Welcome everybody, to our session. I want to mention this is a live session. Attendees, chime-in with any questions during this session, and I will make sure to tie those questions into our discussions with our panels. The topic of this session is “flexible positioning options to allow for versatile manufacturing.” My name is Luke. I'm the District Sales Manager for Destaco, Camco, and Robohand products.
Our panelists for this discussion is Eric Vandergraaf, President with Goman & Sela. We have Gerry Saunders, our Sales Engineer with Whit & Associates. Thank you, guys, for joining our live session here. Before we get started, maybe we want to talk about defining flexible positioning, and I could start with saying “flexible positioning” as the term is something not necessarily new, but it's getting a little bit more popularity. The concept behind it isn't something new to the chemical product line. I could say, personally, that I've been with the company for quite some time and I've seen these things around for a few decades now. Essentially - the term flexible positioning narrows down the mechanics of the indexing device itself.
So for those that are not familiar with indexers, an indexing device has a few things that are essentially the heart of the machine. I always call the five finger rule. You've got an input shaft, a follower wheel housing, a cam – essentially, is the heart of that indexer. So the cam itself, in a mechanical device, it has a machined dwell into it which defines the amount of stops, along with the follower wheel combination, cam followers, that are rolling on it - but the cam itself is machined very precisely to stop x amount of times. In a fixed positioning indexing, for example, four stop six stop twelve stop you - name it, flexible automation is defined by the cam now becoming more of a constant lead, so there's not a true dwell position. There's constant motion, and we're using external devices, such as a servo or an encoder of some sort that helps us position that cam.
Essentially, the output into a very accurate position, so the technology itself has been around for quite some time. Utilizing our mechanical background, and indexing position, with collaboration of the cam and the rollers coming into together as their pre-loaded system, helps the servo to position it even more accurately. Eric, can you maybe go a little bit more in-detail from the technical side of how that works? Yeah sure, thank you for having me on. So traditionally, we would talk about flexible movement as it applies to servo motors and servo drives, have recorder feedback - so the drive knows where the motor is at any time, and we can control the position of the output shaft of that motor.
So here at Camco, we are experts in moving things, and traditionally, our cam operated machinery did all of that movement simply by cutting the metal in the cam to produce some sort of movement at the output. Now, we take that technology in that same map and we apply it to the motion of the servo motor and we run it through the cam and we find this servo mechanical combination to be very useful to our customers. So we can control that output of the cam simply by controlling the server mode right and so we get several benefits from that one programmable positioning. You can change the output position of your device where the servo motor itself falls flat. It's not as repeatable as the mechanism inside, so we're pairing the highly repeatable cam mechanism with the highly accurate server mode.
Now, it's a great way of defining it. Gerry, you want to add anything to that? Yeah - I'd add some things. Eric mentioned, on the technical side, as far as a customer goes, you can put these several motors - not only on indexers, but there's a lot of flexibility that we add when we go to a servo type system. As automation today is different from automation 20 years ago, automation years ago, you used to build machine the lasted 20 to 30 years. Now, people are looking for a machine, sometimes because programs only last three years, but by adding servos and doing certain data sheets that we can go into a little bit more detail, what might be a four stop or four position can immediately change to a five, six, seven position. Whether you want to do multiple, different parts, parts on one indexer, we can go into that a little later, or if you just want the flexibility. To say, “I don't want to buy a new indexer. I know this thing's only three years old.” But you can change to multiple, different stops later on, so the technology has really added to another avenue of flexibility long term for the customer.
Correct - it's a great point. You could reuse the same system without redesigning the entire machine. You could use that same system, which is a great advantage of going servo. Now Eric, when we look at some of the product offerings that Camco provides, can you give us a little bit, I know we talked about this topic yesterday on one of our live sessions, but any advantages going from a rotary to a linear form - by utilizing the flexible positioning options, servo and using our Camco drive systems?
It's a good question. So we're experts in both linear and rotary positioning, and the concepts translate from one to the other very smoothly. We're either indexing a rotary output or we're indexing a linear output, and their benefits - those benefits, are pretty much the same. You get flexible positioning so you can switch from product A to product B. In linear, we've done applications where on our Precision Link conveyors, we actually have tooling either on the same link or alternating links, and depending on the product, they're running one set of tooling one day and the other set of tooling the next or they can do them in every other cycle. That applies to both rotary and linear indexing, and again, we can also use the servo motors to dial in the positions too.
So if there are some mechanical variations, we can program that out and get very exquisite positioning too for our customers. And then finally, we can move very quickly and wait for a programmable amount of time while the customer does their work. A lot of people don't want to waste time moving product from station-to-station. They just want to get the work done and improve the productivity, so servos can help us do that. One thing that Eric just said there, and that's the wasted time. Literally - within 10 seconds, we can go from one fixture to another fixture, both A and B are tooled on the same precision link. In the old days, pre-servo, you'd have to change out all the fixtures - whether it be on a dial or on a precision link conveyor, and put the new fixtures on. Maybe they don't change one out, maybe they do. So literally - in seconds, he could be running product B. At-least the change over, which is always critical to customers, not a change over time, it's seconds on the Camco side of things.
So go-ahead, Eric. That's exactly what I wanted to say. We know that applications in-general, they vary throughout sizes and in shapes and different forms of automation. There's a lot of things that come into play of choosing the right selection. Either it could be floor space. Obviously, sometimes the price comes into play as well. You know how many different products they want to change or how many products they want to automate. In processes, and so forth, so in the industry - you guys obviously have worked on many applications in the past. Can you guys give us some live examples that you guys maybe have worked with, without obviously exposing the customers’ names.
Something in as detailed as you can without exposing too much information. Yeah - I'll go first on this one. So one thing that the servo and the constantly cam have added is, Camco for years and years, you could get a five stop indexer. You could get a seven stop, 20-24 stop indexer. Say servos give you infinite stops, so there were actually some indexers, depending on whether it might have been the RDM or a ring drive. That would produce. That you couldn't get a certain amount of stops, so what flex of what the servos have done is add complete flexibility over our entire product line. So when an engineer is engineering something, they're not necessarily limited because an indexer doesn't exist to do a certain amount of stops. So that's one thing that's really opened-up as far as what a servo can do to compare to what a cam could do.
That's one thing I think I'd like to add. Just to start, and I've seen a lot of applications, where five years ago to ten years ago, you had to say “no” or try to switch the stops. That now you can just say “yes” we can do that. Yeah - and I'd also build a little bit on what Gerry is saying, too. People would say, “well if I have the server motor, why do I even need the Camco index or the Camco linear device on here?” The servo motor is determining the output, and the answer is Camco's cam driven mechanism is perfect for marrying with the servo because it is a zero backlash design, and several motors like very tight, very stiff systems in their control loops. Additionally - the Camco indexer or the Camco conveyor provides that precision mounting base where you can put your tool in and you don't need to engineer something because the servo motor is just too delicate to hold your load on it.
So we have a combination there, and building on the examples, we combined. There was one application where we had to move something very fast. The customer wanted less than 200 milliseconds in move time, and we married an indexing cam, a traditional indexing cam that had a dwell in it, and stops with a servo motor. What the servo motor did was spin the cam very fast to get through the motion, so the output moved to the next station very quickly and used the cam rig and the lobe of the cam dwell to stabilize it when it came into station. So you didn't have to wait for the servo motor itself to settle, so the motors have issues when they're moving very fast. They tend to overshoot and come back.
They did it, or settling time, by using the cam to control that motion. There was no settling time, and then the servo motor stopped the cam while it was spinning, and dwell much faster than an AC motor could or much faster than any other device could. That gave the customer time to do their work on the product, so they wanted to work on the product for half a second but they wanted to move in less than a quarter of a second. We couldn't design a cam to do that, but by marrying the servo with the cam, we were able to give them a wicked amount of output. It was a very effective solution. Let me add one thing to what Eric just said too, that it's kind of interesting when you include an indexer with a servo motor - a servo motor can come with a certain amount of reduction. We can have a reducer that has a certain amount of reduction, and a lot of people don't know this, but our indexer can come with a certain amount of reductions. When you add those three together, as far as where your RPMs need to be, that's another thing.
Sometimes by just going to a servomotor, the indexer portion or the index or reducer portion, is very key in sizing the servo - along with mass size. So I would throw that in a little bit too. Yes - we're real experts again in inertia and moving things, and so you can rely on us to help you size the servo motor for the application too. Camco - we've been putting servos on our indexers since the 1980s, and one more thing I would add is we are not limited to any brand of servo. If we have one, to the customers out there listening right now, if Allen Bradleys are preferred - no problem. If Siemens is their preferred, no problem - et cetera. We can handle any type of motor. There's no limitations on us. The limitation is that we just got to remember to ask the questions, and once they tell us what brand they want, we can rock and roll from there.
Perfect - I just want to remind the audience that this is a live session. Please chime-in with any questions you guys may have. Also, we have a poll question that's going to be coming around. Please participate in that. I appreciate that. Looking at both options, the mechanical versus servo type indexing, are there any cost advantages going from one to the other? Gerry, can you maybe just touch on that a little bit please? Well sure, absolutely. So if you're building a machine, and it's going to be an eight-stop machine and you're looking at a 30-inch dial, our 601 RDM is a product line that's been built for many years. It's a very economical solution, sometimes just as economical when we do an AC motor - what you get a servo motor for.
That doesn't include the indexing or reducer part of it, so if you're building a machine, it's going to be dedicated for 20 years - and from a repeatability standpoint, what Eric had mentioned earlier, and from a cost standpoint, it's really hard to beat the ac technology of a 601 RDM. So again, that's one common question that we, as technical specialists of the Camco products, have to remember to ask, “how long are you going to be planning to use for this machine for? Do you see any changes possible?” Because if it's going to be a dedicated one-stop, for as long as you can see the AC technology has been out there, for years - but it's still a great technology to use. Yeah – I agree. The servo is going to give you three distinct advantages, in-that again, either flexible automation or highly accurate, highly repeatable.
And we’ve done applications where we've had encoder feedback on the output of the cam and we've fed that back into the servo and we adjust our position as we come into the station and we're in single digit arc-second accuracies – six to three arch seconds, in some applications. That's quite remarkable at our price point with the servo in an indexer. And then finally, the very high speed dedicated cam with servo motor combination that can move products in the 200 to 100 millisecond range. That's not even achievable with just a servo motor, and gives you that cam to help you do that, so those are the advantages - and yes, the servo drive itself is more costly; although, some of our newer products, the GTB product line, is designed specifically to integrate with servo motors. That does bring the cost closer to the 601, as you're saying.
Right now - back to what Eric was saying, just one more thing I would add. For all the customers out there, just about any of our product lines can be created to be a servo product. There's some particular product lines you like. We've mentioned conveyors. We've mentioned certain indexers, but pretty much all of our indexers across the board, we can make with constantly cam or proper motor adapter and couplings to where we can put any servo, if needed, in there. So we're not limited on a particular product line. That's a great point. That's a great point, Gerry. As you mentioned, we have a large variety of indexing devices, that it could be either both mechanical or servo-driven devices. As Eric mentioned, we do have dedicated product lines - specifically the GTB is a dedicated servo positioning device so it has a constantly cam internally, so we do have products that serve both but we try to also provide products that are specific to the servo market as well.
There's another question that came-up. We’re looking at the pros and cons of going mechanical versus servo. What is the upkeep, and then maybe the setup portion of a certain device? Eric, can you maybe touch on that? Sure, so your commissioning time on a servo might be a little longer than a traditional AC drive. It actually depends upon the servo product, but as it integrates into an entire machine design, sometimes the servo is easier to implement because of the way it programs internally in the control scheme of the end user. So many times, people might say, “well, I want to avoid that. It's too complicated or too hard to implement.” But when you actually look at the software and how it fits into the machine architecture, it's not any harder, maybe even a little easier, to synchronize parts of the machine if you already have a motor with an encoder on it because that provides a timing signal for everything else in the machine, as opposed to an AC option that they see motor and drive.
So there are hidden costs in both, and I would caution a customer. Rather than dismissing using a servo motor right off the bat because it's more expensive, the actual integration cost might be lower, so consider that it allows you to digitally time your machine to the motor that's moving. Right - and maybe I would add one more thing to that. As far as quickness or right things, and maybe this may be the right time, maybe not - we have DC technology. We have AC technology and we have servo technology, so if you're doing a certain amount of start and stops, the DC technology can only handle a certain amount. And then you got to either flip to the AC technology or the servo technology. There again, when you get in a certain amount of stops, and depending on the indexer AC technology, can handle a certain amount of starting stops.
And then you either got to go servo or maybe a clutch brake type technology, so that is one of the factors as far as integration, quick startup things that you got to think about during the application. As we hit on that topic, I think transitioning to this next question is going to be pretty much seamless. When we're looking at industry in-general, do we see any specific trends that are maybe hitting or going towards one way versus the other? I know it's customer-specific, application specific - but in-general speaking, is there a certain trend that we see in the industry? Well, certainly. I can answer some of that. So - machines are becoming highly networked devices. It's the internet of things, and so servos blend perfectly into this because you're getting more information.
It's a completely digital system at this point. You're using your PLC or your machine controller over a network to tell the device what to do, and we're eliminating wires. We're going to more independent, more thinking machines, and as we do, servos are the platform of choice. Right, I totally agree with what Eric said there. The other thing I might add, generally the higher speeds, consumer goods, you're seeing a lot more servo technology than you did let's say 20 years ago. It really caught on for sure in that industry. Do we see, for example Gerry, when you're visiting a customer, how does that conversation start with the customer? When he comes to a certain application, he says, “I want to do x, y, z.” How do you steer him into one versus the other? How does that process kind of go about?
Can you just briefly talk about that? Absolutely - so any customer that we call-on, and we figure out that they have some type of indexing need, whether it be linear or rotary. Basically - you say, “alright, how many fixtures do you plan on having in the system? How big a dial plate? If it's a rotary, if it's not a rotary? How much is your fixture going to weigh?” You go through a certain amount, a certain figure of parameters. In those parameters, you also ask, “are we only doing one dedicated part? Do we need the flexibility that we spoke about sooner?” So real quick, within the first two minutes, we would know the technical specs. We would know we’re heading in the servo direction or potentially I'm heading in the AC direction, but that thing is determined very early on. But as far as figuring out for a standard rotary device, what we really need to know is dial plate diameter, dial plate thickness, and the material.
And then we need to know part and fixture weight, how far that part and fixture weight is away from the center of the mast, and then how fast we need to index and how quick we need to stop in your overall throughput. And then the final question is, “is this the dedicated part that you're going to have for a long period of time, or not?” And if so, depending on what those answers or those questions are, it sends us on an AC or it sends us in the servo away, and then we start talking specifically, if you have a motor preference and kind of take it from there. Perfect. Eric, you want to add anything to that? I think Gerry hit it right on, but is there anything you want to add? Yeah - Gerry nailed it. We're certainly consultants to our customers when it comes to that sort of thing. We'd like to start from the customers’ needs and then we can guide them to where they need to go. Rule of thumb might be anything below a half a second of a move time would require something like the servo motor to do any sort of effective manufacturing.
So we kind of know where we're going when the customer tells us that move time and then we really nail it with those details. Yeah - I definitely want to say that I think, as you guys are out in the field working with our customers, you guys are the experts. You guys are our specialists in guiding the customer into the right decision-making. We also want to mention that we have inside support as well that will help us with application needs to determine maybe the size of the servo motor, if it's required, or the size of the AC motor that's required - something that'd be driving our indexing devices. So you guys are our specialists and then guide these customers into the right form of utilizing our indexing into their application needs.
Yeah Luke, that's a very good point. We have to stress to our customers out there that our recommendations are double-checked before they even get to you. Correct, your sales application engineer will size it up, but then we run it past engineering at Camco, and they double check what we come-up with, just to make sure we're recommending the best solution for you. That's a tradition within our company. We always double check everything. Eric, you're right on. Just to add part of that, it's kind of a three-way street, so it goes from customer to us to the inside sales people. We potentially agree or disagree once we settle on a solution. Not only will we provide you a data sheet back to the customer, we can provide you 3D models on both metric or English on any particular index that you want us to have or are particularly interested in. That way, our end customers can put it in their machine, take a look at it if something doesn't fit well, then we can go on back and try to do this thing again in a different type of solution.
So not only can we provide you data sheets early on, right away, early in the application - but we can also provide you both 2D and 3D models. So it's really kind of an engineering solution between both our customers, our inside team, and us - all marrying together to find the perfect solution for the customer. Yeah, we even have our own proprietary software that can really help us nail it and we stand by those numbers that we give you, so you'll have that data sheet in your hands. This machine will do right when we look at one of the things that some individuals have out in the market, the misconception about speed in a mechanical device. Eric, can you touch a little bit on that and how speed is combined with our cam design and the servo?
Yeah - so I touched on it earlier a little bit. Yeah, the great combination here is that we could do very fast indexing and movement in a dedicated cam with a dwell in it, but as customers’ demands for quicker movement is being improved, they need longer time to do their work, so we don't have the time in the 360 degree cam to wait if we've done a very fast move. So that's why we bring in the servo motor to stretch that dwell time for us so we do a very fast move on the cam and then we wait while the customer does their work. They inspect something or they insert a product, so that's the advantage of this electromechanical integration that we do, and we're saving the customer - we're saving you money, and time, every single cycle of the machine.
Let me add one more point to what Eric just said. Quick moves are important but sometimes quick moves lead to, on the mechanical side of things, stopping and dwell and there's certain times when even though we can index, and we can do the number of parts per minute on a standard cam, we can't stop and dwell in time. That might lead us also to the servo solution over the mechanical cam solution. Now, looking at, as we talked about a little bit of market trends and how customers are approaching certain applications, I think in the past - and I know we touched on this already, in a dedicated machine, if you're only running one dedicated product for the next 20 to 30 years, it makes sense to go to a dedicated indexing drive.
I think the trend we're seeing is that customers are now looking into ways of utilizing that same machine in other products. Traditionally, you would think that you always want to automate the high movers, the high volume runners with product life, in-general, being much shorter. Now, I think customers are looking into utilizing that same machine to other products as well. It could be a product life of two to three years, and you're utilizing that same machine over and over, so not all applications, obviously, fit the servo needs. Not all applications also fit the true indexing needs, but I think as Camco products go, we offer a solution that covers all application needs in-general speaking. I'd like to thank you guys for joining our session here - the experts obviously in the industry.
Thank you to the audience once again. Thank you for your participation. I want to make sure to let you guys know that you guys could find any product pages on our website, so please visit our website and find the literature there.