Buttons track low-volume processes

April 3, 2002
Engineers at Siemens Energy & Automation in Batavia, Ill.

Engineers at Siemens Energy & Automation in Batavia, Ill., designed three types of interlock switches, each of which had a dozen possible variations. But then they had to devise a method to track parts and assemble them. Volume was going to be relatively low, so a palletized assembly system would be too costly. Instead, they chose to break down the process into several steps and assign them to simple, independent assembly stations. This still left them with the problem of tracking parts to make sure the right interlock switches were being manufactured. Siemens engineers decided to use plastic part bins to move parts and assemblies between stations. To track them, they use I-button memory chips from Dallas Semiconductors as ID tags.

The buttons are permanently affixed to the bins. They communicate with a workstation computer through two spring-loaded pins connected to the computer's serial port. The computer assigns the button an identifier, as well as a switch catalog number and quantity. After the switches are built, the ID button tells a laser marker what to write on the switches and also helps it count and keep track of batches. When the bin is empty, the ID tag is erased and ready for reuse. Though the buttons are not as convenient to use as traditional radio-frequency identification tags (they need physical contact to download or upload data), they provide a cost-effective method of part tracking in low-volume manufacturing. And unlike bar coding, they do not require manual intervention to be recoded and reused.

Sponsored Recommendations

The Digital Thread: End-to-End Data-Driven Manufacturing

May 1, 2024
Creating a Digital Thread by harnessing end-to-end manufacturing data is providing unprecedented opportunities to create efficiencies in the world of manufacturing.

Medical Device Manufacturing and Biocompatible Materials

May 1, 2024
Learn about the critical importance of biocompatible materials in medical device manufacturing, emphasizing the stringent regulations and complex considerations involved in ensuring...

VICIS Case Study

May 1, 2024
The team at VICIS turned to SyBridge and Carbon in order to design and manufacture protective helmet pads, leveraging the digitization and customization expertise of Toolkit3D...

What's Next for Additive Manufacturing?

May 1, 2024
From larger, faster 3D printers to more sustainable materials, discover several of the top additive manufacturing trends for 2023 and beyond.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Machine Design, create an account today!