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Matrix Design, LLC

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RIA Certified Robotic Integrator
  • Member Since 2015
  • Robotic Integrator

Matrix works closely with end users to develop, build, and install robotic automation systems. Specializing in machine tending, deburring, and a range of material handling systems, Matrix has built a reputation for designing and delivering the most optimal and robust industrial automation systems to manufacturers worldwide. We are a Level 4 FANUC system integrator, FANUC ASI, FANUC Certified Servicing Integrator, and FANUC Vision Specialist.

The foundation of Matrix is based on our core values and we’ve developed our internal processes (the Matrix Way) to ensure your expectations and requirements are met, from concept development to installation to lifetime service and 24/7 support.

We don’t nickel and dime and we stay until it’s done - that’s our guarantee.


We Do It Right – Right From the Start

POSTED: 11/29/2017

Whether it’s a car repair, home remodeling or a computer system upgrade, doesn’t it feel great when everything is done correctly the first time? Don’t you wish it were always that way? While we can’t help with everyday events, we’ve got you covered when it comes to automation integration. In fact, the concept of doing things right is one of our Core Values. We do it right! More than just slogans, our Core Values are guidelines we follow each day to produce great results for our customers. So that everyone knows what is expected, we define each value and list specific applicable behaviors. At Matrix, doing it right (DIR) means we: Follow procedures Are thorough, efficient, and effective Do not “cut corners” Handle the job down to the detail level Fix things until they are correct Desire feedback on our personal performance Provide complete information From Principle to Action How do we translate DIR concepts into practical operations? Let’s take a look at our Engineering Department as an example. A new project begins with high-level concepting and direct communication with the customer. A basic model of the system is created. Engineers then meet with the Sales team who explain the concept and discuss key objectives. The Project Manager obtains additional information from the Sales team or customer. This sequence of events creates a solid foundation for the project. DIR Concept: We follow procedures. The Engineer reviews the file to ensure that it is complete. If a piece is missing, or clarification is needed, they work directly with customers and OEMs to obtain details or note any new/changed information. The customer, OEM, Sales team, and Apps/Controls team are consulted since their hands-on field experience indicates what has worked (or not) in the past. This review process removes incorrect information from the file and confirms the best practical direction for the design moving forward. DIR Concept: We are thorough, efficient, and effective. If an extra application arises outside of the original scope of work that was conceived by Sales, we use the same process of concepting and working with the customer to agree on a design to benefit all parties. If and when the customer changes the original scope of work, we avoid creating patches and work towards implementing a robust solution that will last. DIR Concept: We do not cut corners. A project profile is created. Requirements that must be notated and met include: cycle time, part type, tray type, cart type, inspection, part orientations, safety concerns, material/ hardness of parts, if oil/coolant will be used, type of machines to interface with, plant layout, plant air/electrical requirements, timeline and due dates, milestones, and any additional plant requirements. DIR Concept: We handle the job down to the detail level. Well after the design is built and programmed, but before the system is shipped, the client plant operators visit our shop for test runs. This stage uncovers any adjustments that can be made to fine-tune the system for maximum efficiency. DIR Concept: We fix things until they are correct. A Design Review always occurs before we take any system into production. People from each department sit together and discuss the project until they’re convinced that the system can be produced, will work flawlessly and will deliver on the customer’s original statement of needs. DIR Concept: We desire feedback on our personal performance. After final approval for production, the Engineer moves the model and drawing into a “released” state where a CAD file (DWG) and PDF rendition are automatically created and populate organized folders on the server. Build binders are created with paper hard copies for the kitting department and production. This includes assembly prints, special instructions, part prints and a Bill of Materials (BOM) – a list of the raw materials, sub-assemblies, intermediate assemblies, sub-components, parts and the quantities of each needed to manufacture the final system. DIR Concept: We provide complete information. Incorporating the “Right” Outlook As in our Engineering example shows, our Core Values are dynamic features of our corporate culture that bring real benefit to our customers. But doing things right begins with the individual. To ensure a uniform understanding of this Core Value, we follow an onboarding template designed, not only to inform new employees what “right” is, but to cultivate a mindset that empowers them to apply the concept in the unique situations that occur on a daily basis. In other words, we teach them to become better problem solvers and empower them to seek “right” at all times. If you have an automation integration project that need to be done right, contact us and rest assured that it will be.

Use These 6 Preventive Maintenance Tips to Reduce Downtime

POSTED: 11/29/2017

Your reputation and livelihood depend on the robots in your shop functioning at top performance at all times. To ensure that this happens, it makes good business sense to service them on a regular basis. Scheduled preventative maintenance is key to daily productivity, long-term reliability of equipment and the elimination of emergency repair calls. A well-maintained robotic system will maximize your investment and minimize production downtime. Here are six preventive maintenance tips to help you plan or improve your program. Tip # 1: Schedule It If you don’t have protocols in place for preventive maintenance, create them ASAP. Plan out a schedule and follow through on it. Make it part of your shop culture. Checking your robots on a regular timetable helps keep small problems from becoming big ones. It also allows your maintenance team to work around peak production schedules. Tip # 2: Proper Training Getting the proper training for your maintenance technicians is a great idea. Knowing how the system works and best practices for regular maintenance will give them a big boost in keeping your robotics in good operating order. We offer personalized hands-on, on-site training for your robotic systems. FANUC also offers training in cities across the U.S., as well as online courses. Tip # 3: Follow the Instructions Every FANUC robot comes with an instruction manual. If yours has been misplaced, they are available online. Looking over the instructions before you pick up your tool kit is time well spent. Following the guidelines will help you do things correctly and avoid missing any steps. Tip # 4: Correct Lubrication Procedure Keeping robots lubricated with the proper amount and type of FANUC-recommended grease helps them operate at peak efficiency. Follow the proper lubrication procedures as outlined in the manual. In particular, make sure to open the vent when you’re putting the new grease in. You can over pressurize the reducers and harmonic drive to the point where you can blow the seals. Again, follow the FANUC guidelines. Tip # 5: Backup, Backup, Backup Make sure to create image and program backups before you even begin your preventive maintenance routine. If you don’t have an image, it’s a lot harder to get back up and running. Part of every preventive maintenance program is changing the batteries out. Change the batteries with the power on. We get a lot of service calls where people have changed their batteries with the power off. If you do that, you lose everything. Tip # 6: Inspect and Replace Look through the error message history to see if there have been a lot of collision detections in a certain area. That could indicate the program needs to be changed or the fence needs to be reprogrammed. Inspect the components, end effectors, hoses, cables, etc. and look for signs of wear. Replace parts as needed. Following these six tips will help you keep your robots reliable and productive. If you would like help managing your preventive maintenance, please contact us and ask about our Preventive Maintenance Plus™ program.

Working Together Generates Customer Value

POSTED: 11/29/2017

At Matrix, we strive to live by our company’s Core Values. These are a series of beliefs that we abide by to create an excellent working environment and nurture loyal employees to deliver outstanding results. In a series of articles, we are going to take a closer look at each of our Core Values and give examples of how they are put into practice to help us produce better products for our customers. We Do it Together! Teamwork, bonding, cooperation, camaraderie – however you label it, working in harmony with each other pays dividends for our employees and our customers. At Matrix, it means we: Work well with others Are fun to be around while we work Treat everyone with dignity and respect, even under pressure or when we disagree Have a positive attitude and are generally enthusiastic Playing Nice in the Sandbox For an example of how we work together for a common goal, it would be hard to beat the Design Review. Basically, we take people from each department, put them in a room and don’t let them come out until they’re convinced that a system can be produced, will work flawlessly and will deliver on the customer’s original statement of needs. This procedure occurs before we take any system into production. There’s always a lot of inter departmental discussions that occur when a project comes through the door. Engineers exchange ideas to make sure the design is sound. Application engineers verify the design will work and the Electrical Department ensures that all sensors and cables are in the right place. The Design Review is the last chance to see it all come together and get it right before delivery to the customer. Does it always run smoothly? Well, not always. There are typically revisions to be made on every design before going into production. If a problem is found, each department offers their solution. As everyone in the room wants the best for the customer, there is considerable pressure. But with a lot of respect and more often than not, good humor, the final signoff is reached and the product (and the customer) is much better off for it. Getting to Know You Formal meetings like the Design Review start with one big advantage. Everyone in the room already knows each other pretty well. This is not only because of on-the-job discussions, but a program developed by our Human Resources Department to nurture connections among people who would not normally meet in the course of a business day. The three biggest events are the Christmas Party, when we see how nice everyone looks when they dress up a little; the Company Picnic where we all see the kids we’ve heard so much about; and the Quarterly Company Meetings. Communication is a major function of the Quarterly Company Meetings. It’s when everyone comes up to speed on the overall operation of the company such as profits, sales, on-time delivery rates, etc. Each employee leaves the meeting with the same level of information. But there’s also a lunch and prizes awarded for the best Do It Better (DIB) suggestions from the quarter. In addition to those major events, HR coordinates at least one event a month where employees can gather and get to know one another on a more personal level. Summer cookouts, NFL spirit day, chili cookoffs, game lunches and evenings volunteering at the Northern Illinois Foodbank are just a few examples. What “We Do it Together” Means People who know each other communicate more directly. They find it natural to cooperate. They aren’t timid about discussing course corrections when they are needed. And when they achieve a goal, it feels right to celebrate the win as a team. And the goal we’re always striving for? Giving the best possible service to our customers.

Adapting Robotic Systems to Meet Customers’ Changing Needs

POSTED: 10/10/2017

As our customers’ manufacturing requirements evolve, we partner with them to create innovative automation solutions. But sometimes we are able to adapt existing robotics to meet the new situation. An excellent example is how our engineers collaborated with automotive customers to adapt a tray exchange cell into an “alloy exchange” system to facilitate the heat treatment of small parts. The Challenge Ovens used for heat-treating would quickly melt plastic trays that normally hold parts. Special alloy trays were designed to withstand the extreme temperatures, but they were too expensive to make in the volumes needed for an entire production line. The alloy trays could only be used during the heat treatment phase. Transferring parts from plastic to alloy trays by hand proved to not only be time consuming, but an ergonomic and safety nightmare as the alloy trays are very heavy and the parts extremely hot. The Automated Solution Our engineers adapted a tray exchange system so that the parts are moved from plastic trays to the special alloy trays. The process is then reversed after heat treatment. This would seem simple on the surface, but certain variables made this technology transfer harder than it would seem. The size and weight of the part had to be considered, along with the cycle time required and how many pieces could fit in a tray. Even the trays themselves were inconsistent as they change over time. The end of arm tooling (EOAT) was also very important. The bigger the EOAT used, the bigger the cell had to be so that the robot would have room to articulate. Our engineers used software simulations to program algorithms so that all of these variables fit together into the optimal system. The goal was to select the smallest and quickest robot possible to lift and handle the parts and the trays. Alloy exchange systems are now in use with many of our automotive customers. Evolution in Action Sometimes further adaptation is necessary due to variables such as a changing market. For instance, we once designed an alloy exchange system for a customer based on a specific cycle time. As their volumes increased, the logical option was for the customer to buy another systems. But due to space constraints, the customer challenged our engineers to find another solution. While running simulations, our engineers came up with an innovative solution – add a second robot! One large robot would present the trays to a small robot, which would rapidly exchange the parts while the large robot managed the trays. The retrofit cut the cycle time in half and cost 50% less than a new system with a very small increase in the size of the system. Needless to say, the customer liked those numbers and authorized the retrofit. As these were production machines, only one was shipped back to us at a time. After refining the process, the rest of the machines were retrofitted one at a time in the customer’s plant working around their schedule. Nuances per Customer Each customer has its own processing philosophies, cycle time and space requirements not to mention unique parts. That is why a close partnership is required to ensure that an alloy exchange or other system evolution matches the their particular needs and is put into operation efficiently and effectively, with minimum disruption to the production line.

Service is a Science at Matrix

POSTED: 09/08/2017

Have you ever had a robot go out of operation? It’s never convenient. The most important thing is to get back online as soon as possible so that delivery deadlines can be met. Well, not to worry. Our service operations have been purposefully designed for fast response and quick repairs. Stand Alone Service for Quick Response To maximize repair response time we have separated the installation and service functions in our business model. Our service technicians are dedicated to repair calls only. Instead of leaving a message on an installer’s cell phone and waiting, you will reach our service coordinator who will schedule your service call and order the proper parts right away. Our dedicated service manager can even discuss your situation over the phone to help you troubleshoot. Multiple trained technicians are standing by for emergency support at all times. We create an internal case file and upload it to a live master schedule which is sent to each technician so they are immediately notified if they have an emergency call. For out of town service calls, they are prepared and ready to travel. Our service coordinator can also schedule warranty calls and simple retrofits (such as new end of arm tooling). Large retrofits and inquires for new orders are swiftly diverted to our sales department to keep the line open for service calls. We even accept service requests on FANUC equipment we have not installed. Certified Service Brings Value to Customers In addition to being an RIA certified robot integrator, Matrix is a FANUC Certified Service Integrator. We worked hard to achieve this designation to better service our customers overall. First of all, you can be assured that the technician who answers your call has passed rigid testing administered by FANUC to ensure they have a high degree of knowledge on robotic systems. We have multiple Master Service Engineers on staff who are qualified in HMI and PLC robot programming in addition to electrical and mechanical troubleshooting. Certification also allows Matrix the same top priority status as FANUC representatives when ordering parts. If customers are within driving distance, the technician can bring the parts directly to their location. If travel is involved, the parts are shipped directly from FANUC so they are available when the technician arrives. Lastly, due to our extensive experience and relationship with FANUC, we are able to keep extra parts on hand and can return any unused parts at no additional cost to the customer. We can make a preliminary diagnosis on the phone and order parts for multiple probabilities. This greatly increases the chance that the technician will have the proper parts accessible for a quick resolution to your problem. Keeping You Running If a robotics problem shuts down your line, our dedicated service department is standing by. Contact us through our company profile and we’ll get right to work.

The Ultimate in Versatility: Matrix Engineers and the FANUC LR Mate

POSTED: 08/29/2017

Our sweet spot is placing the right robot for the right job in the right space, no matter how big or small. When it comes to the small end of the scale, our engineers often turn to the FANUC LR Mate. In fact, it’s hard to find any of our recent installations that don’t have at least one of these versatile robots included. Why We Like It The LR Mate excels at material handling tasks like picking and placing small parts for industries such as the automotive sector. Strong enough to handle work pieces up to 15 pounds with top speed up to 4,000 meters/sec., the LR Mate is perfect for repetitive, close range movements. It’s also lightweight (60 pounds) and small enough to be placed anywhere it’s needed in a cell – floor, ceiling or wall. The LR Mate works on all three axes and rotates about each of those for 6-axis operation. They can reach almost 3 feet all the way around the base. Their unique flip over capability allows them to work the whole range of the cell in an upside-down mounting configuration. This level of flexibility makes them perfect for retrofits in an existing cell. We also like the fact that the LR Mate is tough. The standard model is rated IP67 (clean room and wash down models rated to IP69K) for dust and water protection and operating in harsh environments. For pharmaceutical and food production, special clean room versions are available. Coming to Grips with Each Task Much of the LR Mate’s utility comes from innovative end-of-arm tooling. Our design engineers work closely with customers to develop the right device for each unique application. Keeping in mind that end effectors have to be light and small, but strong enough to handle any challenge, we sometimes have to think outside the box. One example is the quick-change tooling system that was developed for a customer who needed faster cycle times on a multi-task production cell. It was designed so that the robot can stop at a station, exchange end effectors, pick up the part in a different manner or even interact with a new set of work pieces. For another application, we actually made the LR Mate part of the machining process by adding a deburring end effector. Looking at the Big Picture How the robot is installed and employed can also add value to the production line. Looking upstream and downstream of the cell before beginning the design project pays dividends to the customer. For instance, we sometimes team up two LR Mates instead of installing a larger robot. Cycle times can be reduced as the two smaller units work in tandem. For one particularly tight installation, an LR Mate was custom engineered to travel in and out of two cells on a rail, saving space and doubling its utilization! Ramping Up Production The LR Mate is a great solution for a shop that wants to scale up production volume, but might be having trouble finding skilled operators. All FANUC robots are easy to operate and one person can monitor three machines at the same time. We design the system, program the robots and install them in the shop. It’s pretty much a drop in, turnkey solution once it hits the floor. Its reasonable price doesn’t hurt, either. Teaming up our engineers with the FANUC LR Mate can put you on track to finding the right solution to your automation challenges.

Robots Reduce Risk: Automation Best for Hazardous Conditions

POSTED: 08/29/2017

Let’s face it. Human beings are kind of fragile. They have a narrow window where they can operate efficiently and safely. For this reason, NASA has been using robotics for decades to explore distant planets without exposing humans to extreme conditions. Back here on Earth, many industrial environments exist where direct material handling would also subject human assets to danger or abnormal stress. Automated work cells, besides increasing quality and productivity, can also be the perfect solution to operations that take place under hazardous conditions. Do Not Enter Besides being a good business practice, and the right thing to do, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) requires that companies provide all employees with a safe work environment. It’s not hard to find situations on the production line where it is wiser to put robots on the job instead of humans. The obvious situations are those that involve handling hot parts or fast moving sharp objects; processes that produce steam, toxic gases or splashes of molten metal; and operations that involve harsh chemicals. Less apparent examples might include the ergonomic hazards of moving heavy objects, frequent lifting and repetitive or awkward movements; the debilitating effects on an operator’s health when working in hot and humid conditions; processes that create sounds well above the safe level of 85 decibels for an 8 hour shift; and slipping hazards caused by splashing coolant. Hidden ROI Most plant managers are aware of the economic advantages of using automation to increase quality, productivity and profits, but there is more of a challenge in quantifying tangible benefits. Efforts, such as OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) have been developed to achieve this. In addition, besides meeting government standards, providing better work conditions and improving morale, eliminating risk by automating work cells with harsh environments can also improve the bottom line. According to the National Safety Council, “Often times (the) cost of risk is viewed only in terms of direct expenses, such as workers compensation, overlooking the indirect cost of business interruption, loss of production time, supervisory time to investigate and replace the injured worker, repair of damaged equipment and many other factors that contribute to the (overall) cost.” You can also determine through your insurance agent what savings might be possible by reducing risks through robotics. It’s Not Rocket Science Some factories contain conditions just as perilous to humans as those found on Jupiter and Titan. As NASA has discovered, robotics is the key to working productively without putting people at risk. Automating work cells with hazardous conditions can do the same for your machining operations. Do you have harsh environment you would like to automate?

The True Story Behind “Lights Out” Automation

POSTED: 08/29/2017

Does any plant manager really hit the lights, lock up and let the factory run itself until morning? Maybe a few, but most probably have at least one person minding the facility overnight. While the term “Lights Out” has come into popular usage, a more accurate description might be “Unattended Operation.” Whatever you call it, the complete automation of a work cell enables parts to be machined from A to Z without worker intervention – and it can offer real advantages to your business. Capacity Utilization The obvious reason to use unattended operation is to increase production without adding resources – including labor, capital equipment and floorspace. Unlike human employees, industrial robots can work endlessly without stopping for breaks. The assets you already have work for a longer period of time, and that means additional profit. ROI for adding an unattended system can generally be realized in under two years. Automated systems can offer outstanding flexibility as well. The line can be used as a permanent third shift or to handle rush jobs. If demand fluctuates, you can open or close the shift without ramping up or reducing your staff. Before You Begin To get the most out of unattended operations, there are a few things to consider. First is your setup. Not all machining processes will work with the concept. The method is typically well suited for high volumes of the same part. Low volumes or a mix of parts usually require operator intervention for changing tools or prompting the system for the next step. The entire material handling system must also be purpose built for unattended operations. Remember there is no operator to feed incoming, or remove outgoing, parts at intervals. If you expect the job to run for 8-10 hours at a time, it must have the capacity to load raw materials for that period of time and remove and store the finished parts (or send them on to the next station). Choosing an Integration Partner Holdups are more impactful without an operator nearby for a quick fix. To protect your capital investments, automated systems designed for unattended operations need to be designed and installed with an exceptional level of expertise. The system will require more frequent handshakes between stages, for example – validations and verifications that fixtures and doors are open or closed, etc., to ensure that each stage proceeds in seamless synchronization to create perfect parts without breakdowns. Investigate potential integration partners carefully. Are they RIA certified? Do they have the experience and expertise to seamlessly install automated systems that will support unattended operations for any type of situation? Do they have a sophisticated design methodology that includes exhaustive feasibility and cycle time analyses? Can they offer computer simulations based on the movement of actual robots? Will they run sample parts to ensure that the design is based on real-world results and not just theory? Make sure you get satisfactory answers to these questions up front. Once an installation takes place it may be too late. Working in the Dark While working “Lights Out” is a worthy goal, we never underestimate the value of the human element. Most businesses will find it beneficial to have an operator or two standing by overnight or on weekends. But that’s okay. The productivity of an unattended operation system is phenomenal, even with the lights on.

Simulations Aid Engineers in Designing Productive Robotic Systems

POSTED: 08/29/2017

Wouldn’t you like to know that the automated system we design is going to match your cycle times before installation? And that it fits in the space you have available? Of course you would. For each integration project, we use computer simulation software specifically designed to confirm in advance that all user specifications will be met. ROBOGUIDE, a FANUC Simulation Software, was specifically developed to simulate robotic processes in 3D space. It allows engineers to conduct feasibility studies for robotic applications without the physical need and expense of a prototype work cell setup. How It Works First our engineers create a virtual working 3D model of the cell. FANUC’s ROBOBUIDE software has tools that will easily allow the user to add key features that make up a system such as customer parts, machines, fixtures, obstacles and all FANUC robot models. There is a virtual teach pendant that operates like a real pendant. The virtual robots have all of the kinematics information built in so that they will move and behave like real robots. Once the system models are in place, the virtual robots can then be programmed through the tool and user frames by teaching them all the required points of motion that they will need to perform the task. Final touches can even be integrated on peripheral software options such as FANUC DCS (Dual Safety Check), collision detect or FANUC IR Vision. Once all information has been entered, the simulation gives our engineers instant feedback on how the robot reacts to the virtual environment. Adjustments can be quickly made to the program accordingly. Imagine how long that would take in real life! What It Means For one thing, our customers don’t have to worry if the system will work. They can see for themselves as simulation robots perform the most complex functions. The program allows for a complete cycle time analysis to confirm that specs will be met before the cell is physically integrated into the line. The software also detects flaws in the operation of the cell that can quickly be corrected. Crashes happen on the computer screen and not with real objects or people, which considerably enhances the safety factor and ensures there are no surprises once the system is built. And with the ability to export files from the simulation computer and import them into the actual robot controller, our engineers just need to fine tune the program, allowing the system to be up and running at full production in no time. Seeing is Believing We have been using these computer simulations to demonstrate extremely complex automated cells since we opened for business. With the ability to assess and review these simulations before the actual build, we can foresee any challenges and resolve them ahead of time, giving our customers the confidence that the final delivered product will enhance speed and efficiency from the first day of operation.

Automation and Innovation Teach Old Machines New Tricks

POSTED: 08/29/2017

When it came time for a major automobile manufacturer to retool their line, they decided to build automation into the system as well. The company had 12 Saginaw vertical twin spindle turning centers which were using a combination of hand loading and some simple pick and place automation. The pneumatic, servo-controlled systems were slow, unreliable and required daily maintenance, not to mention a lot of operator intervention. The goal was to achieve better reliability and increased productivity without replacing the machines or relocating them within the plant. First Look: Assessing the Realities The customer required the machines to be open to the aisle ways for 100% access to the front-mounted controls for operators and maintenance crews. Ceiling height was also an issue. It was so low that a robot on a high railway would not work. Another standard arrangement that was quickly discarded was having a larger robot reach into the cell. The space was too small for articulation. Plus the environment inside the cell was wet and hazardous with chips and coolant everywhere, so the system had to be completely sealed. That meant a stationery robot on a beam was also not an option since it wouldn’t allow the door to be shut during operation. Thinking Outside (and Inside) the Box After a careful study of the situation, we went to work. To achieve the desired results, the smallest robot possible was selected – the FANUC LR Mate 200 iD. We custom engineered it to work in conjunction with a telescoping overhead gantry rail system. The operation sequence was established: Pneumatic parallel grippers pick the raw parts The automatic door opens for machine loading Robot enters the machine through door via telescoping gantry mechanism The gripper swaps finished parts on the spindle with raw parts Robot exits machine through door via telescoping gantry mechanism The door seals shut for operation Robot places finished parts on pallet conveyor, picks raw parts About That Door… The telescoping overhead gantry machine tending solution was great on paper, but one problem remained. The location of the door. The top and front of the cell were out of play, and the Saginaw doesn’t have a door on the side. No door – no problem! We had the machines shipped to our plant where we custom engineered an opening and closing side door. The end result was fully automatic and completely sealed for clean, safe, efficient operation. We now had a working unit that matched all the customer’s requirements. Bonus: Seamless Flexibility at a Touch The Saginaw is capable of several varieties of operation sequences using the same equipment. Several of the machines we worked on were set up so each spindle can perform a different operation. The customer has the ability to change tooling and parts and easily reprogram the system through the HMI screen on the control panel. This allows them to react to the needs of the marketplace or fluctuations in inventory. Building Long Term Relationships Our long-standing relationship with this customer allowed us the ability to work closely with them on this project. More than a standard vendor/customer relationship, we have built a true partnership, which gives us the opportunity to meet their challenges head on to create optimal solutions. The newly automated line delivers better profits today and is totally adaptable to the needs of the future. Projects like this show why we have a reputation for designing and delivering quality industrial automation solutions to manufacturers worldwide.

Learning to Love Robotics: Five Myths About Automation

POSTED: 08/29/2017

Your company is considering adding automation to your production line. Congratulations! This is probably one of the best things that could happen for your career. Seriously. Machining professionals have a lot more to gain than lose in a move to automation. Not convinced? There is a lot of misinformation out there that may be influencing your thinking. Let’s take a look at 5 of the major myths about the automation process and put some of your concerns to rest. Myth # 1: I’m Going to Lose My Job When they hear that automation is coming, many employees fear that they will no longer be needed. Actually, it’s just the opposite. Automation is more likely to save your job than end it. If a company stays with manual systems, the competition will grow and the entire shop could be in jeopardy. While it is true that, with robotics, one person can do the job of three, the cost savings and additional profits can allow growth that actually expands the number of lines in operation. Myth # 2: Robots are Dangerous Strict guidelines are followed for the manufacture and integration of each industrial robot and robot system installed. Safeguards are built into every cell with an emphasis on establishing personnel safety. Besides physical barriers, software and sensors are employed to limit the movement of a robot if anyone is nearby. Myth # 3: Robots are Hard to Operate Today’s robots are designed for easy operation using a touch screen or a pendant. It’s actually more like using a smart phone than the complex rows of switches and dials seen in old sci-fi movies. To build confidence and proficiency, comprehensive training is provided by Matrix for anyone who will operate the system.  Myth # 4: I’ll Lose Control of My Station Actually, once you become comfortable with the robotics, you will be a valuable resource in their evolution on the line. We see it all the time. Professionals who were once skeptical become managers of the system and act as their own engineers, seeing ways to make the process even faster and more efficient.  Myth # 5: I’ll Just Be a “Button Pusher” Operators are often excited about their new skills and how they increase their value to the organization. Automation frees operators from routine tasks and give them time to concentrate on quality or work on more challenging aspects of their jobs. You will probably find your workday more interesting (and productive) than ever before. Automation is gaining ground in the machining industry because it provides such a boost to profits, productivity and quality. Companies and operators who embrace it will prosper, and hopefully it will be coming to your shop soon.

Rigorous Standards Help Matrix Deliver Safer Robotic Systems

POSTED: 08/29/2017

Let’s get one thing straight. Robots are not running wild in the workplace. In reality, robot incidents are rare. According to OSHA, there were 37 robot-related accidents between 1984 and 2013. There were 4,585 workplace fatalities from other causes in 2013 alone. However, robots do demand respect. That’s why Matrix goes to extraordinary lengths to deliver safer robotic devices. Extraordinary Lengths Defined Did you know that safety certification of robotics is not required under US law? Some integrators may not even be up to date on current standards. We believe our customers deserve better than that. That’s why Matrix is certified by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA). We’re not talking about just hanging a certificate on the wall. Certification involves a demanding process that includes an on-site audit, assessment of key personnel, hours of specialized safety training classes and rigorous exams. Sounds very impressive – but how exactly does all this carry over to the shop floor? The answer is found in our Matrix 5-Point Safety Checklist that we developed based on the RIA guidelines and that we employ on every installation. Documentation of Risks The heart of the checklist is the Task Based Risk Assessment process. Each cell is analyzed, considering each person who might work in or near it to determine the risk exposure for each individual throughout its complete life cycle, from design to it’s decommission. RIA also recommends end users perform their own risk assessment, since they have first hand knowledge of their own facilities working environment. Matrix project managers work with our customers to ensure all risks have been identified. We’ve also employed a risk assessment system that rates risk levels based on severity, level of exposure and avoidance data entered for each hazard. Once the risks have been determined, steps must be taken to mitigate them.  Making It Safer Risk reduction measures come in a variety of forms. One of the more common ways to reduce risk is to apply hard guarding such as wire mesh fencing, sheet metal guarding or hoods. These fully welded steel enclosures provide maximum safety by creating a physical barrier between operator and robot. Another form of risk reduction is sensor type guarding, such as safety scanners, safety light curtains and safety mats. Unlike hard or fixed guarding, sensor type guarding relies on safety sensors that detect someone’s presence, similar to a garage door sensor, automatically slowing or shutting down the robot. Dual Check Safety If you can’t keep the human from the robot, keeps the robot from the human. The most advanced safety technology that we employ is the Dual Check Safety (DCS) introduced by FANUC in 2014. Instead of hard guards or sensors, DCS uses internal software that limits the robot’s movement to predetermined boundaries within the work envelope, keeping operators, robots and tooling completely safe. The most significant benefit of DCS is in applications where the robot’s travel needs to be restricted due to floor space or in processes that limit the full reach of the robot. Reduction in floor space can be reduced by as much as 50% by simply setting up these safety zones that restrict the path of the robot. The Human Element Customer training is an essential element in our safety program. Making sure the customer has all the documentation and understands each system allows them to train their own employees on the proper operation of the robot within the cell. Plus, proper lockout procedures are prominently displayed outside each cell and are included as part of the standard training we provide every customer. Final Check After all mitigation is in place, our application engineers re-assess the risk level at our location once the safety features are employed, and one final time at the customer’s location, ensuring all safety features are working properly on site. Proactive for Safety Not all integrators follow RIA safety measures but as an RIA certified integrator, we go above and beyond. Our reward is knowing our customers can trust we’ve made every effort to ensure the safety of their equipment and employees. It’s the way we do business, and we wouldn’t want to do it any other way.

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