By Stevan Dobrasevic, Director of Product Marketing, Bright Machines
Driven by the ongoing D.I.Y. trend, a global rise in discretionary income, and a growing fondness for all things “cordless,” the worldwide power-tool market is set to surge in the new decade, with projections topping $38 billion in sales by 2025 and a healthy 5-7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
Meeting this growing demand quickly, competently, and cost effectively – especially for a generation of more electronically advanced products – is placing new pressures on, and creating new opportunities for, power-tool manufacturers, a challenge ripe for robotic automation.
New Tools, Better Guts
Today’s power tools, personified by the array of power drills, saws, sanders, planers, and “all in ones” available at big box and local hardware stores, have grown more technologically advanced, increasing the complexity of their manufacture. For example, brushless DC motors, which provide the energy efficiency needed for today’s battery-driven, cordless power tools, have made motor control circuit boards a staple component across power-tool types.
As a result, a common step now in the power-tool manufacturing process is mounting the motor control circuit board into its requisite housing. This process requires applying sealant to the back of the circuit board and then welding it to the circuit mount.
Done manually, four employees can perform these two repetitive assembly steps – applying the sealant and welding the motor control board on its housing – at a rate of 437 units per hour. Projecting this out across two shifts for one year, such an operation can conceivably support manufacturing 1.7 million power tools.
A Better Way to Assemble
Bright Machines Microfactories, comprised of flexible modular hardware components are easily configured using Brightware™, our intelligent software, can handle many of the essential tasks in power-tool assembly, including:
- Pick and place parts assembly
- Applying labels
- Reading bar codes
- Welding and more
In the motor control circuit board mounting process, a microfactory can automate the dispensing of sealant onto the back of the board; pick up the board and place it properly in the mount; and then weld the pieces together.
Given these automation capabilities, let’s examine them in a more specific context: the mounting of a circuit board for use in a power saw. Using a microfactory, a manufacturer can create a virtually touchless line for the mounting process. Mounts are fed into the first station and circuit boards into the second, where sealant is applied and the components joined together. Traveling via conveyor, the assembly is then welded in the third station and moved to the fourth, where the finished assembly is picked and placed onto a tray and removed for later use.
The microfactory produces 510 units per hour, besting the 437 units produced by the four-person team noted earlier, a 17% gain in throughput.
Yet the cost equation is even more compelling. When running one shift, the four human operators produce sub-assemblies at a constant $.18 per unit vs. the microfactory’s $.16. Yet that math changes dramatically over time: add a second shift and the microfactory’s cost dips to $.08; add a third, and it drops even further to $.05, a 72% cost reduction, highlighting the solution’s economy of scale.
As an added benefit, this automated assembly process occurs under the watchful eye of machine vision, ensuring quality and reducing downstream waste.
More throughput, less cost, higher quality – building these components into your power-tool assemblies has never been easier or more important.
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How to cut production costs of power tool assembly
The assembly of power tools is often done locally. Using automation can help reduce the costs. Better yet, using automation equipment which can be easily reconfigured to handle multiple assembly purposes delivers an even more attractive ROI. Join Stevan Dobrasevic, Product Marketing Director at Bright Machines, to see how software can be used to easily reconfigure modular automation equipment to achieve low-cost assembly of power tools.