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Factory of the future uses AS/RS.

Factory of the future uses AS/RS

The Automated Manufacturing Research Facility (AMRF) developed by the US Bureau of Standards in Gaithersburg, MD, is a peek into the future of manufacturing. This totally automated "showcase" factory performs a milling operation using robotics, automatic guided vehicles (AGV's), and computer-controlled production and material handling equipment, all coordinated in a six-station system.

Part of the advanced technology of the "Factory of the Future" is the INDUSTRIEVER [R] 8000 Vertical Storage/Retrieval System (AS/RS), manufactured by Kardex Systems Inc, Marietta, OH. It allows for unrestricted storage of more than 200 pans containing different-sized tools and parts. To obtain specific items, operators enter identification codes into an on-board keypad or into the facility's main computer. Then an extractor removes the requested pan and delivers it to an access port where a conveyor carries it to an AGV.

According to Kang Lee, AMRF workstation manager, "Flexible manufacturing systems are key to success in today's changing industrial scene." This thinking led the National Bureau of Standards to create the AMRF. Growing international competitiveness, a need for greater productivity from both men and machines, and wider acceptance of computerized manufacturing formed the basis for the Bureau's idea to study challenges that arise when equipment from many different vendors is brought together as components in an automated production facility.

"Manufacturing is moving away from simple mass production and toward batch processing where greater accuracy and flexibility are necessary to achieve maximum productivity," says Lee. "Yet it is still difficult to find equipment systems that work together throughout each distinct step of an operation with little or no adaptation."

The AMRF research staff examined various alternatives for systems in which to store manufacturing tools and finished products, but the search was a short one. Only the Kardex unit had all of the features needed for the AMRF operation. According to Lee, "The AS/RS is compact, its vertical design takes up less floor space than other systems, and it was relatively simple to integrate with our AGV's." The only necessary addition was the stub conveyor which delivers stored items from access ports onto AGV's.

In addition, the INDUSTRIEVER 8000 offers complete inventory control with its computer-interface option and Material Control System software, which can be tailored to meet specific manufacturing needs.

The technology developed at AMRF already has found a practical application. The Naval Sea Systems Command has produced an automated machine tool workstation to manufacture intricate noise-reduction parts for nuclear submarines--in lots as small as one or two at a time. The workstation's robotic machinery can produce parts in 15 minutes, which now require 17 hours of labor--an estimated $650 savings.
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Title Annotation:vertical storage/retrieval system
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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