How to Choose a Parts Feeding System

The motivation behind investment in automated machines is to maintain a competitive advantage. With these needs, important questions emerge on the path to finding the right kind of investment. The technology is out there, we can help break it down.

The changing manufacturing landscape demands the planning of long-term investments and improvements so companies can stay competitive. This challenge can meet, and in some cases surpass, the industry standard with the integration of automated or semi-automated machines.

Parts feeding is so important when it comes to developing an automated system. The function, process and industry determine the machine base. A series of required applications are created. Depending on the product being assembled, there can be several parts that need to be supplied to a machine for seamless manufacturing.

With the many types of systems that feed parts, it is important to consider what the best choice is for your needs. Let’s break it down, starting with:

Unique Part Factors

  • Size 
  • Geometry 
  • Weight 
  • Material 
  • Orientation 
  • Placement 
How to Choose a Parts Feeding System

Parts Feeding Systems

Once part details are determined, parts feeding systems can be chosen. The most popular feeding systems the SDC team integrates are:

  • Flex feeding with robotic pick-and-place
  • 3D bin-picking
  • Vibratory bowl feeding, linear (in-line) feeding
  • Dereeling/despooling
  • Manual

Here are some characteristics and highlights:

Flex Feeding

Pick rate is flexible and adjusts to the overall system. With a vision system and conveyor/part tracking, the robot orients itself to correctly pick parts from the conveyor. Depending on the part, a six-axis or SCARA robot can be used to pick-and-place. Unpicked parts are recirculated. This system consists of a part hopper, belt feed, orientation plates, visual scanning with light and part tracking, and a robot.

3D Bin-Picking

Used to move parts that are uniquely shaped, large, or heavy, this option uses overhead vision systems to guide robots to perform a pick-and-place function. The choice of an appropriate robot can vary depending on the part, orientation and placement. The SDC team recently designed and built a 3D bin-picking system that used cartesian robots to pick-and-place heavy metal parts from a cart onto a conveyor.

Vibratory Bowl Feeding

Vibratory bowls are customizable and offer the ability to feed unique and difficult parts. Parts can be queued to maintain machine rate via a linear, or in-line, track. Pneumatics can be added to help feed parts through the track as well. Part hoppers are an addition installed above the bowl to automatically feed parts into the bowl. Escapements at various places enable parts to recirculate for proper positioning. The combination of vibratory bowls and linear tracks are a common integration at SDC.

Dereeling/Despooling

This system is ideal for components that need to be stored on a spool or roll. For specialized industries like filter manufacturers, medical tube assembly, and even electrical component assembly, this feeding system can be a great addition to meet machine supply requirements.

Manual

Used for semi-automated machines, manual loading of parts can accommodate smaller facility footprint requirements and budget constraints. Where operator intervention is needed, like with testing or part joining machines, this is a viable option that is easy to incorporate with operator training.