Need the benefits of both automated assembly and flexibility for small volume lots?

Assembly Automation

ISSN: 0144-5154

Article publication date: 20 April 2010



Bloss, R. (2010), "Need the benefits of both automated assembly and flexibility for small volume lots?", Assembly Automation, Vol. 30 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Need the benefits of both automated assembly and flexibility for small volume lots?

Article Type: Mini features From: Assembly Automation, Volume 30, Issue 2

Tec-Option has a patented answer for the customer that needs both. The Tec-Option approach utilizes a customized “work” frame and a separate interchangeable modular work piece holder/handler.

The Tec-Flex™ work frame is designed to offer all the active assembly functions needed by the range of products to be assembled. This might include welding equipment, robotic pick and place units, servo motions, part feeders, nut runners or fastener devices and such as well as a programmable cell controller. Other options available include laser part marking, sealant application, crimping, simple forming and hole piercing. When a robot is required, Tec-Option supplies and fully integrates a suitable Fanuc robot with necessary end-of-arm-tooling.

Another feature of the Tec-Flex assembly cell is the dual-tooling concept where the operator can be loading one side while the other side is in the automated assembly process. Frequently, the unload mechanism is a flip over design which deposits the finished component into a take away conveyor or transfer bin. For safety, a light screen feature is included to insure the operator is out of the way before the automation starts.

The modular work holder is customized to a specific product to be assembled. When the customer is ready to start assembly of a deferent product, he removes the previous work holder module and installs the required one. He then selects the correct control program to direct the required assembly functions. The patented work holder modules can be changed out in less than 5 min.

Examples of how this has addressed the different needs of high-, medium- and low-volume applications is as follows:

  • A high-volume customer purchased one Tec-Flex frame and initially one work holder module. When his parts need changed, he ordered a new work holder module and reprogrammed the frame. He was then able to continue to use his initial investment for the new assembly requirement.

  • A medium volume/multiple program customer purchased one Tec-Flex frame and several different work holder modules. Then, each week or so, he could change out the work holder module and continue to employ his automated assembly system for different products.

  • A mixed volume user purchased three different Tec-Flex frames and eight work holder modules. He was able to produce a total of 27 different products with automation. The work holder modules require modest storage space. This user was able to store the modules in a heavy-duty steel storage rack, taking advantage of vertical storage to save floor space. This customer avoided purchasing 27 different dedicated automated assembly cells.

For more information on the Tec-Option frame and module approach or for a DVD video tour visit:

Richard Bloss

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