Industrial Strength: Inkjet Printing Solutions

What is Industrial Inkjet Printing?

Inkjet is a computer-based technology, which digitally generates printed images. It is a non-contact process, where fluids are jetted onto a substrate via an inkjet printhead.

Industrial inkjet is the application of inkjet technology in production environments enabling direct-to-product printing. Industrial inkjet printers can range from stand-alone systems to fully automated production lines or robotic solutions.

Buyers of inkjet systems for production environments, like any purchase of industrial machinery, first seek the advice of an experienced integrator. Cyan Tec offers solid production automation and inkjet capability enabling customers to achieve robust, production capable solutions. It is a distinct advantage to find an integrator who combines inkjet capability with knowledge of inline integration, cycle times, load/unload, automation and robotic handling.

Configuring Industrial Inkjet Solutions

Industrial inkjet systems require expert configuration of the various printer elements which frequently differ from application to application. The choice of ink, printhead, automation and ancillary treatments is crucial to the success of any industrial print system.

A dizzying variety of inks are available including aqueous, solvent, pigment, dye and UV inks. An experienced integrator can offer ink and pre-treatment combinations that are compatible with the product material.

Printheads form the heart of any inkjet print system, containing hundreds of chambers, which feed the jettable fluid into print nozzles and then jet tiny drops, onto the substrate. This non-contact technology enables inkjet to print direct to curved or textured substrates. There are a wide variety of printheads and independent integrators can offer objective advice on the best head selection for each application and optimize ink-to-head compatibility.

Methods for automating industrial inkjet processes or integrating inkjet into existing production lines can include linear transfer systems or multi-axis robotic solutions. Cyan Tec is an established certified integrator of the world leading robots and motion and control systems enabling it to offer expert advice about automated inkjet solutions for production lines.

Different printing applications may require pre/post treatments and an integrator with full inline integration knowledge can offer the required technical advice to inkjet buyers.

Adding-Value with Inkjet Printing

Inkjet printing is revolutionizing production environments and reducing process costs by offering direct-to-product, inline printing. Its print-on-demand, JIT capabilities facilitate inventory cost savings and late point product differentiation. Opportunities for adding value through full-colour product enhancement and mass customization are endless. The benefits of fully flexible printing offers exciting prospects to augment or personalize products.

It is always worth discussing with an integrator whether inkjet is the right way to go for each application and budget because like any technology its advantages are more germane to some applications and processes than others.

What to Consider When Selecting a Supplier

Production-ready inkjet printers are first and foremost pieces of industrial equipment and experienced industrial integrators with specialist inkjet know-how are best placed to offer advice to purchasers. Cyan Tec builds industrial inkjet systems for global blue-chip customers, with demanding print requirements. Its multi-disciplined engineers offer advice on inkjet integration and the optimal selection of printer elements to identify inkjet solutions with the robustness required for rigorous production environments.

Choosing the Right Robot

Robotics has been advancing at a rate of knots over the past 10 years and although the time of replacing the majority of manual labour with robot operations is still a long way off, there are some interesting new industrial robots appearing which come much closer to undertaking human tasks.  As an experienced robot integrator with years of experience and hundreds of installations, Cyan Tec Systems is well-placed to offer advice on the best and latest robot automation solutions.

Many suppliers are offering the new style of “collaborative robots”, one example of which is the YuMi robot from ABB, which has been launched recently.  This is perhaps the most mainstream of this genre, coming from one of the “big four” global robot suppliers which are expected to grow rapidly to take the place of more expensive robots or human operators.

What does the YuMi do?

The YuMi robot looks a lot more like, and shares many characteristics with, the human body.  Designed to work alongside humans, the most notable change from the typical industrial 6-axis robot is the fact that YuMi is designed to work in the open and not behind guarding and safety interlocks.

Image: YuMi robot (image courtesy of ABB Robotics)

YuMi is equipped with twin articulated arms which terminate in gripper hands.  The concept of collaborative robots is that a shop floor may consist of a mixture of humans and robots, the robots being able to feed or be fed by human operators who might be given the more complicated tasks (or tasks requiring human intelligence).  Movement speed is restricted and the arms are equipped with crash sensors to stop safely if they should come into contact with a human operator, avoiding the risk of pinch, crush or impact injuries.

Ideal for small electronic component assembly, the robot will not replace the traditional 6-axis industrial robot, rather it complements the range and expands the capabilities of robot-based automation.  The YuMi robot can use vision to correctly pick and place components regardless of orientation and with the ability to compensate for inaccuracy of position, in the same way a human would.  As well as having the dexterity of a human operator, the collaborative robot can be easily trained and re-trained, coping well with boring, repetitive or ergonomically challenging tasks.

Traditional robots

For some applications, where long reach or interpolated path following is required, there is no substitute for the speed and accuracy of the traditional 6-axis robot.  These robots are still the obvious choice where the robot is using a tool which necessitates full safety guarding (for example laser welding or cutting).  In these applications, the capability of the 6-axis robot makes it the most appropriate choice.

In other applications involving simpler action, it might be that a Scara robot with 4-axes is more suitable.  These robots have fewer movements than the full 6-axis robot and are often used for pick-and-place in assembly or in loading and unloading machines.

Conclusions

With robots, as with other elements in automation, there is no single solution which suits every situation.  Flexibility and open-mindedness will allow the optimum configuration to be found, taking into account all the criteria required by the application.  In the next decade it is likely that many more collaborative robots will be installed and new technology is enhancing the vision, motion accuracy and intelligence of robots.

The Rise Of Vision Technology

Vision inspection systems have long been a popular element within the automation industry. However, in recent years they have become a ‘must have’ for a number of leading manufacturing businesses rather than an added extra.

Example of a traditional vision application with illuminated back light

From basic pattern matching and barcode reading to full OCR inspection, the high-quality cameras that are available to automation experts such as Cyan Tec Systems Limited has made the integration of such equipment a seamless process.

There are a number of suppliers of the camera itself – as well as the supporting products such as the lighting, mounting brackets and associated cables -available to integrators, but it’s the expert after sales support that is crucial to delivering a successful vision inspection project.

Whether the inspection is required to be performed in a static position, or the camera is mounted onto a moveable object (robotic arm, linear transfer system etc.), this is well-defined at the early stages of the project and Cyan Tec will investigate the best possible way to design and manufacture a cost effective and performance enhancing solution.

The rise of vision technology has taken many significant steps along the way to becoming a fundamental part of automated production lines, but perhaps none more so than the development of high-end robotic vision systems. It is often imperative that the items approaching the manufacturing stations are both the correct variant and in the desired orientation. Therefore when end users are incorporating cameras to inspect a number of different products at rapid speeds, robotic vision ensures that no stone is left unturned.

Cyan Tec are always on hand to offer expert advice when it comes to robotic vision

Finding a specialist to integrate both the high-speed robotic arms and the intelligent vision systems is not so easy and that is where Cyan Tec’s vast experience in that particular field becomes most noticeable. Cyan Tec’s strength is based on the dedication and professionalism of its highly skilled, multi-disciplinary engineers, who are focused on meeting customer expectations in demanding production environments such as the automotive, aerospace, pharma and food industries.

In addition to advanced automation, Cyan Tec specialises in high-end, precision technologies including industrial laser and inkjet integration. Intelligent vision systems can play a leading role in both of the aforementioned processes when it comes to positioning parts prior to the inkjet or laser introduction, as well as confirming that the finished product meets the customers’ requirements.

To discuss your vision application in further detail, please click here to visit our contact page.

Cyan Tec Exhibiting at Advanced Engineering 2017

(STAND L70)

Cyan Tec Systems will be exhibiting their laser, inkjet and automation capabilities at the Advanced Engineering show in November 2017.

New enquiries for laser processing, inkjet integration and general automation are welcomed and the team at Cyan Tec can provide a fully automated solution, including design, manufacture, testing and installation.

You can visit Cyan Tec on stand L70 on either 1st or 2nd November, where our sales team will be delighted to talk through your requirements.

When to use a SCARA Robot

What is a SCARA robot?

SCARA robots were first developed in the 1980’s in Japan and the name SCARA stands for Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm.  The main feature of the SCARA robot is that it has a jointed 2-link arm which in some ways imitates the human arm although it operates on a single plane, allowing the arm to extend and retract (fold) into confined areas which makes it suitable for reaching inside enclosures or pick-and-place from one location to another.  The SCARA robot is one of 3 major classes of robot which Cyan Tec Systems are experienced at integrating, namely:

  • Cartesian Robots (Gantry type)
  • Six-axis Robots
  • SCARA Robots

The selection of which type of robot to choose is not always clear-cut, but Cyan Tec Systems are in a totally unbiased position to recommend the best solution for the particular automation requirement.  This article considers the specific case of the SCARA robot and when it is most likely advantageous to use one.  In some cases the selection of the most suitable robot is straightforward and in others it is mainly down to a comparison on cost.   SCARA robots normally have up to 4 axes (3 rotation and one Z linear).

Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm – CYAN TEC

 

Advantages of SCARA robots

The SCARA robot is most commonly used for pick-and-place or assembly operations where high speed and high accuracy is required.  Generally a SCARA robot can operate at higher speed and with optional cleanroom specification.  In terms of repeatability, currently available SCARA robots can achieve tolerances lower than 10 microns, compared to 20 microns for a six-axis robot. By design, the SCARA robot suits applications with a smaller field of operation and where floor space is limited, the compact layout also making them more easily re-allocated in temporary or remote applications.

 

Limitations of SCARA robots

SCARA robots, due to their configuration are typically only capable of carrying a relatively light payload, typically up to 2 kg nominal (10 kg maximum).  The envelope of a SCARA robot is typically circular, which doesn’t suit all applications, and the robot has limited dexterity and flexibility compared to the full 3D capability of other types of robot.  For example, following a 3D contour is something that will be more likely fall within the capabilities of a six-axis robot.

 

Choosing the right solution

With many different factors influencing the choice of the robot for a specific application, it is wise to discuss with an automation expert.  Cyan Tec Systems have been integrating all types of robots for several decades and can advise on alternative concepts for system design and help to select the most suitable configuration.   Working with an experienced and independent supplier is the best way to define the automation configuration that suits the cycle time, accuracy and budget of the required production system.

Cyan Tec Systems has experience of integrating robots for assembly and loading/unloading of machinery.  Cyan Tec also offers systems for paint spraying, assembly, test and laser processing applications. Standard and bespoke systems are offered with a full service from design through manufacture, a large installed base worldwide is supported by a dedicated team of engineers.

Compelling Reasons to Bring Laser Cutting In-House

Many companies use laser cut components in the manufacture of their products, and the obvious starting point when prototyping or stepping up towards volume manufacturing is the use of a local subcontractor for laser cutting.  The flexibility and affordability of a subcontract service can match with the varying needs of companies unfamiliar with laser cutting.  With a prevalence of job shops offering fast turnaround and high-quality sub-contract services, why would you consider bringing laser cutting in-house?

 

When Just-in-time becomes Just-too-late

As product volumes increase, or order quantities fluctuate it can become more difficult to manage external suppliers and the option to bring the laser cutting requirement in-house is usually considered at this point.  Having a compact and efficient flatbed laser cutting machine, like the recently-introduced Hyperion 3GF standard system from Cyan Tec Systems, means that parts can be produced within minutes when the need for urgent response arises.  Sometimes the time taken to contact suppliers and book space in their production schedule, can lead to delays from a day to a week.  When parts are on the critical path (and perhaps require post-cutting operations like welding or anodising), a delay waiting for a supplier to respond can be circumvented by having the laser cutting machine and the material to cut available in your factory.  Delivery time pressure and the need to satisfy un-predictable customer demand can be minimised by taking control of laser cutting and having the resource available “on tap”.

 

When Stock Isn’t an Option and Variety is Needed

Some companies use the flexibility of laser cutting to personalise production, or to cope with a huge variety of spare parts.  Making to order rather than making for stock is always going to be more efficient from a stock control point of view.  The difficulty of forecasting can be overcome if a flexible laser cutting machine is available.  Designs can be held in software (or customised in CAD) and transferred to the laser cutter in minutes.  The cutting time with modern fibre laser cutting machines is short, especially on material less than 6 mm thick (which accounts for the lion’s share of the laser cutting requirements in most general industries).

 

 When Volume Reaches Tipping Point

Monthly spend with sub-contract laser cutting job shops clearly increases with volume.  As new products incorporating laser cutting gain acceptance in the market and the volume of laser cutting work outsourced increases, there comes a point when the monthly spend on laser cutting exceeds the cost of the monthly lease of a laser cutting machine.  At this point, many manufacturers decide to take the decision to bring their laser cutting in-house.

The Cyan Tec Solution

Cyan Tec Systems worked with several clients to develop unique solutions for cutting sheet sizes up to around 2 m x 1 m using a dedicated fibre laser cutting system that occupies well under half the floor space of a conventional flatbed system.  Using fibre laser technology, the system is efficient (giving up to 5 times the output of a conventional CO2 laser cutting machine per kW of supply).  In addition, the coupling efficiency of the fibre laser wavelength works extremely well with reflective materials like stainless steel, copper and aluminium, many of which are more difficult or impossible to cut with a CO2 flatbed system.  The Hyperion 3GF from Cyan Tec benefits from a standard design with the flexibility of customisation to add additional features or bespoke tooling.

Cyan Tec Systems has experience of integrating lasers for cutting, welding, marking, engraving, etching or ablation.  Experience with lasers from all the major laser source suppliers allows Cyan Tec to offer expert advice on the most appropriate solution for laser processing.  Cyan Tec also offers systems for paint spraying, assembly, test and many other applications. Standard and bespoke systems are offered with a full service from design through manufacture, a large installed base worldwide is supported by a dedicated team of engineers.

Cyan Tec to improve nuclear decommissioning efficiency for UK Nuclear Research Centre

Cyan Tec Systems has been selected to design and build an exciting custom laser welding system for the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC), one of seven High-Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult centres funded by Innovate UK. The Nuclear AMRC in Rotherham will be taking delivery of the turnkey system before the end of 2017. Cyan Tec, based in the UK’s high-tech heartlands in Loughborough, has extensive experience in integrating high power fibre-delivered lasers in large systems for automated laser welding and cutting.

Bjoern Kraemer, a Laser Engineer at the Nuclear AMRC, outlined the reasons Cyan Tec were chosen following an open and competitive tendering process:

“Cyan Tec provided the best response to the Nuclear AMRC’s tender process. They not only addressed all of our requirements in an appropriate manner, they also showed great knowledge and professionalism by presenting their innovative solutions at the right level of detail and providing a selection of options. Cyan Tec provided a competitive and unique turnkey solution with a comprehensive service package which will satisfy all our demands for a high-quality manufacturing solution.

The Nuclear AMRC helps UK manufacturers win work in the civil nuclear sector and assists them in the development of new technical capabilities and processes. Situated on the Advanced Manufacturing Park in South Yorkshire, the Nuclear AMRC research facility offers an array of state-of-the-art equipment for machining and fabrication, supported by in-house engineers and researchers, all of which are made available to manufacturers to use in collaborative R&D projects.

Cyan Tec’s advanced laser cell will further enhance the welding capabilities of the Nuclear AMRC to support manufacturing process development for key nuclear components. One example is the duplex steel boxes used to store hazardous waste from Sellafield and other decommissioning sites – laser welding can significantly reduce manufacturing times and costs while maintaining a high quality of weld seams. The innovative Cyan Tec welding cell will be used to develop and optimise these welding processes, as part of a programme to save hundreds of millions of pounds over the life of the decommissioning programme.

The system is designed for deep penetration welding for R&D of laser and hybrid laser and arc welding. With the highest power Disk laser in the UK, delivered by fibre optic cable, the system will have a wall-plug efficiency higher than 30% and is fully protected against back reflection which is vital in high power welding of reflective materials.

Integrated with a 6-axis gantry system, the overall cell has the capability of delivering a simultaneous MIG weld for deep penetration hybrid welding with hot wire or cold wire feed.  The system includes a large tilt and turn manipulator which can carry components up to 15 tonnes and overall the advanced CNC controller is able to interpolate all 8 axes simultaneously to weld complex seams with perfect results. Such a system is a challenge for an integrator of automation and CNC systems, but falls easily within the capabilities of Cyan Tec’s team of experienced laser integration engineers.

With such a high average laser power delivered by fibre optics, and a system capable of steering the beam in all directions, laser safety is extremely important.  Cyan Tec have developed their own safety solution, comprising an active guarding laser safety enclosure of dimensions 10 m x 7 m and 6 m high. The safety system has an actively monitored cavity wall with instant shut-down in the event of any break-through of the outer layer.

Modern motion systems are faster, have higher accuracy and vastly-improved repeatability compared to previous generations. Cyan Tec Systems has experience of integrating robots and CNC systems with lasers from all the major suppliers and can offer expert advice on the most appropriate solution for laser processing. Standard and bespoke systems are offered with a full service from design through manufacture; a large installed base worldwide is supported by a dedicated team of engineers.

The innovative Cyan Tec design configuration is shown in the image below.

Vision is essential for quality laser marking

Cyan Tec Systems, an expert laser marking systems integrator, has extensive experience of integrating laser marking with vision systems to combine automatic code verification and position compensation, to achieve the quality required for industries like automotive and aerospace manufacturing.

A revolution in digital imaging technology has enabled camera sensor resolution and sensitivity in low light to increase dramatically in recent years. Cameras which are smaller and more efficient can be integrated where space is limited and are capable of operating in harsh environments.

In 21st century manufacturing, there is a need to verify correct completion of a process to ensure parts match specification at all stages in the process. Laser marking is a commonly-used technique to write information in text or machine readable code (bar codes and 2D matrix marks) to identify components providing traceability and quality assurance. Immediately after a mark is completed, a vision system grabs the image of the mark under controlled lighting conditions and automatically reads the code to ensure that the contrast and integrity of the code matches the one that is stored in the customer’s master production database.

Given the resolution of modern cameras, the vision system can also be used for compensation of position or orientation, reducing the need for expensive tooling. A component can be placed within the field of view and the software automatically recognise the object (which might be one of a family of different components) and check the angular and positional misalignment before compensating by accurately shifting the laser marking file to match the actual component position.

 

Finally, another use for vision is the dimensional verification of laser processes like drilling, where the whole area can be calculated to ensure that the parameters are within the quality tolerance bands specified. Data can be recorded and logged to allow categorisation and process verification with the option of actively adjusting for errors during the production run or raising an alarm or warning to suspend production until fault conditions are rectified.

Modern laser marking systems are fast, accurate and repeatable with high reliability and minimum maintenance. Cyan Tec Systems has experience of integrating laser marking, engraving, etching or ablation systems using lasers from all the major suppliers and can offer expert advice on the most appropriate solution for laser processing, paint spraying, assembly, test, and many other applications. Standard and bespoke systems are offered with a full service from design through manufacture, a large installed base worldwide is supported by a dedicated team of engineers.

Robotics Plays A Leading Role In Automation

Although a significant amount of machinery that is manufactured by Cyan Tec includes the integration of traditional automation components such as motor driven linear axes and pneumatics, robotics are becoming more frequently involved when customers initiate a request for a piece of automated equipment.

In order to meet the majority of its customer’s needs, Cyan Tec endeavour to work with all of the leading suppliers of Scara, collaborative and of course, six axis robots. Those suppliers include market leaders such as ABB, Yaskawa, Fanuc, Staubli and Mitsubishi and the experienced team of engineers at Cyan Tec have extensive experience in programming and commissioning such mechanisms into bespoke and standard solutions.

In terms of Cyan Tec incorporating robotics into semi-automated and fully automated production lines, this can include processes like laser cutting, laser welding, leak test, assembly and leak testing.

When a customer specifies a robot for a bespoke automated system, Cyan Tec will liaise with the selected robot supplier to evaluate the payload and reach that is required for the particular application. The close relationship with the robot manufactures allows the selection process to be smooth and regularly involves the end customer.

Standard productions cells by Cyan Tec that include robotics are as follows; Multi Axis Laser Welding System (Hyperion 8RF), Single Laser Cutting Cell (Hyperion 7RC), Dual Laser Cutting Cell (Hyperion 13RC) and Dual Input Laser Welding Machine (Hyperion 8LG).

Hyperion 8RF

Although the above machines are a standard design, the fact that the nature of Cyan Tec’s business heavily involves designing ground-breaking bespoke automation means that any of the machines can be modified to meet any individual requirements.

Related links:     

https://cyan-tec.com/automation/robotic-systems

https://cyan-tec.com/laser-systems

https://cyan-tec.com/industrial-inkjet

 

 

Laser Cutting: Product Focus

Laser cutting of a variety of different materials, particularly metals and fabrics, is fairly common nowadays. Therefore, when an automotive supplier contacted Cyan Tec Systems Limited to design and manufacture an automated piece of equipment to remove excess material from their complex 3D formed products, the perfect solution was developed and in turn the RRTS14CC standard laser cutting cell was established.

cyan-tec-laser-head-005

Cyan-Tec: Laser Cutting

One of our laser source suppliers describe laser cutting as “a process where a material is cut, and this can be for small & fine materials or materials with a much greater level of thickness”.

They continue by stating “Laser cutting has a number of application areas, particularly in industrial manufacturing where a higher output is required but is also used in schools, Aerospace the military and in small businesses”.

The integration of a rotary transfer system, a six axis robot and fixed laser optics ensured that the customer is not only satisfied with the much-improved cycle time that the cell can offer but also the quality of the laser cut that the Co2 laser can achieve is exceptional.

In order to achieve the aforementioned high-quality laser cuts, the six axis robot is designed to follow pre-programmed paths, thus presenting each of the different variants to the laser head at the correct focal distance.

The laser source that is integrated as part of the RRTS14CC cell is generated from carbon dioxide and the integration of a series of mirrors means that the beam alignment from source to nozzle is both accurate and repeatable to suit the customer’s application. Though the RRTS14CC is a standard cell, the optics (tubes, mirrors etc.) will be specifically designed application by application to guarantee that the laser head arrangement is perfectly suited to the material that is being processed.

For more information on the RRTS14CC cell please visit its dedicated page here: http://cyan-tec.com/single-robot-laser-cutting-machine