Adaptable Machines Meet More of Your Needs

What is an adaptable machine?

An adaptable machine is customizable with a design that adjusts to meet your needs. It can handle a variety of parts and product styles, eliminating the need for multiple machines. MJ Engineering can design an adaptable machine for you that can change the order of operations executed on a part without interrupting production. 

Why choose an adaptable machine from MJ Engineering?

Do you need a machine that can manage parts of different sizes, depending on the task required? Do you want to improve efficiency in your automated systems? If so, an adaptable machine is your best fit. Also known as flexible machining, configurable machines, adaptive machines, or adjustable—these machines not only handle a variety of production needs, they save time and effort. With no need for manual intervention to switch out parts, an adaptable machine can provide greater labor productivity. It also lowers the cost per unit produced and increases production rates because it runs more efficiently. 

Leverage MJ Engineering’s experience with adaptable machines

MJ Engineering has designed multiple adaptable machines, and we can design one for you. An example of an adjustable machine we recently created is a custom-designed oral syringe filling machine

A customer in the medical industry needed a more efficient way to fill different-sized oral syringes with liquid medications. The machine MJ Engineering developed is equipped with four, customizable grippers that can handle multiple syringe sizes (from 0.5 mL to 20 mL), and the machine is designed to fill syringes with liquids of varying viscosities at a volume as low as 0.1 mL. The machine also adjusts to fit bottles from 3 to 7.5 inches tall. The operator simply selects a pre-programmed “recipe,” which contains information about the size of the syringe and other settings, loads the bottles and syringes, and presses the foot switch to start. No other manual involvement is needed. 

Give an adaptable machine a try

Not only are our machines flexible, we are too. MJ Engineering works with you from the very beginning to discuss your machine needs, such as the range of parts, products, and sizes the machine is required to handle. We commit to creating a design adapted to your needs and budget. 

MJ Engineering Attended FANUC’s Fall Open House

“There were some interesting items on display,” said MJ Engineering President Richard Wand about the 2019 FANUC America Technology Open House, held this September in Mason, Ohio. Some of the assorted attractions included robots that can lift cars, robot jackets that can withstand extremely high temperatures, and unique feeder systems for the parts picked by robots on automated production lines.
In addition to MJ Engineering, visitors representing many industries and companies attended the show, which featured FANUC robots of varying sizes. Some of what was demonstrated is still confidential, with a lot of new technology revolving around software enhancements being rolled out later this year.

When MJ Engineering designs unique solutions for their customers, they often incorporate FANUC robots into their cells, like the ones in the photo.

Being a robotic systems integrator for decades, MJ Engineering has worked with many types of robots and accessories. However, a few items caught their attention, including a thermal jacket that can be put over a robot to protect it in temperatures up to 2100°F.
Other demonstrations showed ways to present material in robotic cells that differ from the typical centrifugal bowl feeders. “They showed some different feeding equipment and feeder systems that will make us think a little differently about how we could design and lay out a cell,” said Wand. One of the feeder systems uses a Graco G Flex parts feeder, which is a vibrating flat plate that moves the parts in a circle as the robot picks them from the plate. Another system uses a circular dial table that spins and unstacks the parts, jostling them around for the robot to grab. Both methods use a robotic vision system.

Besides all the cool things to see and learn, the open house is a great opportunity to network and develop relationships with other integrators. FANUC holds open houses around the U.S. and Canada to let visitors learn about their new technologies, products, and features, and to inspire them to think about how they could use the robots in their own facilities.

MJ Engineering Attends the “Coal Show for Coal People”

Mining is among the many industries MJ Engineering has served since its inception. For that reason, company president Richard Wand (pictured at left) makes it a point to attend the Bluefield Coal Show in Kentucky when it is put on every other year by the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce. 

Hundreds of coal-based businesses display items ranging from tools and safety vests to full-scale machines. This year’s “Coal Show for Coal People” was held in September, and attendees and exhibitors came from all over the U.S. and beyond to share and learn the latest mining innovations. 

“That’s why I go to events like this,” says Wand, “to see what people in the industry are doing and what kind of new equipment is out there. It’s also about looking at other types of advancements, such as life-saving equipment or jacking equipment to support the roof.”

Especially interesting at this year’s show was Joy’s “100 Years of Mining Innovation” display, which celebrated the company’s 100th anniversary. The photograph below shows one Joy’s early designs.

Most of what MJ Engineering does for the mining industry revolves around technical aspects of underground equipment and operator safety. For example, MJ Engineering does a lot of canopy certifications on pieces of equipment that are designed to help protect the operator.

Some of the many projects MJ Engineering has worked on over the years include designing multiple continuous miners, such as the one pictured at right, for unique mining environments throughout the world. They have also worked on a hybrid diesel-electric drivetrain on a shuttle car for a Canadian mine and finite element analysis (FEA) for a shuttle car canopy

While the mining industry has declined in the U.S. since 2012, it is still part of MJ Engineering’s core business and skill set. Today, their projects might include designing scalers for hard rock mines or designing equipment for parts of the world outside the United States.

The Joy Machine Company was founded in 1919 by Joseph Joy in Evansville, IN. Pictured is one of Joy’s unrestored loaders from the 1940s.

Collaborative Robots in Manufacturing

A collaborative robot, or cobot, is a type of robot intended to physically interact with humans in a shared workspace. These robots are usually designed for a specific task and come in handy when floor space is limited. A truly collaborative robot, like the ones produced by FANUC, Universal, OB7, AUBO Robotics, Omron, and KUKA, can be operated right next to a person without safeguarding.

But be warned. Just because you can operate a robot right next to a person does not mean you should. While a robot itself might be defined as collaborative, its application might not be. For example, if a collaborative robot has a knife on the end of its arm to cut a shape out of a piece of paper, then by code it might not have to be guarded; however, if it is using a knife that is sharp enough to cut someone, it would be dangerous and irresponsible not to put safeguards in place to protect the people around the robot.

MJ Engineering was once asked by a potential client to integrate a cobot that picked up hot plates measuring more than 200°F. The prospective client thought safeguarding was unnecessary because it was a “collaborative robot.” Not willing to compromise on safety, MJ Engineering insisted on adding safeguarding to its project plan, even though it meant losing the project to a lower bidder. You can count on MJ Engineering to always do the right thing—especially when it comes to safety.

Cobot Safety Categories

To make them safer to operate around humans, cobots are designed to exert a controlled amount of force that will not cause injury in the event of a collision with a person. For that reason, cobots are limited in the weights and speeds they can handle. Most collaborative robots on the market today have weight capacities between 6 and 10 kg. FANUC offers a 35-kg capacity cobot.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) break down collaborative safety features for robots into the following four types:

  • Power and Force Limiting—This type of robot can work alongside humans without any additional safety devices.
  • Hand Guiding—This type of cobot can be used to read forces applied on the robot tool. This application is used for hand guiding or path teaching and can only be used while the robot is performing a particular function. For other functions, it will need to have safeguarding in place.
  • Safety-Rated Monitored Stop—All movement stops when a human has entered a predetermined safety zone.
  • Speed and Separation Monitoring—Movement slows as a human enters a predetermined safety zone and eventually stops if the human gets too close. It does not need a worker to give the go-ahead to resume movement.

“Danger, Will Robinson!”

Do not confuse cobots with industrial robots that are integrated with control systems designed to slow down or stop if a person gets too close. Industrial high-speed robots can handle full payload and full movement, and they will go back to full speed as soon as the person moves away. They do not meet the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) code requirements for collaborative robots.