Timing Belt or Power Screw Drive: What’s Best for A Rodless Actuator?
As a designer, you may be faced with an application in which you have to carry and support a load as well as move it. These are ideal applications for rodless electromechanical actuators. While determining which rodless actuator model will suit your needs, you'll also need to select the type of drive: belt or screw. Both drive types offer high performance, long life, and low maintenance. Because the linear drive system is integral to rodless actuator design, understanding drive system capabilities is critical to creating an optimized motion control system. The motion control application (its speeds and thrust forces) will help define which drive train to select. Basic to motion control system selection are the work being performed, duty cycle, life cycle, and cost. Factors that are most relevant to drive train selection are length of stroke, linear velocity and acceleration, as well as orientation (as it relates to back-driving) Drives for rodless actuators Power screw drives Screw drives are known for their high-thrust capacity as well as accuracy and repeatability. Also, they offer relatively low system inertia and lead screws for rodless actuatorspredictable service life (for ball and roller screw drives). However, screw drives offer shorter lengths than belt drives; their running speeds are limited by critical speed values; and some screw types may have lower duty cycle capabilities compared to belt drives. Three primary types of screws are used in linear actuators: Acme screws, ball screws, and roller screws, with ball screws and Acme screws being the most common. Each screw has a unique design that makes them ideally suited for specific applications. Acme screws are relatively low cost, quiet, and most cannot be back-driven. However, the sliding action of the nut causes friction which limits speed, duty cycle, and load capability. Also, service life cannot be predicted. Ball screws have higher force and speed capabilities and better accuracy and repeatability than Acme screws. They are also much more efficient and, because of this, can be prone to back-driving. Service life can be predicted using standard L10 calculations. Ball screw actuators will generate more noise during operation that those using Acme screws. The higher force capacity of roller screws is typically not required in rodless linear actuator applications. However, roller screws do provide longer service life, superior accuracy, and better repeatability. Roller screws can over-heat in high duty cycle applications and are the most costly of the three screw types discussed here. Timing belt drives Belt drives are efficient and easy to operate and maintain. Their design offers a long service life with low component wear. They can be operated at 100 percent duty cycle with no critical speed limitations and are available in much longer lengths than screw drives. (Length of stroke of a timing belt actuator is limited only by the ability to efficiently tension long strands of the timing belt.) These benefits make timing belt drives ideal for long stroke applications requiring high linear velocity and acceleration. On the downside, timing belt drives have a reduced thrust capacity compared to screw drives. They can also have lower accuracy and repeatability, and it is difficult to estimate service life. Belt drives are more sensitive to impact (shock) loads and some timing belt materials are prone to gradual elongation which requires periodic tensioning. Belt drives can be more easily back-driven than screw drives. Timing belts are available in various materials, sizes, widths, and tooth geometries. Performance for each belt type is affected by its tensile strength and elasticity. The size and width of a belt help determine the amount of torque that can be transmitted. Selection of timing belt geometry (tooth shape) and pitch (distance between two adjacent teeth) are important for strength. Selecting a drive train type The key factors you’ll need to consider in your drive train choice are: Length of stroke Linear velocity Accuracy/repeatability Back-driving (as it relates to orientation) Let’s take a closer look at each of them. Length of stroke The length of the stroke of a screw-driven linear actuator is often limited by the available length of the screw stock. Screw-driven actuators typically are used in stroke lengths less than 120 inches (3,048mm) and more commonly in applications less than 36 inches (914mm). Screw length and speed are related. Critical speed (see below) decreases as screw length increases. Belt drives, on the other hand, can reach very long lengths without affecting speed. In fact, the length of a belt drive is limited only by the ability to tension a long belt. Belt-driven linear actuators can achieve stroke lengths of over 200 inches (5080 millimeters). Linear velocity The speed at which a screw-driven linear actuator travels is limited by the critical speed value of the screw. The critical speed is a rotational speed that approaches the system’s natural frequency, leading to resonance and vibration (also known as “screw whip”). Screw whip can lead to actuator malfunction and catastrophic failures. Screw-driven linear actuators typically operate at no more than 60 inches per second (about 1500 mm/second). Belt-driven linear actuators are not limited in this way and can achieve speeds of 200 inches/second (5080 mm/second). Accuracy and repeatability Accuracy is the ability of an actuator to achieve a specified position. Repeatability is the ability of an actuator to achieve a position time after time. Each application will have its own requirements for accuracy and repeatability. A screw-driven linear actuator’s accuracy/repeatability performance depends on the screw type and the method in which the screw and nut were manufactured. For example, actuators with precision-rolled ball screws can combine very good accuracy and repeatability with an affordable price. Acme screws often offer a lower level of accuracy at a lower cost while roller screws (uncommon in rodless electromechanical actuators) offer the highest accuracy with an accompanying high price A belt-driven linear actuator will deliver lower levels of accuracy due to the variations in the belt material. Back-driving Back-driving is the tendency of an actuator carrying a load to free fall due to gravity. This can be problematic if the actuator is mounted vertically and even in some applications where the actuator is mounted in an inclined orientation. Many actuators with Acme screws are resistant to back-driving due to their low efficiency. This is because of a higher coefficient of friction between the nut and screw threads. With a vertically-mounted ball screw actuator, a brake needs to be added to hold the load in place in the event of a power loss, thus preventing back-driving. All vertically-mounted belt-driven linear actuators are susceptible to back-driving as well and must have emergency brakes for the same reasons. In some applications, designers may avoid these actuators altogether as there are risks of belts breaking under catastrophic conditions. Wrapping it up Some applications make it easy to choose a linear drive system. Belt-driven linear actuators are ideal for long-stroke applications requiring high velocity and acceleration. If the application’s stroke length and speed requirements are moderate but the accuracy level required is high, then a screw-driven actuator is best. TOLOMATIC
Cash Register Barcode Scanner Is A Revolution
Beep! Beep! Beep! That oh so familiar sound from the cash register barcode scanner. It takes me right back to my first ever paid job on a supermarket checkout. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the groceries and scan them through that scanner. Things have moved on considerably since then when the cashier had to move all items over the scanner. Today, we can scan our own shopping with a wireless barcode scanner or a USB hand scanner. In fact, I’m not sure what we would do without the fantastic invention. So, who thought it up? And how do the little zebra-striped things work anyway?Barcodes Barcodes are everywhere. These days, they’re on pretty much every grocery item in the store. Well, perhaps not directly on loose fruits and vegetables. However, many supermarkets have a ‘weigh and print’ barcode sticker maker by them. Barcodes are fantastic because they allow a shop owner to keep a track of everything that people buy. It is then easy to know how much to charge the customer and know when stock is running low. It also lets shop owners know if someone has stolen if they are fewer than there should be on the shelf when they do a stock take. Not only that, barcodes allow shops to change prices whenever they want, without replacing those little sticky labels that we all used to see. Barcode Invention Barcodes were first thought up by Bernard Silver and Norman Joseph Woodland and were patented in the USA as far back as 1952. It was initially based on the same idea as Morse code but extended to thick and thin bars. It still took another twenty years until it became a commercially successful idea. The very first scanning of a real barcode was on a packet of Wrigley’s chewing gum in 1974. How Do Barcodes Work? The barcode essentially represents numbers 0-9. You may wonder why we don’t just scan actual numbers themselves. This would actually lead to much more confusion because of the ambiguous nature of some fonts and if there’s a slight misprint of a number as well as the fact they can be misinterpreted upside down. Barcodes solve all these problems. Barcodes are simple in their structure and have three parts to them. The first section lets the computer know the country of issue. The second part is the manufacturer’s code and the last section identifies what the product is, even multipacks of the same item have different last parts. They’re also accompanied by the number strip in case the barcode is damaged and can’t be scanned. Barcode Scanners Barcodes would be useless if we didn’t have barcode scanners. There are many different types of barcode scanner. In most stores you could find a: cash register barcode scanner, wireless barcode scanner, 2D wireless barcode scanner, USB hand scanner, and even a scanner with Wi-Fi. The barcode scanner feeds information to a checkout terminal or a computer, which identifies the product straight away from the product database. Types of Barcode Scanners Depending on the store, you can find different types of barcode scanner. There are some simple handheld ones that are rather like a barcode-reading magic wand or over-sized razor. The wand shines LED red light onto the barcode black and white strip and reads it with a light-sensitive string of cells. Some can be like pen scanners that have to be run across the barcode as if you were drawing a line with a marker. A store might have a couple of different types of barcode scanner. In busy megastores, you are more likely to find a wide variety of sophisticated scanners. They may have a USB hand scanner or a 2D wireless barcode scanner for bulky items that can’t be put on a checkout or conveyor belt as well as the regular cash register barcode scanner. Some stores have a scanner with Wi-Fi that you take with you around the store to ‘scan as you shop’. Your items are then sent to the checkout wirelessly so that you can pay for your items. Some stores are even introducing smartphone apps that take a photo of the barcode in the same way that a 2D wireless barcode scanner would so that you can do your scanning as you shop to save you time at the checkout. However, interestingly, the most frequently found barcode scanner is not a wireless barcode scanner at all. Most stores have a corded handheld scanner at their checkout, with some sources saying that as many 96% of stores use one of these! The Future of Barcode Scanning With most stores currently using corded barcode scanners, it would not be surprising to hypothesize that, in the future, more stores will begin to use a 2D wireless scanner with Wi-Fi instead. Having said that, the cash register barcode scanner that’s inbuilt into the checkout are by far the most sophisticated and the quickest and, as such, they will obviously remain prolific in the stores too. Many stores are starting to use QR codes too on their products to offer more information and even things like recipe ideas that you could make with the item. QR codes are most definitely becoming huge in the consumer society that we now live in. They can allow companies to not only give information virtually but also allow them to advertise additional products. It is not unreasonable to expect that QR will become a bigger part of the shopping experience too. The same goes for augmented and virtual reality. Picture the scene: you pick up an item and scan the QR code on the packet. This then gives you a recipe idea. Then, augmented reality maps guide you to the location of the other items within the store. This allows you to find all the items you need for your meal easily and effortlessly. It sounds like science fiction, but we’ve come a long way from the first barcode scanners in the 1970s, so we can expect that this market will also explode. One thing’s for sure, you can expect to hear that reassuring ‘beep beep beep’ for years to come. TOTINFO
Electric Rod Actuators Add Accuracy and Repeatability to PCB Manufacturing
Some manufacturing processes require high precision -- printed circuit boards (PCB) production, for example. In these instances, the capabilities of each component in a production system are critical. Although machine designers know pneumatic cylinders well, these cylinders struggle to deliver the accuracy and repeatability demanded by high precision processes. Many design engineers now turn to electric rod actuators for accuracy and repeatability and for better operating efficiency. Get a thorough review of the capabilities of pneumatic and electric actuation and the cost of ownership of these technologies in our white paper, Electric actuators vs. pneumatic cylinders: A comparison based on total cost of ownership. Pneumatics can't deliver precision PCB manufacturing requires high levels of precision at every stage. Components are small, and the solder that connects them must be in the right places at the right thickness or shorts can happen. Inconsistent and inaccurate solder placement was causing massive quality problems for a solar panel company that produced circuit boards to control their panels. The company’s quality control staff investigated and found the problem was improper soldering and component insulation due to inconsistent glue/solder paste dispensing. The dispensing system relied on pneumatic cylinders to push the pistons. The cylinders needed to supply consistent force when applying the material. However, the pressure of the compressed air fluctuated (a widespread problem in pneumatic power systems). The inconsistent force led to improper soldering and poor insulation on components. All this inconsistency and inaccuracy meant the solar panel company had a high rate of rejected PCBs. High production costs were cutting into the company's profits. Electric rod actuator solution Engineers at the solar panel company evaluated a number of electric linear actuator solutions and eventually decided on RSA-ST electric rod actuators to replace the pneumatic cylinders in the dispensing system. The updated system provides consistent force and instantaneous feedback that ensures the proper rate of material dispensing. The result has been a 99% reduction in PCB failures. That reduction in rejects, coupled with the better operating efficiency of electric linear actuators, has improved the company’s bottom line. RSA-ST electric rod actuators RSA-ST electric actuators combine excellent accuracy and repeatability with low-to-medium thrust capacity making them ideal for replacing pneumatic cylinders. High thrust bearings and internal bumpers deliver heavy duty performance. A rigid, strong aluminum housing allows for easy mounting of switches and sensors. RSA-ST electric linear actuators can be ordered with a wide variety of screw/nut combinations and mounting options. RSA-ST actuators are part of the RSA series which includes RSA-HT actuators, heavy duty rod actuators ideal for applications requiring high force performance in tough environments. TOLOMATIC
Before You Ask for an RFID Solution Proposal
So you have a problem and you think it could be solved by using RFID. Perhaps you have already deployed a barcoding system, which works, but does not provide enough granularity and automated tracking. Or you have already played with some RFID products but they are not quite performing the way you thought they would and you are not sure what to do next. So you approach an RFID company and ask for an RFID solution proposal. You list what you want the system to do, items to be tracked, areas where they will be tracked and systems it needs to interface with. You also list what should be included in the proposal and price, like all the hardware, modification, travel, software development, support, and so on. And now you wait, expecting a flurry of activity on the vendor’s side…Only this may not be the best approach. RFID technology deployment and its performance is VERY dependent on the items tagged and the environment they are tracked in. This is why even the best “dry-designed” system may not work when deployed in real world. In addition, there is no way to even estimate the software solution without assessing your business processes, your real needs and challenges, and designing the hardware solution first. No serious RFID company will provide a proposal based just on your list, without performing the site assessment. And if they do, you can be assured, that the proposed timing, hardware, software and pricing will change, double and triple, after they get to see what they are dealing with. So why go through such an exercise? Why not just do it the right way? As with adoption or exploration phase of any new technology, it’s important for end users and stake holders to get fully aware of potential of technology, its strengths and weaknesses as well common mistakes to avoid. It’s also important to do site and workflow analysis to evaluate the best approach to deploy new technology. SITE & WORKFLOW ASSESSMENT SERVICES Current Data Collection System Assessment – Analyze existing environment, identify current and potential problem areas and suggest improvements, which will address the problem areas. Create a detailed action plan to implement recommended improvements. This includes: Time Cost Material Procedures Training Software Application As a deliverable for this Phase, a detailed move-forward plan should be provided that describes how RFID can be deployed to address the current and future needs. The plan should include: RFID training for end-users and stake holders. Value Proposition – look at operation and identify what areas could benefit easily and dramatically from the introduction of RFID (find low-hanging fruit). Identify Benefactors – Based on identified processes, identify which areas of the operation would benefit from implementation and what intersecting processes should be considered. Suggest Move-forward Plan – recommend a plan test/pilot RFID on a limited footprint. The solution design should support scalability in all dimensions: Functional Scalability Solution Scalability Vertical Scalability Horizontal Scalability The site assessment provides critical insight that can spell out the difference between a successful and unsuccessful RFID deployment. It will provide crucial information that helps define a wide-variety of deployment variables such as antenna direction and location, power setting, field strength and characterize the electromagnetic environment in the facilities to identify any sources of interference. A proper site survey constitutes a physical review, analysis, recommendations and report by qualified RFID Engineers of the site where RFID infrastructure and equipment will be installed so that your RFID processes work 100% of the time. The survey provides a complete understanding of your requirements for an RFID installation for your facility and identifies the feasibility of successfully deploying RFID technology. The engineers will determine optimal locations for the physical installation of your RFID readers and antennae, the number of unique RFID Zones you will need and document integration requirements for systems requiring integration with your RFID network. Please note, that it is difficult to predict the propagation of radio waves and detect the presence of interfering signals without the use of specialized test equipment. RFID4U uses the latest techniques and equipment like spectrum analyzers to help ensure accurate results and save our clients the time, expense and training needed to acquire and properly use the equipment. We will even tag and read your products under actual conditions to confirm our findings. The site survey will provide equipment quantity, placement recommendations, product brand recommendations, power considerations, and wiring requirements as they relate to your facility. Included with each site survey should be a site survey analysis document, detailing the required location for RFID hardware, the type of cabling to be installed and an outline of how the RFID system will integrate into your existing network. You should receive documentation with detailed recommendations regarding: Site Requirements, Estimated Project Schedule, Statement of Work and Best-Practice Recommendations, and Site Survey. To wrap it up, there is always need for a site survey before there can be any proposals and recommendation made. RFID system is not plug and play (and never will be) and there is a lot of things involved in a proper system design and deployment that cannot be done from the comfort of the office without never visiting the site. RFID4U
How to Design the Best Layout for Your Robot Palletizing
Palletizing is often the last processing step before your products are shipped to the customer. So many products pass through the palletizing process that it can dramatically affect the throughput of your entire manufacturing process. The layout of your robotic palletizing cell can have a huge influence on that throughput. Even tiny changes in layout can translate to significant time savings in the long term. Let's take a look at the best practices for designing an effective layout for a palletizing cell. Why cell layout is so important for palletizing Palletizing is a task which involves a lot of back-and-forward movement. Your collaborative robot will continually be traveling from the pick-up location to the drop-off location and back again. As a result, every single movement that the robot makes should be as closely-optimized as possible. Small changes in motion time can lead to huge changes in overall cycle time. This makes palletizing different from tasks like cobot machine tending where the motion time can be almost insignificant compared to the long processing time of the tended machine. In palletizing, the motion time makes up the vast majority of the task. You can see an example of the effect of motion time for a palletizing task in this article, which shows how you can achieve an improvement of 27% just by adding one extra gripper. If you were to use a different type of gripper (as described below) this improvement would be even more impressive. Your cell layout has a significant effect on this optimization. As we discussed in the article Six Essential Properties of an Efficient Cell Layout, a good layout can reduce the robot's motion time, improve the use of space, and ensure optimal use of the robot. Decide your pallet layouts There are many ways to stack a pallet. In fact, pallet layout optimization is an entire research field in itself. Before you can design your robot cell, you will want to choose your pallet layouts. You will likely have multiple different layouts. One cobot user on our DoF forum designed an application which required 50 different pallet layouts, and another user had previously used over 200 different layouts! Although you don't know all the different pallet layouts you will need in the future, it can be helpful to start by planning your pallet layouts. This gives you a rough idea of the space requirements for the pallet within the cell. There are some software tools which can help you to design pallet layouts. The most comprehensive is probably the freeware program StackBuilder (which requires installation and has a bit of a learning curve but is very powerful), but there are also simpler online tools from CSI and OnPallet. Pick the right end effector and accessories You can certainly achieve palletizing with just a single collaborative robot and a gripper. However, you can make your life much easier by selecting the correct end effector and (if necessary) accessories. The best end effector for palletizing The end effector that you choose for your collaborative robot can make a big difference to the productivity of the robot cell. The most popular end effector for palletizing is almost certainly the vacuum gripper (as we discussed in the article Why Vacuum Grippers Are Really the Best Option for Robot Palletizing). Vacuum grippers are so good for palletizing because they can be easily configured to pick up multiple objects at once with a custom suction cup layout. The EPick and AirPick grippers, for example, can be configured with up to four AirNodes, allowing them to hold four objects simultaneously. This translates to a more productive palletizing cell. Accessories for palletizing Robotic palletizing sometimes needs more automation technology than just the robot alone. For example, conveyor belts are a common solution to transport products into the cell and move pallets or boxes out of the cell. Adding extra, actuated Degrees of Freedom to the robot can also increase the amount you can pack on a single pallet by increasing the "loading height." We recently incorporated a Vention axis into our palletizing task, which you can see in their blog article about the application. Plan the robot cell layout At the same time as you are deciding on your robot model, end effector, and pallet designs, you can start designing the layout of the cell. This is an iterative process — as your layout design progresses, you will gain more information about the needs of the robotic technology. The 4 steps for designing a cobot cell are: Analyze and define the manual task map Begin the robotic task map Define the high-level task map Design the cell layout (and update the task map) You can read about all of these in more detail in our previous article The Right Way to Design a Cobot Cell Layout. Optimize and improve Once you have designed your cobot cell and you have successfully integrated it into your process… what next? This is only the beginning. You will get the most out of cobots when you look on them as "a process of continual improvement." This is is the basis of the Kaizen approach, one of the main pillars of our Lean Robotics Framework. You and your team should always be looking out for ways that you can improve the palletizing cell. For example, if a team member notices that the robot is making an unnecessarily long movement during one part of the palletizing task, they should be encouraged to report this to the relevant people and the changes should be made to the cell layout and/or cobot programming. With this mindset of continual improvement, your palletizing layout can become incrementally more optimized as time goes on. ROBOTIQ
RFID Readers and Reading Stations for Uniform Tracking
There are several options as far as capturing data from the tags that are attached to uniforms. Let’s go over the most used methods. RFID Portal Portals are most commonly placed at the dock door or regular entrance or exit door. These are used for bulk reading during shipping, receiving and inventory management such as capturing current stock, or adding and subtracting from inventory of a particular room or area. Portals are often set up from both sides of the door with antennas pointing toward each other; however, sometimes even one one-sided portal is sufficient, especially when using UHF. Side portals can be also replaced by overhead portals. The placement depends on the area and where there is sufficient space as well as power (and network) connections to mount the reader and antennas. Handheld Reader Handheld readers are most practical for their mobility, however, they require a person to operate them and scan the tags. Handhelds are more commonly used for shorter distance reading, individual item reading, inventory spot checks, shipping, receiving and labeling shipments, and other operations where human interaction is necessary. RFID Table Another form of RFID reading can be done on an RFID Table. This is a table that has a reader and antenna mounted inside the table surface and tags are read as the uniforms are placed on the table. This is often used for sorting and issuing uniforms to personnel (list of items issued is compared to the list of items available to the person) as well as reading short-distance tags. Readers and antennas can be mounted in various locations. You can find them in laundry chutes to capture uniforms ready for cleaning, outside the employee lockers for uniform issuance, on the transportation bins, carts and racks, and on ceilings of storage warehouses or rooms. They are mounted in many points in the supply chain to provide visibility of RFID tagged items throughout. How to select the best reader for uniform tracking? As discussed earlier that will depend on the particular application. In the whole uniform management system, a combination of various types of readers and their placements is typically used. Their density will depend on the depth of visibility that needs to be achieved and the read distance. One of the main criteria for the decision will be the frequency and standard of the tags used for uniform tracking. For all UHF applications with distances of up to 30 feet or more, EPC Gen2 V2 (ISO 18000-6C) protocol is the main standard. This standard is backward compatible with Gen2 (V1) tags and will support the new tags. UHF readers complying with Gen2 V2 can be obtained from manufacturers like Impinj, Alien Technology, Motorola/Zebra, ThingMagic and others. For HF applications, there are several standards for shorter and longer distances within the HF field. The standard ISO/IEC 15693/18000-3 Vicinity Cards provide for distances up to 1.5 m (60 inches) and the standard ISO/IEC 14443 Proximity Cards provide for distances up to 20 cm (8 inches). HF readers can be obtained from manufacturers such as Tagys, HIDGlobal, Texas Instruments and Skyetek. NFC readers are based in part on ISO/IEC 14443, 18092 and FeliCa as well as standards developed by the NFC forum. NFC readers often support multiple standards, however, it is good to ensure they are compatible with the tag used in the application. NFC readers can be obtained from Skyetek, Adafruit, Texas Instruments and Identive NFC. As you can see there are many choices for uniform and laundry tracking using RFID technology. Another option is barcode technology. Even though there are a few disadvantages such as the need for line of sight and no bulk or automatic inventory, compared to RFID, barcode labels and scanners have lower cost and often are already implemented by up and down the supply chain by vendors or customers. Therefore, it makes business sense to consider it as well. We will discuss uniform and laundry tracking with barcodes in the next post. RFID4U
Should I Choose a Piston or Screw Compressor?
Piston (reciprocating) compressors and rotary screw air compressors are two of the most popular compressor technologies available today. But do you know which one would be better suited for your specific needs and applications? Understanding the difference between piston and rotary screw air compressors and the capabilities of each technology is key. That’s why we’re covering the basics below! What Factors Should I Consider? Initial and operating costs, energy efficiency, duty cycle, and service intervals are important factors to consider when determining whether your business will benefit most from a piston or a rotary screw compressor. Noise levels is an additional factor to take into consideration. Initial Cost vs. Operating Costs. Budgeting for a compressor shouldn’t only include how much you pay for your compressor upfront; you also need to consider how much you’ll pay for your compressor in the long run (i.e. your overall operating costs). As much as 70-75% of a compressor’s lifetime operating costs are spent on energy usage, so keep that in mind when selecting a compressor technology. Pistons have a lower initial cost than screws, but screws cost much less to operate over time. Energy Efficiency. If both a piston and a screw were running the same amount of hours, the screw compressor will be much more efficient and have lower operating costs than the piston over the lifetime of the compressor. When selecting a technology, ask yourself: Is the initial or lifetime cost more important to you and your business? Duty Cycle. Because piston compressors are limited in their duty cycles, they’re ideal for applications with low duty cycle requirements and low daily running hours. Screw compressors, however, have long duty cycles. In fact, screws are engineered to run 100%, all day, every day! Service Intervals. There are more moving parts in a piston compressor than in a screw, which results in increased machine wear and tear. Screw compressors don’t have as much wear; hence, they have reduced maintenance needs. But keep in mind that it’s important to keep any type of compressor on a consistent maintenance schedule! This will help ensure machine efficiency and optimal system performance. Noise Levels. Piston compressors are loud – especially in comparison to screw technology. If you’re looking for a lower-noise machine or a low noise level is required, you may want to consider a screw compressor. The Recap Piston air compressors a great option as an entry level compressor, but it's common for facilities outgrow the unit. If you need a consistent and or increased flow (CFM) and are looking for something that is compact, efficient, reliable and quiet, going with a rotary screw would be a great option. It’s quite normal for a company to start out with limited need for compressed air, but as production and customer demand increases, so does the need for increased output and the need for a larger compressor that can adequately handle the demand and increased duty cycle! THE COMPRESSED AIR BLOG
Telepresence Robots and the Future of Work
When I was asked to write this blog post, I must admit I was hesitant at first. Writing a blog is an intensive process that often requires extensive research, multiple rounds of revision and, above all, collaboration with team members to pool knowledge to deliver a professional-looking final product. Key here is the part about working with team members. I’ve been a member of the Konica Minolta team for 7 years now but my position requires me to work remotely up to 90% of the time; while I call Montreal home, my colleagues in the marketing department are all based out of Mississauga, Ontario, making a daily commute to the office a bit of a hassle, to say the least. However, remote work isn’t as strange or uncommon as it once was. A study conducted earlier this year found that 70% of professionals today work remotely at least once per week, while 53% of professionals work remotely half the week. This has been made possible thanks to the digital revolution and, more specifically, online webinar tools like Cisco WebEx. But sometimes, and despite the use of teleconferencing services, there’s something to be said for the more natural interactions that come from having a “physical” presence in the office. For employees like myself however, being physically present just isn’t an option 100% of the time. Thankfully, there is a solution – telepresence robots! In Two Places at Once Telepresence robots foster closer collaboration between remote and non-remote workers by giving you an artificial physical presence in the workplace. Essentially, telepresence robots allow you to be in two places at once – Newton be damned! Konica Minolta currently has access to 10 telepresence robots which are scattered across the country in various branch locations. The tool is easy to use and can best be thought of as an iPad on wheels. A user attaches a tablet to the top of a 15-lb mono-wheel unit and then, using the device’s corresponding mobile application or web browser interface, the remote worker controls the movement of the device right from their phone, tablet or computer. The iPad “head” serves as the device’s eyes and ears, live-streaming audio and video to the remote user, while also displaying the face and projecting audio to those who interact with the device. Finally, all the telepresence robots are managed from an online fleet management tool which allows for 24/7 tracking and visibility of the robots’ performance, functionality, and geo-location. Here are some of the potential benefits for businesses: Eliminate travel costs for remote workers entirely; Gain access to talent and human capital from around the globe, without the immense financial and temporal costs of relocation; Retain talent who relocate to other parts of the country or to international destinations; Remote workers can remain in the loop on day-to-day activities around the office. What Are My Options? There are several options on the market today for telepresence robots, but Konica Minolta uses the Double 2 from Double Robotics. This unit is one of the more advanced offerings in this space, and includes features like: Remotely-available height controls, allowing the user to always remain at eye level; Lateral Stability Control (LSC) maintains stability while traversing common office or classroom obstacles like cords, thresholds between rooms, etc.; Power Drive capabilities allow Double 2 to go 80% faster when traversing long distances; An optional camera kit with a 150-degree wide-angle lens that increases the field of view by 70% on each side and allows users to take 5-megapixel photos; Optional audio kit amplifies speaker and directional microphone for noisier, or louder environments; Optional wireless charging dock ensures the Double 2 is always online and available for use. In the end, it comes down to whether you value being physically present in the office. I can tell you, as an almost full-time remote-worker, the Double 2 has made interaction and collaboration with my coworkers much easier, ultimately improving my productivity as an employee. After all, work is not where you are – it’s what you get done! KONICA MINOLTA
VECTOR Autopilot, Can Manage Alternative Landing Sites
An air mission — both manned and unmanned systems — involve a series of complex operations that are influenced by numerous factors. As most of these factors are way too dynamic and beyond human control, it can cause a roadblock or even lead to a complete failure of the mission. This is further accentuated when the platform operates Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) in which reaction times are considerably reduced. This is when only professional guidance, navigation, and a versatile flight control system can help complete the mission. UAV Navigation has become a benchmark in the unmanned aerial vehicles sector, due to its extensive experience. Over the years, UAV Navigation has accumulated enormous expertise which is evident through the numerous flight hours that we have put in. These flight hours were put into real operating environments across the globe. As a result, we are fully aware of client requirements on various fronts such as technical, operational, and legislative challenges that our solutions need to help overcome. In our constant pursuit for improvement, we continue to work on developing new and advanced logic that allows us to carry out complex and demanding operations with our flight control system. One of these capabilities is the VECTOR autopilot, which can manage multiple alternative flights or landing plans. Once the alternative flight plans are defined during the commencement of the mission, the system will be able to automatically respond to the different contingencies that occur despite not having a communication link with the operator. In the same way, the system can be configured so that, in case of a contingency during the flight, the system automatically switches to a pre-configured set of instructions. This can be strategically planned to allow some time to the operator, in order to carry out corrective actions or actions to mitigate the potential failures. However, in the absolute absence of any direction, the autopilot would land autonomously, in order to uphold the integrity of the system. UAV Navigation understands the challenges faced by our clients and designs workable flight control solutions. With vast experience in the aeronautical industry, we improve our flight control solutions from time to time. UAV NAVIGATION
Visionair V8 – UAV Navigation’s Upgraded Flight Control Solution
Mission planning plays a critical role in carrying out an operation involving the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The success of the mission largely depends on two factors — the correct route and altitude profile definition. Therefore, during the pre-flight checks, it is essential to take into account not only the mission’s goal, but also the concerned region’s orography, climatic conditions, and other essential factors. This includes necessary emergency procedures required to execute the mission, in case of contingencies. After all, the flight control solution’s ability to manage multiple flight plans plays a pivotal role in the successful completion of UAV missions. Hence, with the integration of such a flight control system, the UAV turns into an invaluable asset. Visionair’s version 8, which is UAV Navigation’s mission control software can easily manage multiple flight plans, at once. In fact, this flight control system allows the user to print on the screen and load multiple flight plans, including alternatives landing plans, which increases the flight's safety. Through this flight control system, the operator can visualize flight plans loaded into the autopilot and even edit or create them during the execution of the mission. With its recently added feature, it allows the operator to concatenate different previously configured flight plans form the autopilot. In this way, it is possible to define a flight with an initial take off-site, link it to the main flight plan according to the mission and, finally, connect it to a landing plan with a normalized approximation in the same or different airfield. In addition to that, the operator may command an emergency landing, if required. This new feature of the UAV Navigation system, along with its other existing features (such as dockable/floating windows for data display or showing/hiding capabilities...) make it more flexible and easier for the operator. It allows them to conveniently customize their ground control station and make it more efficient. UAV Navigation designs and upgrades its flight control solutions to exceed client expectations and to meet the industry’s demands. With operational safety at the core, we design solutions that help you succeed in your mission. UAV NAVIGATION
What Is A Telepresence Robot and What Can They Do?
Simply put, a telepresence robot helps place "you" at a remote location instantly, providing you a virtual presence, or "telepresence." A telepresence robot is a computer, tablet, or smartphone-controlled robot which includes a video-camera, screen, speakers and microphones so that people interacting with the robot can view and hear its operator and the operator can simultaneously view what the robot is “looking” at and "hearing." Some robots require a tablet or phone to be attached to the robot, while others include built-in video and audio features. People from all types of environments are putting telepresence robots into action. School districts, corporate offices, hospitals, medical clinics, business warehouses, and more, are seeking potential benefits which can be gained by taking prudent advantage of the progressions within the field of telepresence robotics. Consequently, telepresence robots themselves are growing in popularity as their potential continues to be explored, developed, and utilized. Robot owners are appreciating the cost savings, time and energy savings, and the enhanced communication and presence which telepresence robots can bring to most any area or location. “Intriguing,” you may be thinking, “but of what significance is this to me? What good can a telepresence robot do me or my business?” One answer is that, as mentioned above, a telepresence robot can be used to provide yourself a “far reaching” pair of mobile “eyes” and "ears," enabling you to have a remote presence at any location with an internet connection. For example, if you had a part in arranging a remote office in London while you were at your home office in Seattle, and you needed to make sure everything was in order and just as you wanted it to be, a telepresence robot would allow you to see the arrangement of that office in London with the added convenience of being able to control exactly what you wished to view merely by the press of a button or two from your laptop in Seattle. To reiterate, the user has complete control to move the robot around the office in London and to view anything at the robot's location. Hospitals have been using telemedicine features for years and now telepresence robots provide even more robust technology to help surgeons more effectively advise their peers during an operation, physicians to more conveniently perform their rounds or monitor patients who have recently been released from the hospital, and experts to eliminate travel times in emergency situations such as the event of a stroke, when each minute saved results in the saving of millions of brain cells. Within the medical field these robots are commonly referred to more specifically as "medical telepresence robots" or "hospital telepresence robots," many of which have health-related applications added on to the basic telepresence capabilites. Telepresence robots go beyond a simple video conference call because the operator has full control of what they wish to see: no more need for multiple people to leave their seats and rotate so they can be seen by the video screen. No more need to wait for an employee to have a remote conference; you can go to him at your convenience. No more need to fly out or drive to view a warehouse or visit a patient in an emergency; simply log in to your robot and be there in a heartbeat to assess the situation. Simply use your computer, tablet, or smartphone to direct the robots camera to see what or whom you wish to see; whenever you like. This control is further enhanced by the ability to drive the robots around rooms and hallways, offering a more complete virtual presence. Furthermore, some robots are able to utilize additional features such as a laser pointer which can help increase the effectiveness of communication, and auto-navigation and mapping features that enable you to click on a location and prepare notes or relax while the robot travels there autonomously; providing an indication to you upon its arrival.TELEPRESENCE ROBOTS.COM
When to Repair and When to Replace an Air Compressor
If compressed air is an essential part of your day to day business operations, and downtime would cost you considerably in lost production, then the question of whether to repair or replace a broken compressor is a particularly important one for you. But while opting to repair your compressor might seem to be a more cost-efficient option than purchasing a new compressor, it may not be the most cost-effective choice in the long term. Prior to making your decision, let’s look at a few factors. Cost is the primary consideration, both immediate and over time. While a new compressor can be expensive, it’s worth noting that when you take the cost of ownership over a ten-year life span into account, the actual purchase price of the new compressor is only around 10% of the overall cost. In fact, the cost of actually running the compressor – your electricity bill! – is by far the major expense (around 75%). Other factors that will influence your decision on whether you should repair or replace your compressor include the age of the compressor; its energy efficiency compared with newer models; and its former repair history and overall reliability. Repair versus Replacement Before choosing to do away with your existing compressor, it’s a wise move to first check the system over thoroughly, just in case the breakdown is due to something that can be easily fixed. Your compressor may have broken down for any number of reasons, and not all of them indicate irreparable damage or repair issues! This is something your local compressed air Service Technician can certainly assist with. Some factors that weigh more for repairing your compressor include: It is relatively new and has not yet done many operational hours. It has not yet been superseded to any great extent by newer technology. It is a model that spare parts are readily available for. It is generally reliable and the repair is not indicative of bigger problems to come.On the other hand, replacing your compressor may be the most viable solution in circumstances like: If it has broken down once, then it is more likely it will happen again. Compressors are becoming more energy efficient all the time, so the cost of a new unit could soon pay for itself in electricity savings. If your compressor is an older model, finding parts for it may be more difficult, time consuming and expensive. Your old compressor may be too small for your company’s current needs, so replacing it with a larger unit could be an ideal opportunity to future-proof your business. New Compressors are Expensive – Right? Yes, new air compressors may seem to carry a hefty price tag at first. But when factoring in energy savings, possible energy credits from your electricity provider, increased reliability, and decreased maintenance costs, the payback time is often shorter than you think. Initial cost also doesn’t take into account the potential devastating costs down the road that are associated with downtime due to compressor shutdowns. Calculating the life cycle cost of the air compressor prior to purchasing new equipment is a smart way to analyze the total investment. Plus, a life cycle cost evaluation can also be used as a comparison tool when vetting other products and systems; to help define other important requirements for the installation and help assess potential environmental, energy-saving and increased production quality demands; and to reveal areas where energy efficiency can be improved. So What Should I Do? We get it - making the choice between repairing and replacing a compressor is tough. That's why our compressed air experts are always ready to walk you through the pros and cons of repairing or replacing your current compressor system. THE COMPRESSED AIR BLOG