PostTHE 10 STEPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL PROJECT
Post6 ESSENTIAL PERSONALITY TRAITS OF THE IDEAL ASSEMBLER
Post10 TIPS TO REDUCE CHANGE RESISTANCE WHEN INTRODUCING LEAN MANUFACTURING
When analyzing different modular system options to implement or adapt a production line, a lot must be taken into perspective. Maximizing a production floor’s efficiency, ensuring employees are working in a safe, ergonomic manner and making sure the production blueprint can be adapted over time are key points to keep in mind throughout the conceptualization process.
While both T-slot aluminum profiles such as 80/20’s or Vention’s and tubular systems like Flexpipe’s offer great solutions to manufacturers and design engineers, the products have unique characteristics that will influence how they will be of better use in a production context.
Because T-slot aluminum constructions are sturdier, they are an obvious choice for production systems involving robotics and automation. They are made with refined equipment that can offer very tight tolerances. Their durable and resistant nature can also support a variety of robotic applications facing rapid and repetitive movement, such as:
Photo credit: https://airinc.net/8020-extrusion/fixtures/
In the tubular system, there is an intubation space of 1 inch when you insert the pipes into the fittings -even if the tubes should be fully inserted-. This remaining space makes the assembly process easier, by giving a margin of error for small cutting or design mistakes. While this detail might come in handy in some contexts, the facts remain: tubular structures are not as precise as aluminum framing systems.
The tubes and fittings structures are therefore more adapted to other types of use. Here are a few examples of various material handling systems that would be more efficiently built with pipes and joints instead of aluminium profiles -which, in those cases, would be considered “overkill, over built and over paid”-:
Because of the lower costs involved with pipes and fittings “modular systems” and the simplicity of the tubular approach, tests can be carried out more easily before implementing new structures. Manufacturers can therefore quickly reconfigure a wide range of assembly line components based on feedback, with minimal capital outlay.
Engineers can spend more time brainstorming and constantly optimizing assembly processes rather than designing each structure from scratch, resulting in a greater employee satisfaction and optimization of the production process!
Because pipes and fittings systems are simpler and involve less components, it’s easier for engineers to shop online, figure out themselves how they can use the product for their specific needs and become creative more quickly! It’s also easier for employees working on the assembly lines to get involved in the optimization process, stay proactive and improve their work tools, which is great for professional satisfaction and motivation!
Since the cost is higher, the testing part becomes more expensive and financially risky with the aluminum extrusion profiles, making the whole testing and trying process more complicated than it is with the tubular system. This constraint tends to result in a longer, more complex planning process when creating new modular structures.
Perfectly embodying the Lean Manufacturing concept, the Flexpipe production systems can easily be adapted to follow the productions new needs and reality. Again, the simplicity of the structures ensures that any changes can be applied quickly and tested right away, thus leaving room for errors and constant improvement along the way.
Modifying already existing T-slot frames is a little more complex, since they’re also more complicated to assemble in the first place. Because of the various components involved in the system, the modular aspect of the structures is not as easily adaptable to feedback and testing. On the other hand, the various components open up more options and possibilities for robotic integration and automation specialized types of systems.
Although the cost of the products obviously varies depending on the specifications of the project, aluminum tends to be about 30% more expensive than Flexpipe. For some manufacturing companies designing and working with an important number of workstations and productions systems, the choice of material becomes very important. General application has significant importance when it comes to choosing the best option; however, when it comes to intra-logistic applications where push-carts and flow racks are required, for example, the cost and flexibility of pipe and joints systems trumps T-slot aluminum extrusion profiles.
Some professionals like the sober, straight lines and modern looks of the T-slot aluminum profiles and consider them to be a better choice when it comes to the aesthetics of their framing system. While it is possible to buy colored aluminum extrusions, it is more common to see clear aluminum finish or the typical blueish color of anodized aluminum often seen on Vention’s extrusions for example, because of the considerable costs involving the powder coating process for coloration.
On top of the traditional black and stainless colors, tubular systems like Flexpipe offer blue, yellow, green, white, red, orange, gray and ivory colored tubes. The choices in colors mostly aim to make it easier to use color coding systems on a production’s floor, but can also bring a lighter atmosphere to a work environment!
If you’re looking for a sleeker, sober look, Flexpipe’s stainless tubes matched with chrome-plated joints could very well match your taste.
While both products offer customized, creative and efficient solutions in various production structures, their technical particularities make their respective use complementary. Each of them is more appropriate in different contexts of the production system. On your typical assembly line, any robotics or automation related construction system will likely be more effective and precise if it’s built with t-slotted aluminum profiles. On the other hand, pipes and fittings systems will be the obvious choice when building flow racks, workstations, modular boards or carts!
Temie Fessa, a project manager for Flexpipe who has been working in the field for over ten years, says many of his clients will use both systems in different contexts. He points out that when engineers or consultants have been using aluminum extrusions on their production line for a long time, they’ll tend to keep the same habits when it comes to designing new structures, as a professional legacy. Because they are so used to the t-slot aluminum framings, they won’t question their choices or look for other options unless they are given a specific assignment related to budget cuts, for example.
And since the price of steel tubes and fittings is much lower than aluminum extrusions, once they’ve discovered the tubular systems and how easy it is to use, many companies will start integrating the tubular products as much as they can in the production environment, especially when they don’t need the heavy duty aspect or the precision provided by the strut profiles. Using steel pipes tubular systems therefore gives them the opportunity to cut the costs, without any downside.