Many of the world’s most significant and complex manufacturing operations – in industries ranging from aerospace to automotive, consumer goods to packaging, and nuclear medicine to life sciences – depend on automation systems to operate consistently, efficiently and safely. For many years, the dominant technology in this realm has been what is called a “fixed” system that relies on the operation of a Fixed-Stop Index Cam. This type of cam is a mechanical automation component that is machined for use on an indexer. The function of the Fixed-Stop Index Cam must be precise in two distinct operating periods: the index period, which dictates the number of degrees the cam needs to move the indexer into position, and the dwell period, which determines the length of time the cam stays still during the indexing process.
In more recent times, however, a new technology based on the operation of a Constant-Lead Cam has grown in popularity. As opposed to the Fixed-Stop Index Cam, the Constant-Lead Cam does not operate with rigid, unchanging dwell periods, which gives this style of indexing its “flexible” name. The movements of the Constant-Lead Cam are determined electronically via a programmable device, typically a servomotor. While Constant-Lead Cams do have a fixed indexing period, they have no true dwell period since the servomotor is designed to continually use infinitesimal movements to seek the best position, even when the cam has ostensibly completed its movement.
Both Fixed and Flexible Automation have their pros and cons, meaning operators should consider all variables when determining the best system for their particular operation.