(November 2019)—MJ Engineering was consulted for an article in the October issue of Digital Engineering magazine about designing equipment for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). In the article, “Designing Machines in the Age of the IIoT.” MJ Engineering President Richard Wand stresses that in an age of rapid technological advancement, it is not enough to purchase equipment; integrating the equipment with a focus on functionality can greatly increase the productive results of a machine and the people trained to use it. Designing machines that can meet customer specifications, including increased connectivity, is one of the many services offered by MJ Engineering.
James “JC” Kraml is a mechanical engineer responsible for the mechanical design and development of prototypes, performing mechanical calculations, and communicating technical information at MJ Engineering. Since joining the company in June 2019, Kraml has worked on certifying a lifting device, cable calculations, and an robotic automation project. Kraml is proficient in SolidWorks and 3D printing, and he uses his experience to rapidly solve problems and keep projects on schedule. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Kraml attended Ohio University in Athens, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Kraml says he became an engineer because he loves learning about how parts go together. “Engineering is a challenging field that requires you to constantly learn and think differently to solve problems,” says Kraml.
Fun facts: JC Kraml is 6’ 9” tall, and he has a Blue Merle border collie named “Apollo,” after the Greek god of knowledge. His favorite quote is by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
Two of the newer members of the MJ Engineering team, Corey Caldwell and Shripal Bhavsar, both agree that a few of their favorite things about working at MJ Engineering are the variety of projects and industries they get to work with and the assistance and knowledge they gain from the helpful, more experienced engineers.
Corey Caldwell is a controls engineer responsible for programming the automation equipment that MJ Engineering designs and develops. He is currently working on a project for DuraShield, an Ohio-based company that creates paint protection film. Corey is helping to create a barcode scanning system for bakery pans to determine when they need to be recoated. The Ohio native earned a Mechanical Engineering degree in 2014 from Cedarville University near Dayton. He says his background in mechanical engineering helps him on the job, and he is learning some of the electrical side as well. Corey, who started at MJ Engineering last April, says he enjoys working as a team and the challenge of figuring out how to make things work for new applications he has never done. “I am excited to be here, grow in my role, and learn some new things,” says Corey. Fun fact: Corey enjoys woodworking and playing basketball—he does skills coaching with a group in Columbus!
“Most of the time, I am trying to analyze something,” says Shripal Bhavsar, a mechanical engineer with a passion for finite element analysis (FEA). Shripal recently worked on MJ Engineering’s latest amusement ride project (see the next article for details), doing hand calculations to confirm whether the ride setup was sufficient to handle a particular load. Shripal helps with platform certifications, and he is also involved in design. Shripal earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering (ME) from India and a Master’s in ME from California State University, Fullerton. “I wanted to be in a field in which I can give the answers to engineering issues that we face in day-to-day life,” says Shripal, who likes to use creativity and precision to solve challenging engineering problems. Fun fact: Shripal comes up with his best answers in the shower!
MJ Engineering Helped Create a Frenzy This Fall!
MJ Engineering has a decade-long relationship with amusement ride manufacturer A.R.M. (USA) Inc. This fall, A.R.M. put the finishing touches on the second evolution of its popular pendulum-style thrill ride, Frenzy (original version pictured at left), which MJ Engineering has been involved with from the beginning.
Hundreds of hours of engineering go into these rides. In fact, they must meet a federal code that is hundreds of pages long, taking into account everything from patron (rider) safety, ride dynamics, storage, transport, and anything that could possibly affect the ride related to its structure, controls, performance, life, or environmental conditions like wind and ice.
“In a nutshell,” says MJ Engineering’s Phil Snyder, who worked on the original Frenzy as well, “it needs to be designed to sound engineering principles.” Safety is one of those principles. “Safety is extremely important to us,” says MJ Engineering President Richard Wand. “If we think that the safety of the patron has been compromised in some fashion, we’re required to say something and shut that ride down.”
“The Amusement industry is held to very high standards, and manufacturers understand this better than anyone,” says Mike Gill, of A.R.M. “Generally, we approach MJ Engineering with a task, whether it be a conceptual design, a design change of an existing ride, or a repair. Then we collaborate on the task until it meets all requirements.” (See the next article to find out how the new Frenzy did at its recent debut.)
Trade Show News—IAAPA in Orlando, FL
“Excellent show—it made my feet hurt!” said MJ Engineering President Richard Wand about the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) trade show he attended last month in Orlando.
The show encompassed more than 10 miles of displays, booths, and rides—not the least of which was the new Frenzy, which was located outdoors and giving rides every day during the expo. “It was a pleasure listening to the squeals of patrons once they got above 90 degrees from vertical,” said Richard.
Trade shows are a great way to meet current and potential clients and learn about what’s happening in the industry. MJ Engineering employees are encouraged to attend, when possible.
While at the IAAPA trade show, Richard spent a significant amount of time talking to other ride manufacturers, including one for whom MJ Engineering helped get a ride approved for the Chinese market. Another satisfied customer Richard ran into was Majestic Rides (https://www.majesticrides.com/back-spin-roller-coaster—mini.html) who reported that their customer was extremely happy with their new ride—one that MJ Engineering assisted with in the past.
Other good contacts at the expo were an Italian manufacturer, Moser Rides, who wants to bring another of their rides to the U.S., and a major manufacturer of U.S. trampoline parks and soft play activities. In addition, Richard talked to several other engineering firms, inspectors, fabricators, family entertainment center (FEC) manufacturers, and owners. So the possibilities are seemingly endless for MJ Engineering to help make the world safer and more fun!
So, they asked company president, Richard Wand, to share his expertise about design innovation on video. The result is a fast-paced vignette where Richard chats about the potential that exists within technology.
The video got us thinking about some other aspects of technology as well…
Technology is in the eye of the beholder
The word technology is often tossed into conversations that deal with anything from smartphones to spaceships, but when it comes to design innovation, technology can be harnessed to complete tasks on a daily basis in new and different ways. For this reason, what technology means can vary for whoever is using it at the time. “If you think about old-school typewriters,” says Wand, “technology was a ribbon that had the ink on the top half and the eraser on the bottom.”
We’ve come a long way since then, but it underlies the point that yesterday’s cutting edge could be today’s ho-hum. And today’s probably could have been yesterday’s impossible. Wand cites, for example, “Vision systems for quality control have different capabilities today than they did a year ago. One of our strengths is being able to review those new technologies, understand how they work, and incorporate them into customer equipment to do things that were unheard of two or three years ago.”
At MJ Engineering, we are not afraid to try new things. However, we approach this potential power with trepidation, so we don’t overstep our bounds. Whether new training classes, new hardware, new robots, or anything that we implement in our business, we tread carefully, because we are responsible for that technology working properly.
But when we take tech by the reigns, some really incredible things can happen. Our company uses design innovation to create cutting-edge hardware and software, advanced FEM evaluations, and combine common off-the-shelf (COTS) materials with new technology for cost-effective solutions. In our hands, design innovation is the magic we use to make things happen. By understanding how—and when—to integrate technology in the equipment and processes we help improve, we keep this powerful magic in check.
Depending on the application, MJ Engineering can use technology to automate a manufacturing process, integrate robotics into a line to work seamlessly with human counterparts, or even add high-resolution optics for part evaluation that no one has seen before. All of this adds up to creating even more technology for other people to use.
The role of design innovation and technology
Of course, this technology doesn’t just show up. It isn’t a case of throwing a computer into the mix to see what happens. There has to be a plan. A design, as the term gives it, to the innovation. And it’s through the application of design innovation that we can make technology do what we want.
To put this in perspective: with the right application of design innovation, we can improve automation equipment to do whatever our clients ask (within reason, of course). And embracing design innovation enables us to stay ahead of the competition in the industry. Design innovation also crosses language and cultural boundaries for international collaboration. Without design innovation, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.
Applying design innovation in today’s market
As technology becomes commonplace—a computer or tablet in every home—the ability to innovate seemingly diminishes. But with design innovation backing technology in the realm of manufacturing and part sorting, there is still much to be discovered. New processes are being created every day that will require design innovation. It’s in this blue-sky environment that MJ Engineering exists—and excels.
Accomplishing this kind of innovation is not a linear path. The direction our design takes can sometimes run back on itself through iterations, split into parallel solutions, and even slam into dead-ends when the technology needed to accomplish the next step hasn’t been invented yet. All this convolution is not for the faint of heart.
Our ability to adapt to new challenges is what makes design innovation so valuable to us. Without this flexibility, the unknown would put us out of business. However, as we face the void where technology has yet to go—and push against it with design innovation—we forge a path for manufacturers to follow, anticipating technology will eventually catch up.
MJ Engineering recently completed two custom-designed machines for clients in the medical and automotive industries that save time, improve quality and accuracy, and reduce waste.
The syringe filling machine (right) can simultaneously fill four oral syringes (up to 20mL) with liquid medicines of varying viscosities at a pace more than double that of the client’s best operator. The machine eliminates air bubbles and has programmable fill levels, leading to accurate measurements of medicine every time. The oral syringe filler uses safety light curtains, and it has a foot pedal for handsfree operation, as well as stainless steel and aluminum parts for easy cleaning.
MJ Engineering’s battery bar verification machine inspects vehicle battery bars and rejects the ones that do not meet the part’s height, form, or thread criterion. The three-part process uses a combination of technologies: a height gage, a backlit conveyor belt that moves the part past two high-resolution Cognex cameras, and a New Vista thread verification system. With this machine, the client can inspect 100% of the battery bars more quickly, accurately, and objectively than a human operator.
Exciting New Products and Technology on Display
An abundance of exciting new products and technologies were on display at three well-attended manufacturing and automation shows held in the Midwest last fall.
At the Advanced Manufacturing & Technology Show, in Dayton, Ohio, Fortech, LLC, demonstrated new software that enables users to monitor equipment downtime. The system uses different input methods, including PLC error messages, other downtime reporting systems, and a unique video stream analyzing option (see the next article for more details).
At the Assembly Show in Chicago, Schunk displayed a multitude of pneumatic and electric grippers. Some of the newer grippers have a specialized design to enable them to integrate with today’s collaborative robots, including ones made by Fanuc, Kuka, and Universal.
The Fabtech show, also in Chicago, was by far the largest, with hundreds of companies offering equipment for cutting, bending, welding, and anything related to metal fabrication. Fanuc showed off its new seven-axis robot, which is designed to enable the robot to fit into tight and awkward spaces. The seventh axis is located between what would be the second and third axis on a traditional five-axis robot.
To learn about other new offerings in the automation and manufacturing world, and to get to know our current and potential customers’ products, it is well worth your time to attend these types of events.
Fortech Manufacturing Execution System (MES)
MJ Engineering recently investigated the capabilities of the new Fortech MES downtime tracking system. It is primarily a downtime viewing tool, but its capabilities extend beyond those of similar programs. This software is a high-visibility and diagnostic application that provides a micro and macro view of the manufacturing plant. It tracks downtime in two ways:
1. The software pulls information from the system’s PLC or an existing downtime tracking software. The MES system then displays this information on a graphical interface for viewing in real time. The A1Webcams camera system can be added to further track system performance, because it is integrated with a graphic display that can play video from any recorded event. The conditions displayed are: normal running, blocked, starved, and failure. When using the software, specific events can be selected, which will automatically pull the video from a DVR recording.
2. Data can be collected via live video stream. The system analyzes the live stream for abnormal movement. Initially, the normal movement is programmed, so the system will recognize any abnormal condition, including starved or blocked conveyors or dropped parts. It can even help with tracking employee safety.