Automation in the time of coronavirus
Welcome to Design World’s special issue on Power Transmission. Each year our editors assemble this special issue that focuses on the mechanical part of power transmission, the components responsible for keeping things moving, so to speak.
These are the screws and actuators, the slides and rails and guide ways and the linear bearings that help bear the loads – and the belts, brakes, clutches, couplings, motors and gears, and the components that dampen shock and vibration.
Much continues to change in power transmission and motion control systems, with electronic controls adding smarts to systems and faster communication networks better able to handle large volumes of data enabling better and more precise control. But the mechanical components are changing too. For instance, newer materials extend useful life and durability of workhorse components such as bearings and guides. Also, improved lubrication materials help parts run smoother and more reliably in a range of environmental conditions.
Many of these components are central to the latest wave of automation, helping power robotic systems in warehousing and material handling applications, among a host of others. The rise in automation also takes on a new dimension in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, manufacturers are turning to automating manufacturing processes and tasks as a way to reduce contact between workers and to keep them at safe distances from one another.
Automation also is central to critical medical and laboratory equipment. For instance, linear motion systems enable rapid, high-volume automated testing of the kind that is needed to deal with extraordinary events like the COVID-19 pandemic. These automation systems must perform an array of step-by-step tasks with a high level of precision and accuracy.
A typical large-scale test setup includes a number of different subsystems working together. For example, gantry robots with rotary end effectors are used to remove caps from sample tubes containing specimens to be tested, while separate Cartesian robots or gantry systems are used to extract samples and dispense fl uids. Then, linear actuators or belt conveyors are used to move samples to different parts of a workstation.
Stories like this and many more are featured in a new section on the Design World web site (designworldonline.com) called “Hack the Crisis: Engineering through COVID-19.” There you’ll fi nd the latest examples of engineering companies innovating to help in the battle against the coronavirus. And we’re always on the lookout for more success stories to share with our readers. So if you’ve got something to share, get in touch with me via email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @DW_Motion.
And remember that you can find all of the latest news and information about power transmission and motion control at our motion-specific sites motioncontroltips.com and linearmotiontips.com, as well as bearingtips.com and couplingtips.com.