Machine builder decreases manufacturing time

Application Update: Matrix Design increased the speed of manufacturing, simplified troubleshooting, and achieved cost savings while producing more efficient and flexible robotic tending stations, reducing panel building, in some cases from 2 days to 2 hours.

By Richard Chung December 2, 2014

Faster panel building for a manufacturer can mean more products out the door in a shorter amount of time with a redesign that incorporates a smart, modular wiring system. Matrix Design LLC, based in South Elgin, Ill., specializes in manufacturing customized robotic handling equipment for many machine tools and machine tending applications. Automated tending stations reduce manual handling of parts, reduce piece part costs, and increase production throughput. In addition, sheet metal enclosures offer a small footprint to minimize plant floor space requirements.

To make robotic designs more productive, Matrix Design seeks to use technologies that speed the machine building processes and support solutions that are easier to manage and maintain for customers. In the automotive machine-building segment, new powertrain programs and strong global competition create a shorter time-to-market and challenging cost competitive requirements. As a result, Matrix Design evaluates new technologies that enable faster time-to-market without sacrificing the performance or reliability of its machine systems.

In addition, the safety of people and protection of plant equipment are of paramount importance to manufacturers, so it is vital that machine builders deliver machines that exceed the most stringent safety requirements and regulations.

Matrix Design’s robotic tending stations incorporate operator control stations mounted on a swing arm assembly that allows the operator to move the controls when setting up and doing changeover tasks. This feature enables optimum operator functionality, but complicates the installation of traditionally wired pilot devices; a bundle of control wires must be threaded through the swing arm assembly. In addition, all wiring to the pilot device terminals needed to be individually marked with heat-shrinkable wire sleeves and crimped with ferrules. To help reduce this complexity, Matrix Design used pre-wired multi-conductor cables and terminal blocks to consolidate the bundles of wires threaded through the swing arm assembly—which added significant material costs to the configuration. 

Standardized, faster

Matrix Design considered its ongoing challenges and sought to more effectively manufacture automation equipment. Matrix Design’s redesign first addressed operator control stations and main control panels for multiple robotic tending stations for a Tier 2 automotive manufacturer.

The company identified assembly time savings potential in a standard panel wiring solution, a single and durable 8-pole cable that can consolidate complex circuit wiring. Matrix Design’s initial assessment showed that the standardized solution could offer:

  • Reduced operator control station wiring and installation time
  • Reduced costs for engineering, wiring, testing, and commissioning machines
  • Improved flexibility for incorporating user-specified options.

Matrix Design also gained flexibility and the ability to connect to Profibus-DP or EtherNet/IP networks by simply changing the gateway module. This capability meant that all components could be easily integrated with different robotic controllers and fieldbus systems without making major changes to connection diagrams and drawings. In addition, connected devices would eliminate the need to create I/O cross-reference charts that are used in traditionally wired systems. 

2 days to 2 hours

The redesign allowed Matrix Design to connect the pilot devices using one flat multi-conductor cable and simple plug-in connectors. This ease-of-use significantly enhanced productivity, circumvented wiring errors, and simplified system testing. It allows Matrix Design to run a special cable to the pilot devices in the console, connecting and programming the devices in less than two hours per panel—a significant time savings compared to the traditional process, which could take up to two days of assembly time.

"We reduced the wiring time of the pushbutton control console from two days to less than two hours. In addition, we reduced the complexity of wiring the pushbuttons and eliminated the I/O modules that would normally be needed," said Matthew Maliszewski, electrical engineer, Matrix Design.

Beyond simplifying the wiring process, the redesign streamlines testing, commissioning, and troubleshooting to reduce labor time and costs. Connected nodes on the new system have LED indicators that clearly display the status of each connected device. These visual indicators allow Matrix Design staff to immediately determine if the wiring is correct, mitigating the manual process of testing each wire individually.

The standardized solution is also allowing for a wide range of configurations. The communication flexibility provided by the new system allows Matrix Design to integrate user-specified options per job as needed and at a late definition point in their manufacturing process-enabling the company to quickly and easily accommodate customer-requested modifications to the control console during the final factory testing phase if needed.

Matrix Design said the collaborative redesign with the automation provider:

  • Significantly reduces wiring time for the control consoles
  • Error-proofs the connections to its pilot devices
  • Simplifies the integration with different networks
  • Increases flexibility to incorporate last-minute customer changes
  • Provides one expert resource for control panel components.

The connectivity technology simplifies and speeds up the design and build of machines, while significantly reducing waste and cost. For Matrix Design, this means a more effective control panel design with reduced labor and complexity, and a shorter time-to-market.

– Richard Chung is product manager at Eaton; edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering,

Key concepts

  • Control console wiring time falls dramatically for a robotic machine builder.
  • The redesign and new technology error-proofs connections to pilot devices.
  • The smarter wiring system simplifies integration with different networks.

Consider this

Would a 3-fold decrease in control panel wiring help with your designs?

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SmartWire-DT connectivity 

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