Mechanical Technology Archive

These two success stories, described below by Jaco de Beer of Tectra Automation, demonstrate the simplicity, diversity and customisation capability available from this leading South African automation solutions provider.

BEKA Schréder has increased its average production rate of LED luminaires by 50% through four new semi-automated manual production systems (MPS) supplied by Tectra Automation at its Olifantsfontein factory.

The production line replaces a more batch-oriented configuration for the assembly of four recently designed LED light ranges used for lighting streets, highways and outdoor facilities. Tectra Automation supplied an MPS for each range as part of a turnkey project that included the design, supply, factory acceptance testing, integration and commissioning of the MPS, as well as its electrical installation.

Tectra simple production automation line Beka lighting manufacturing Each of the four production lines consists of five workstations, connected in a 10 m lane of aluminium rails and runner blocks where operators assemble the luminaire units on specialised aluminium trays. Tectra Automation fitted these trays with specialised mounting blocks that secure the units during assembly.

At the end of the production line, units are removed from the tray for quality inspection. The tray then enters a lowering station, where it is automatically lowered to a return line and delivered to the front of the production line. Trays can accumulate one behind the other before being fed to the top, one by one.

“By improving the efficiency of movement and flow of production within the facility, the MPS has enhanced the productivity of assembly, with improved workmanship and product quality,” explains Jaco de Beer, project engineer, Tectra Automation.

All production line lifting and lowering requirements are achieved through a maintenance-free pneumatic system. Tectra Automation supplied valves, pneumatic actuators, air supply units and filtration systems. “We used the new Aventics AV03 valve to control each pneumatic cylinder,” De Beer explains. “This valve is ideally suited to these types of applications because of its compact, neat, all-in-one functionality.”

BEKA Schréder’s four white-light LED ranges, OMNIStar, LEDlume-maxi, LEDlume-midi and LEDlume-mini, deliver exceptional colour rendering and visibility over a long lifespan, and are highly efficient in energy consumption. “Such is the success of the products that they will soon be exported to Europe,” De Beer concludes.

The MPSs were installed over a three-week period at the end of 2015, with other necessary changes to production prepared and implemented during the year-end shutdown.

Ultrasonic bath: engineered for accuracy

Tectra Automation has also designed and built an ultrasonic linear measurement bath for Denel Aerostructures. The bath will automate the scanning of composite components that Denel Aerostructures supplies for military transport aircraft. The system was recently delivered to the company’s Atlas Road facility in Kempton Park, Johannesburg.

Tectra Automation Ultrasonic linear measurement bathThe structure is a bridge crane system constructed from aluminium extrusions and linear motion technology from Bosch Rexroth, and is about 10 m × 1.0 m. The system automates an extremely precise scan path across the composite component to ensure the scanning of each part is executed to the required high accuracy.

The test will reveal any flaw or structural weakness in the composite material, alerting Denel Aerostructures to components that do not meet its stringent quality standards. An automated scanning process not only speeds up the testing process exponentially, it also enhances production quality. With the bridge maintaining a uniform height across the scan path, the irregularities in scan heights characteristic of manual scanning are eliminated.

Achieving this precision in the scanning process was complicated by the large size of components. “We had to join two 5.0 m aluminium extrusions to get the required length of 10 m,” explains De Beer. “Once we’d assembled this length, we noticed the aluminium was creating minor sag along the length. To overcome this problem, we had to develop a series of customised struts and box-type frames to ensure the beam remained perfectly horizontal. It is the longest bridge-type system we’ve built to date.”

The automation of the ultrasonic system is controlled by the MTX Micro single controller, which is extremely versatile and highly accurate. “Programming the specified scan path, which it does via G-code, is simple and will be familiar to anyone working with CNC lathes and milling machines,” De Beer explains. “All that is required for programming, from an operator’s perspective, is inputting the correct length, width and indexing specifications.”

As Tectra Automation supports such an extensive stockholding of Bosch Rexroth products, it was largely in control of delivery time. The system was built in less than eight weeks to meet the tight timeframe required by Denel Aerostructures.

Tectra Automation also supplied specialised polyurethane backing, which lines the surfaces of the bath to maximise the system’s suitability for ultrasonic linear measurement applications.


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