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SMAC Moving Coil Actuators is a leading manufacturer of precision programmable electric actuators based on moving coil technology. With its patented "Soft-Land" function, the company’s electric actuators perform at exceptionally high speeds or very low speeds with extremely accurate sensing of product location or dimensions—making them suitable for a wide range of high cycle positioning, measuring, inspection, and pick-and-place applications, particularly where 100% verification is required.
In an interview with SMT Magazine, SMAC president Edward Neff talks about the strategies they implement in their production lines to reduce cycle times and go to market faster. He also talks about how using proven components can help manufacturers ensure the uptime of their equipment and processes.
Stephen Las Marias: What are the biggest bottlenecks in your process that contribute to longer cycle times?
Edward Neff: Cycle time is the time required to perform a repetitive specific task. There are several factors that can slow cycle time. The fragility of the item being worked on can slow cycle time—for example, an electronic chip. The durability of the device doing the work is also a factor. For example, air cylinders are limited to 1,200 CPM. Both ball screw and air cylinders have cycle life in the 10–20M range. Linear motors are 10x that and are much faster.
The repeatability of the device doing the work in position and time can also affect cycle time. A ±20ms time to reach a target means cycle time must increase. Other factors include the acceleration of the device doing the work, the mass of the object being worked on and the moving mass of the device doing the work.
Las Marias: How important is reducing cycle time, and how do you achieve this in your own processes?
Neff: Cycle time reduction is a key target along with quality. It helps reduce the cost of operation, and increase capacity. Longer cycle times mean more capital equipment needed, increased overhead, more factory space required, and higher energy costs.
Cycle time reduction at SMAC is accomplished in a few different ways. We simplify design—because reducing complexity reduces cycle time. We do five at a time or 10, not one or two. We increase our output and improve quality by using mechatronic devices. SMAC moving coil actuators are low moving mass/high acceleration/precision positioning servo devices that can do the work and confirm its success at the same time.
Las Marias: Please talk about best practices that will help assemblers/manufacturers reduce cycle times in their processes.
Neff: Some best practices include using closed loop servo devices that are repeatable and programmable; building in as much quality feedback as possible; and trying to use proven components—in-house solutions are often risky.
Las Marias: What about automation? How does automation help reduce cycle time in an assembly line?
Neff: Automation means processes are repeated exactly. It also means that a number of operations can be done simultaneously, such as feeding in parts, assembly and check, and sort and unload. New generation mechatronic automation, such as SMAC moving coil actuators, are also flexible, so on-the-fly adjustment or changeover is possible as well as coincident assembly and quality check.