Flexibility is a valuable attribute in automated production systems. Many automation systems can be described as Fixed or Hard, meaning they have been designed for a single product or specific task. These specified systems are often too rigid to be reused or adapted to any purpose outside of its original design. Metered dispensing in automation often faces the same flexibility issues. An automated dispensing system with the ability to dynamically adjust volume is key to a lean production line.

Automating any production line comes with a number of inherent risks such as substantial pre-planning and initial set-up costs. For many High-Volume/Low-Mix (HVLM) manufacturers the benefits easily outweigh the risks. For Low-Volume/High-Mix (LVHM) manufacturers a great deal of flexibility in automation systems is desired but often difficult due to the diversity of the products being manufactured. In metered dispensing, automation is a necessity for both LMHV and HMLV manufacturers in order to attain the high throughput, precision, and repeatability that most metered applications require.

Automated dispensing is not without its own challenges. Traditionally, if multiple volumes are required multiple pumps are necessary; each programmed with a fixed volume and purpose. Changeover between products often require extended down time to flush out each pump and mechanically adjust them to their new parameters.

 

Common Challenges of Flexible Automated Dispensing:
  • Fixed Displacement – Changing the dispense volume often requires manual adjustment
  • Complicated Maintenance – Pumps that contain valves can be difficult to clean/maintain which disrupts product changeover and often leads to a short lifespan
  • Poor Communication – Transparency of information on the manufacturing floor is often hindered by the number of pumps that can be contained in a single production cell.
Fixed Displacement

The majority of metering pumps in automated dispensing systems require manual configuration and adjustment to change the volume being dispensed. This requires both time and skilled labor. The eVmP (Electronic Variable Metering Pump) Smart Pump System by Zaxis uses patented technology that integrates electronically controlled volumetric adjustment which eliminates the need for manual adjustment.

The Zaxis eVmP Smart Pump System adds flexibility to automated dispensing by storing multiple programs, containing distinct volumes and speeds, directly on eVmP metering pumps. Creating a product changeover program can streamline product changeover, which can be accomplished through the use of EtherNet/IP and the eVmP Detachable TSi (Touchscreen Interface).

Changeover Process for eVmP Smart Pump System
  • After batch completion change to a product changeover program, or simply select Max Shot on the Touchscreen Interface, which will adjust the pump volume to max displacement.
  • Run a sterilant such as alcohol through the wetted path.
  • Change to the next stored program or enter the desired variables (volume, RPM etc.) for the next batch.

The flexibility of the eVmP Smart Pump System is beneficial to LVHM manufacturers who have a high degree of changeover that must be accommodated. Superficially this may not appear to be an issue to some HVLM manufacturers who have little product changeover, however electronic volume adjustment can also be a great asset when only one product is being manufactured. Think of a simple wooden toy that is being glued together; the same adhesive is being used on the entire product but the surface area that requires adhesive changes. Rather than using multiple pumps for each volume of adhesive the eVmP Smart Pump can use its stored programs to automatically cycle through the different volumes needed to assemble the toy with extremely high volumetric accuracy.

Complicated Maintenance

Many of the positive displacement pumps used in manufacturing automation systems use valves which can clog and require routine disassembly for cleaning and maintenance. The eVmp Smart Pump System uses a valveless rotating and reciprocating piston pump design which enables the eVmP to run for millions of maintenance free cycles.

Poor Communication

Good communication is extremely important in flexible automation systems. The ability to see, at a glance, how the processes are being performed on a production line is an enormous benefit for efficient manufacturing. Often a group of fixed displacement metering pumps are placed together on a production cell and not much information is communicated about that cell. In the eVmP Smart Pump System each pump contains an onboard processor that communicates through EtherNet/IP (other communication options include Ethernet TCP/IP and RS485) to the rest of the automated system. The eVmP Detachable TSi can control up to 32 pumps and can be detached from the pumps and stored during production or used as a status screen for production transparency on the manufacturing floor.

Conclusion

Flexibility is a critical aspect in automated dispensing systems for both HVLM and LVHM manufactures. The patented eVmP Smart Pump System by Zaxis has been designed specifically for flexible automation. The eVmP Smart Pump System is the most dynamic solution for the lean manufacturing of applications that require metered dispensing.

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