Friday, April 20, 2018
Publication Date: 05/1/2008
Archive >  May 2008 Issue >  Production > 
Lean, Mean and ESD-Free Workstations

Wanted: Improved lean manufacturing methods, enhanced assembly agility, and protection for delicate components such as circuit boards and electronic devices from harmful static discharges. This was the wish list at a leading manufacturer of precision, solid-state control and monitor units for fluid handling and distribution systems for scientific, medical and analytical equipment.

Finding a single yet economical solution to all three became a challenge, one that was answered with new U-shaped assembly stations and parts storage, flow and presentation racks — all designed and built to application-specific requirements using the Creform® System from Creform Corporation. The custom-configured structures eliminated the lead time and high costs associated with typical special order logistical equipment because the Creform system encourages innovative concepts and provides adaptive latitudes in creating performance-driven products.

And, with over 700 components in the system's offering, structures can be built utilizing the company's ESD rated elements, for the safe control of static during transport, storage and flow, and assembly operations of critical circuit boards and electronics. Traditional in-stock type workstations, benches and tables, though economical, use heavy duty construction that far exceeded the load capacity required here. And with such capacity comes weight, making the workstations difficult to move around. Instead, the fluid control manufacturer sought not only a new workstation design/construction, but a handling system that supported its extensive mix of product while providing the flexibility required. The new work cell configurations are based on the original Creform-made bench style structure, but offer expansive ergonomics and efficiencies with a consolidated layout, compact size and easy access for multiple processes. The U-shaped cell configuration eliminates wasted space so operators can move swiftly within structures. The inherent ergonomic principles minimize reach distances, handling effort and help reduce worker fatigue. The U-cell workstations feature simple design concepts to meet custom application requirements, thanks to the adaptive nature of the Creform-build structures. The plastic-coated steel pipe sections are easily cut to plan lengths, while assembly utilizes nickel-plated metal joints that tighten onto pipe sections with a threaded fastener.

For the control manufacturer, this simple and flexible construction technique allows structures to be altered, expanded, extended, dismantled and re-assembled in a matter of hours — if not minutes — to suit production changes. And, to match production capacity to varying demand levels, the units can be quickly disassembled for storage when not needed, or expanded for high-demand periods. One of the important features of the Creform System is the fact that the U-Cell concept is only one of the possible, virtually limitless configurations that can be employed, among which can be mobile push carts, racks for storage or streaming parts or containers to work points. The entire lineup of ESD elements within the Creform System consists of parts with anti-static coatings and conductive plating that eliminate static buildup. The ESD components include 28mm diameter standard size pipe, flat-sided slide pipe, and an L-channel slide pipe. ESD pipe sections are offered in black, white, gray and ivory colors — with a white stripe identifying the ESD grade. Most Creform metal joints are available with a nickel plating to dissipate static, plus a selection of height adjusting feet, grounding end caps, a variety of casters and "skatewheel" style conveyor sections for flow rack channels are ESD rated, too. A new 42mm diameter pipe, up to 2.5 times stronger than the standard pipe, is also available for ESD applications that allow for stronger load handling capacities while minimizing bracing and stiffening requirements.

For ease of construction in applications, the pipe sections are cut to required plan lengths with either a manual pipe cutter or a powered pipe cutter, or using a band saw or chop saw. For assembly, the metal joints tighten onto pipe sections using a single threaded fastener for each pipe insertion. Joint configurations include tee, 3-pipe intersection/corner, 3-pipe intersection, cross-pipe intersection, double-pipe connection, 45° and adjustable angle joints. Accessories compatible with ESD requirements include conveyor mounting hardware, pipe clamps, grounding caps, and pipe end plugs.

For diversity, the fluid control manufacturer developed a host of assembly stations incorporating storage shelving plus large, floor standing flow racks while, for added flexibility, some units included bench-top, smaller flow racks and portable storage/presentation racks that could be moved to different stations when needed. Also, while many units were constructed using stationary foot pads, other structures, along with transport carts, were produced with maneuverable and easy-steer ESD casters to accommodate layout changes and moving for housekeeping chores or maintenance. The casters have lock mechanisms for stability when structures are used for stationary functions.

Though not currently in use at the control manufacturer's facility, the Creform ESD mobile cart units allow for additional upgrade in the future by including a bolt-on drive mechanism to create an Automated Guided Vehicle system. The use of floor mounted magnetic induction tape and AGV-attached sensors as its guide path layout (no floor tear-up/repair) makes for an economical and easy-to-install introduction to AGV efficiency.

Contact: Creform Corp., P.O. Box 830, Greer, SC 29652-0830 800-839-8823 fax: 864-877-3863 E-mail: Web:

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