igus has commissioned an assembly line at its UK facility in Northampton for rapid manufacturing of readycable. Representing another significant investment for company, this time worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, the new assembly line uses fully-automated machines and lean manufacturing methods to streamline the manufacturing process and deliver fully-harnessed drive cables that can be shipped within 24 hours of order placement. In contrast, other suppliers of cables for applications such as servo drives quote lead times of weeks - one customer recently told igus they had been quoted 16 weeks.
Follow the link to watch a short video of the readycable cable manufacturing process.
Machine builders often do not know how long their cables will be until the machine has been finished and the required cable lengths measured on the machine. And by this point, the machine builder is likely to need the cables quickly in order that subsystems can be powered-up and tested. The shortened lead time offered by igus will be of significant benefit in these circumstances. Rapid delivery will also be a great help in the event of cables being damaged, as downtime is extremely costly in some industries.
Matthew Aldridge, managing director of igus UK, comments: "A few years ago, our sole focus was on selling plastic bearings, energy chains and cables with little assembly work. More recently we have stepped into robotics and automation based on our component parts and are now investing in automation ourselves to enable us to move into assembly within the UK."
Historically, igus used to assemble cables manually by cutting back the outer jacket, teasing out the shielding, then stripping the insulation from each of the inner cores and applying crimps; this is a time-consuming and laborious process. Now these operations are each fully automated using the new readycable assembly line, which igus says ensures 100 per cent quality.
The machines installed in Northampton are identical to those already in place in igus factories in Germany, Spain and Poland, so the assembly process is well understood and proven within the company.
24-hour lead time
Matthew Aldridge adds: "We have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on machines to automate this process, cutting lead times from six or even ten weeks down to 24 hours. The chainflex cable is cut to length from our extensive stock held in Northampton and all common connector components are available ex-stock. This total package means that customers will usually receive their readycable the next working day, fully-tested with a guaranteed service life. All this automation does not mean that we will be shedding jobs; this automated assembly line will enable us to grow our business, creating more jobs for the area."
When customers use the online configurator they can specify cables that are identical to standard cables from other manufacturers, but they also have the option of specifying higher-specification outer jackets if the application could benefit from this. In addition, any length of cable can be specified, so there is no need for extra loops of cables to be tied out of the way - or to pay for copper that is not required.
By investing in multiple crimping machines, igus has avoided the need for tooling changes, which is a major factor in maintaining production flexibility and short lead times. As with the readycables that were previously produced by hand at Northampton, those produced in the new assembly cell will be 100 per cent tested prior to being labelled for traceability, and every cable is supplied with a test certificate.
Follow the link for more information about ready-to-install readycable.