The allure of building a custom machine to meet the specific requirements of a particular film adhesive assembly job can be enticing. The idea of getting a machine that does exactly what one wants, exactly how one wants it done sounds wonderful. The reality of this temptation may not be so wonderful at all.
Probably the most important question to ask one’s self is: “How do I know this equipment will perform?” There is always the chance that a custom machine will perform the desired requirement successfully…but is that all you are hoping for? …A chance! Custom equipment is normally manufactured on a limited timeline and pushed into production to meet the anticipated launch dates. A standardized machine has been enhanced through years of development with a continuous improvement process. Can a custom machine builder really capture the desired reliability and capability in a few weeks that has taken a standardized machine builder team over 20 years to realize?
What about prototype runs and capability studies? A standardized platform can perform these tasks very early in the process with minimal investment…exposing potential pitfalls early on. Becoming aware of pitfalls early is actually key to keeping projects on schedule. A custom solution just cannot perform these studies without significant engineering, time, and sunk capital.
Speed of delivery and flexibility are growing in importance as product life cycles shrink. Standardized equipment requires little additional design time and reconfiguration is part of the business model. Whereas, a custom built machine needs to be conceptualized, designed, built, and tested… reconfiguration is not even part of the thought process. This custom concept that was enticing at first has actually introduced the one thing any project manager needs to eliminate – RISK
Can a custom machine have established operational criteria? The answer to that is: NO. It has no operational history to pull from. No quality log and No quantifiable production costs. The dirty truth is custom applicators are pushed to production before potential issues can even be identified because many issues take weeks and months to identify. Working to rectify problems in a production environment is infinitely more complex and challenging than leveraging the experience of thousands of standardized machines running millions of components. By the same token, standardized systems offer real-time MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) & MTTF (Mean Time To Failure) statistics that can be used in process evaluation and validation. In the case of a custom-designed system, there is no data, leading to future costly failures and liabilities.
Impact on Adhesive Die Cut Development
Established operational criteria is ever so important for the adhesive converter supplying the die cut roll of components. After all, the goal is to have a system that meets expectations and the adhesive die cut has a vital role to play. How can one expect a converter to produce die cut parts to work on a machine that is not even designed yet? The standardized machine stands in stark contrast as the converter knows the exact technology that will be used to peel and apply the die cut. They likely have experience supplying other parts that have run on the equipment and know exactly what to produce to do so again.
Process Control & Diagnostics
How is this machine going to be controlled? It is imperative to integrate automated procedures, error recovery, and visualization functions as a part of applications. It is quite a challenge to ask a programmer of a custom application to anticipate all scenarios that may be encountered. Whereas, a standardize machine controller with software that has been refined for years and is operating thousands of applications is more likely to have included comprehensive features and parameters to deal with challenges a particular application will have.
The purpose of this article was to make readers aware of the pitfalls of trying to design custom film adhesive applicators and their inability to meet short and long-term expectations. Organizations can do better by making more informed decisions when selecting, designing and implementing their adhesive component assembly automation processes. With awareness comes responsibility. You are now aware.