Spotlight – Preparing for processing

Materials World magazine
3 Nov 2014

Natalie Daniels discovers how companies are improving process efficiency.

Process efficiency is becoming more and more important to manufacturers as they try to cut costs and improve performance while reducing energy. One firm setting high standards with its processing times is SIFCO ASC, UK, which has introduced a semi-automated workstation designed to carry high currents across mating bus connections with minimal contact resistance. A typical bus bar has four distinct faces requiring silver plating, which is normally done manually. This semi–automated workstation completes the process 90% faster than standard manual work, reducing plating time by 18 minutes.

Another UK-based firm improving process efficiency is Xoptix, which has developed an in-line particle sizer, XO, to monitor coal milling production and maintain optimal particle size. The device measures the size of particles from 0.1–3,000 microns. This improved method detects excessive amounts of coarse particles, while minimising the amount of energy used to grind the pulverised fuel. The Xoptix particle sizing range is designed to ISO 13320 standards and can be fully operated to safeguard quality control.

Also monitoring processes is SIMCA, a Swedish company which has launched SIMCA-online 13.3, a real-time prediction system to ensure a continuous batch progression from various types of data sources. It automatically collects and performs multivariate calculations, and generates intuitive control charts to check the status of the process. The machine can detect early faults, enable batch-to-batch comparison and improve process efficiency.

ATM Automation, a British robotics and automation firm, has recently produced the MZO7 robot, designed to handle and pack a wide range of products. With six axes, it processes packaging at a higher speed using an integrated weighing system, which determines whether the pack is within specification before being transferred. Additional features include label print-and-apply systems, inkjet or laser marking and coding units. The machinery is built on a steel framework and mounted on wheels, so it can easily be moved around between production lines, maximising application.

Another new technology helping to advance production is the QIC-series of gas analysers designed by Hiden Analytical, UK. All systems feature a QIC quartz-lined terface operating from 50 millibar to two bars, with built-in HT–HP interface adapter. Multi-stream selectors enable automatic sampling from 180 gas streams and run at 150 milliseconds.

It is improvements like these that are helping companies process more effectively.

Next month’s Spotlight is on analysis and microscopy.