weld the cap on one end of the tube. The system then automatically draws the tube out of the cell, rotates it 180 degrees and pushes it back in. The weld head then welds the cap on the other end. The tube finally comes out of the cell to a position where the operator can safely remove it.

King says that EA specializes in medium-sized automation projects in the $70 K to $1 M range. “If someone came to us with a project a little larger, we would look at it,” he admits, “but we wouldn’t be interested in projects several times larger. There are others who serve that part of the market.”

So, EA’s experience shows that the way to drive cosmic inflation of your system integration business is to find out what customers need most, then sell it to them. And, as my old business management professor used to say: “Stick to the knitting.” That is, do what you do best, and leave everything else to the rest.

C.G. Masi , senior editor, Control Engineering

No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Choosing controllers: PLCs, PACs, IPCs, DCS? What's best for your application?; Wireless trends; Design, integration; Manufacturing Day; Product Exclusive
Variable speed drives: Smooth, efficient, electrically quite motion control; Process control upgrades; Mobile intelligence; Product finalists: Vote now; Product Exclusives
Machine design tips: Pneumatic or electric; Software upgrades; Ethernet advantages; Additive manufacturing; Engineering Leaders; Product exclusives: PLC, HMI, IO
This article collection contains the 5 most referenced articles on improving the use of PID.
Learn how Industry 4.0 adds supply chain efficiency, optimizes pricing, improves quality, and more.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security