Pick-and-place machine

10 Benefits of Using a Pick-and-Place Machine

Feb. 5, 2020
The road to improved productivity and product quality often starts with pick-and-place automation.

Pick-and-place machines have become an essential part of the modern manufacturing environment, offering customizable ways to solve problems and ultimately bolster companies’ bottom lines. Here are 10 reasons why companies should invest in the pick-and-place machine.

Speed. If there is a single reason to purchase a pick-and-place machine and use it to assemble or package products, it is probably the speed and performance it offers over handmade products. The technology is improving as pick-and-place machines have become multitaskers over the last two decades. Designers have also adopted multiple heads and several gantry features. These features let machines quickly  swap out different modules depending on what they are building. Pick-and-place machines can handle a wide variety parts and can theoretically handle 136,000 components per hour (cph). The fastest machines can perform 200,000 cph.

Precision. Pick-and-place machines work at a level of accuracy human assembly can never match. A pick-and-place machine device can set a binder part within 1/10,000th of an inch of the proper placement. This precision ensures better performance for the final product while reducing the number of defective products coming off the line.

The key to a pick-and-place machine’s accuracy is an optical sensor. It locks onto a specific decoration or feature on a part before registering it. This is a major improvement over conventional hand placement and traditional processes that lock onto a part’s perimeter.

Flexibility. Pick-and-place machines are extremely flexible. They are easily programmed to handle whatever dimensions, movements or specifications operators have in mind. Therefore, they accommodate a wide range of components and operations. A pick-and-place machine can also handle different shapes and types of products thanks to its design. The product-handling nozzles move seamlessly above the board horizontally, vertically and laterally. As long as the operator can program maneuvers for the pick-and-place machine, it will reproduce them and help drive productivity.

Cost savings. Pick-and-place machines earn their keep by bringing automation to the factory floor. The operative word here is automation. Businesses have streamlined processes through mechanization for centuries. Automation can be a great source of greater precision and speed, which both translate into money saved.

Although the upfront cost of a pick-and-place machine can be a few thousand dollars, the device quickly pays for itself. Not only does it not need PTO or lunch breaks, but business owners will see a serious uptick in productivity. Additionally, the machines waste less material, which ensures companies get the most out of their investments.

Safety. Safety is an essential part of the workplace. Pick-and-place machines make factory floors safer by shouldering a sizeable portion of the physically demanding labor. This means workers no longer need to perform labor-intensive tasks time and again.

Furthermore, pick-and-place machines can handle heavy products that humans may struggle to move and manipulate by hand. And the stresses of the modern workflow do not affect their performance. Plus, they do not have to take breaks or vacations to recoup their energy.

Consistency. There are two ways to think about error: precision and accuracy. Precision involves performing a task within a small margin of error. Accuracy is a measurement of how far that task is from its desired outcome. For instance, throwing a handful of darts into the top right corner of a dartboard would be precise, but not accurate.

Pick-and-place machines offer both of these qualities for consistent and reliable performance. The programming ensures the nozzles and mechanisms deliver the same performance, regardless of the monotony or chaos. That way, companies can expect high-quality results time and again as long as there is proper programming and maintenance.

The competitive edge. Gaining a competitive edge over competitors is a straightforward venture. Still, it is an objective that is easier said than done. When companies invest in pick-and-place machines, though, they are taking steps toward maximizing the productivity of the employees and factories.

Pick-and-place machines are a cost-effective method that can improve outputs and innovation. For instance, a job that takes 10 minutes but involves five minutes of tool placement and five minutes of work, has a 50% work content. Adding a pick-and-place machine lets employees spend more time doing productive work robots and cobots cannot handle.

Ease of use. There are three different types of pick-and-place machines: manual, automatic and semi-automatic. Each option improves overall workflow, in part because the devices are easy to use. Although the technology they display is complicated, mastering the automation is not.

The best machines have intuitive interfaces that naturally guides operators through the necessary steps. This ensures a professional experience for each user, so companies do not need to hire outside services. Plus, the devices are easily programmable to almost any application’s specifications.

Low maintenance. Pick-and-place machines might use cutting-edge technology, but they only require minimal attention to maintain. Companies can keep devices operating with in-house maintenance while picking up any needed parts from local hardware and industrial-parts stores. When purchasing parts, make sure to invest in quality nozzles and feeders to ensure the best accuracy and highest efficiency.

When operators are cleaning or tuning up pick-and-place equipment, proper technique is essential. For instance, improper nozzle maintenance or low-quality products can lead to problems with a part or process. Thorough maintenance, however, can avoid the vast majority of problems, such as misplacing components, tombstoning post-soldering or sticky nozzles.

Efficiency. All of the benefits mentioned above lead to this one. Efficiency is essential for businesses trying to get the most out of their employees, payroll, raw materials, tools and investments. Pick-and-place machines raise the overall level of efficiency, which makes them a cost-effective solution.

Furthermore, pick-and-place machines save space on the assembly line. For starters, the devices only work and stay within a relatively small and confined area, which creates more room for employees. Operators can program them to work within a predetermined space to improve the overall use of the assembly floor.

Jonathan Bara is marketing manager at Neoden USA.

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