Is automated assembly more cost-efficient?
Automation can be a crucial component of scaling up your production, but you may wonder whether it’s the best option for your current process.
Part of our work as flexible material converters is helping clients optimize their production process. Strouse has helped multiple companies with their automated assembly in the past, which is why we can provide insight into different strategies.
If you’re interested in automating your assembly process, read on to learn the considerations that’ll help you decide whether it suits you.
What is Assembly Automation?
Assembly automation is the process of building products on a machine press using controlled operations for optimized speed and precision.
An example of assembly automation would be using a placement machine to pick up a component and place it onto the product. Automation systems often require specified part spacing, registration marks, and stable materials.
Certain materials, like PET, are more stable and suited for automation, while others, such as polyethylene carriers, are challenging to automate because they stretch and break.
Automation functions more smoothly when components have relatively simple designs. The more complex the part design, the more difficult it is to align gaps accurately upon placement.
What is In-Process Assembly?
Rather than building products on a machine press, in-process assembly is often performed using a jig or fixture to place parts manually.
In-process assembly allows for far more complex components thanks to the maneuverability of working by hand. However, this comes at the cost of efficiency since the components take far longer to apply.
Pursuing Automated vs. In-Process Assembly
Take a moment to consider your current product assembly process. Is there any automation involved? Are there points where automated assembly might benefit you more than in-process? Let’s compare some of the main differences.
1. COST OF SET-UP
Buy-in cost for equipment is a massive consideration when it comes to automation. You’ll want to be prepared to pay a substantial set-up cost for automation technology.
Automated assembly requires more expensive machinery, which leads to a higher initial setup cost. In addition, the size of your component will affect the price simply because, as you’ll discover, the machines for bigger parts are significantly more expensive.
2. PART QUANTITY
Automated assembly is far quicker than in-process assembly, making it more suitable for larger part quantities.
There’s a significant difference in run time between automated and in-process assembly: parts that require a few minutes to assemble manually could be completed in seconds through automation.
An automated assembly might also combine the creation of multiple die cut features into a condensed process to save further time. Yet, part quantity isn’t always the end-all factor in deciding automation.
For example, while building larger batches of products with automated assembly is common, smaller volumes of high-value products could benefit from automation if they require precise placement.
3. PRECISION TOLERANCES
While an in-process assembly costs less to set up, achieving precision tolerances is significantly more challenging.
Manually placed components often don’t typically require the precision required for automated assembly because the accuracy can’t be mimicked by hand. As a result, in-process assembly parts lack the same level of precision as automated assemblies, but not every project needs it.
Automated assembly can lend itself to components with tighter part tolerances for precise applications, but it requires components to meet specific tolerances to function correctly.
Your Next Steps For Product Assembly
Choosing an assembly method depends on your product volume, design, budget, and timeline.
Before you get further into automation, planning your assembly process and ensuring you have good part manufacturability is essential. Consider talking to a converter before you pursue automated assembly to see whether design adjustments could save you money.
Finally, if you’re looking for more automation resources, you can find more information about it in our Learning Center.