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Controlling Pandemics with Conveyors for Social Distancing

As businesses look to re-open amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s obvious that simply asking workers to wear masks will not be enough. Manufacturers will be forced to rethink their operations in many ways, including socially distancing or automating the jobs of employees who work in close proximity.



WORKSTATION-TO-WORKSTATION CONVEYORS

The simplest way of socially distancing employees is adding conveyors between workstations. Applications that involve one worker delivering a bin of parts
or assemblies to another worker present an ideal application for conveyors
to move those parts between workstations. They have the added benefit of reducing lifting injuries.
 

ROBOT/COBOT-READY CONVEYORS

Some applications simply can’t be completed without workers in close proximity. In those cases, some or all workers may be replaced by robots or cobots to ensure proper social distancing. QC Conveyors’ brushless DC motors are easy to integrate with robots and PLCs. A free URCap is available that allows conveyors to be controlled directly by a UR robot, including start/stop, forward/reverse and multiple speed operation.

ONE-PERSON CLEANING

HydroClean Series conveyors are designed for tool-less cleaning that makes them easy for one person to disassemble and clean in minutes. The Tension Release Tail of Automation Series Conveyors separates tension and tracking, allowing an operator to clean under the belt without assistance from maintenance.

ACCUMULATION FOR BREAKDOWNS AND CHANGEOVERS

Flextrac Series alpine conveyors allow product to be accumulated in the event of machinery breakdowns or during changeovers. Repairs or changeovers that may have once been achieved quickly by operators working together will now take longer with just a single worker allowed near the machinery. Accumulating product while upstream or downstream machinery continue their tasks will be critical to maintaining OEE.

CUSTOMER SPOTLIGHT

Due to space limitations, a major medical products manufacturer has chosen to use a mix of robots and conveyors to replace a process that involved workers in close proximity manually transferring parts between workstations.
 
Flextrac Series Conveyors was designed to move products from an injection molding machine to a deflashing operation then on to a packaging cell.
 
The conveyors use top-running chain that’s powered by a wheel bend drive. Trays with indentations to fit the product are mounted directly to the chain and indexed from station to station. The products are loaded and removed from the trays by six-axis robots at each station.
 
The trays and conveyors have the added advantage of allowing the injection molded product a standardized time to cool between the loading station and the deflashing operation.


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