Manufacturing handling systems: 4 quick design tips

Tips and Tricks: 4 practical tips can prevent overly complicated designs and help streamline sourcing and commissioning of handling systems.


Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and manufacturers of mechatronic and robotic handling solutions constantly strive to “do more with less” by reducing the time and complexity associated with creating these systems, and by finding ways to reduce the cost of bringing systems from the drawing board to the factory floor.

There are practical tips that, if intelligently applied, can prevent overly complicated designs and help streamline sourcing and commissioning of handling systems.

1. Select the right technologies

Picking the right mix of technologies—linear, pneumatic, electronic, etc.—is crucial at the start. There are many options; to establish that mix, you need to “right size” your technology choices, to prevent overcomplicating production systems.

The Rexroth LOSTPED process can guide this task. The acronym represents seven factors to consider: Evaluate the Load, Orientation, Speed, Travel, Positioning (repeatability or accuracy), Environment, and Duty Cycle. By documenting the specifications required for each of these factors for a given application, all the functional details are captured to effectively define the type and size of mechanical and electrical components to select.

2. Make maximum use of standardized products

Much time and engineering effort can be saved by working with one systems and component supplier to provide products with standardized physical and electronic connectors, interfaces, and component designs, created expressly to be integrated into mechatronics platforms.

Savings derive from eliminating the need to custom order or fabricate mounting and connection components. For items such as cable trays, pneumatic elements, or linear actuator electronic interfaces, it is possible to bypass all the extra, time-consuming details that require additional and costly design, testing, and documentation. In many cases, it may be possible to specify and order entire subsystems preassembled and tested, shipped ready for installation and integration into a new system.

3. Utilize online tools and commissioning software

Powerful, easy-to-use online tools and configuration software are available from most leading system suppliers. These tools can reduce design and planning time, speeding time to market and equipping mechatronics engineers to achieve better designs.

The online tools are sophisticated, usually engineered to consider all key design and configuration steps associated with engineering handling systems, so all the tasks that should be completed are addressed, reducing the need for rework. Tasks can include the selection of appropriate motor, drive, and linear components; processes for capturing the functional parameters for various modules; and recommendations on which combination of modules is suitable for an application.

Typically, these tools furnish information on the suppliers’ recommended technical components, along with detailed CAD data for the entire system.

4. Don’t overlook grippers, support, and cabling

Effective mechatronic platforms define how product will be moved through a production process in a safe, efficient, and automated manner. How this handling and movement is achieved involves choosing the right devices for picking up, holding, turning, and placing the product to be moved, using the most appropriate end effector: vacuum cups and generators, noncontact handling modules, grippers, rotary modules, or blank plates for adaptation of specialized handling requirements. Components from the same supplier will typically have standardized mechanical and electrical interfaces, saving integration time once commissioning begins.

How robots and handling systems are mounted is a crucial engineering step, because their integrity is usually only as good as what they’re mounted to. Select structural framing that provides an intelligent balance of clean, modular design, and a robust frame with the stiffness and durability to fully support a mechatronic application.

One of the most overlooked items in a mechatronic solution is cable management. Standardized connection elements can allow for easy and adjustable integration of your cable system. It makes sense to consider platforms with cabling components that fix directly to linear modules or integrate on subassemblies. By specifying that the energy chain and supporting components be length-configurable, you enable creativity from engineers when solving cable routing challenges.

- Richard Vaughn, senior automation engineer, Bosch Rexroth Corp., using information from the Bosch Rexroth’s EasyHandling brochure. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering, 

Control Engineering product news: EasyHandling Motion Control System has other articles about machine control from Control Engineering.

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