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Farason Corporation Application Spotlight: Quick Change Mount Plate

For over thirty years, Farason Corporation has designed and delivered custom automation and robotics systems to manufacturers, shipping over 900 machines to North America, Asia, South America and Europe. The Farason team added Markforged 3D printers to boost design and production opportunities, aligned with Farason’s commitment to delivering one-of-a-kind solutions that are closely tailored to specific challenges their customers face. They used Markforged to create a custom quick change mount plate for a vacuum gripper end-of-arm tooling solution.

Quick Change Mount Plate printed in Onyx® and Continuous Carbon Fiber

The Challenge

Given that the packaged goods (filled shampoo bottles) to be moved were heavy, irregular in shape, and moving quickly down the line, conventional off- the-shelf packaging solutions rated for the lift transfer weighed too much for the payload limits for the robot, preventing the target cycle rate and move distances. With a large product mix, removing and replacing Quick Change Mount Plate printed in Onyx® and Continuous Carbon Fiber Custom EOAT was needed, but conventional (Delrin custom milled parts) are a poor solution: a single-product solution for each changeover would negatively impact the production schedule, and fail to scale affordably to suit changes in available robots and packages conveyed.

According to the Farason team, custom EOAT was needed, but conventional (Delrin custom milled parts) are a poor solution: 

  • The parts are costly, and may still be too heavy for high cycle rates.
  • Performance optimized EOAT requires several costly milling setups to deliver features along multiple axes,resulting in higher costs and longer lead times when produced out of house.
  • Further weight reduction stages can improve lightweighting, but can overwork a part, increasing the risk of scrap, and introducing additional delays.
  • Producing one-off custom EOAT doesn’t scale well for changes in automation platforms and product packaging.

The Solution

Richard Cook, R&D Support Engineer for Farason, leveraged the capabilities of industrial 3D printing in combination with other machine components to create a custom quick change mount plate and receiver plate system. These hybrid parts reduced the size, weight, and part count of a conventional vacuum gripper end-of-arm tooling quick change system, while also incorporating trusted gripper components. Richard Cook highlighted that the resulting lightweighted EOAT solution, not only achieved an 80 pieces-per-minute cycling rate, including long moves of over 26 inches, but this production-capable solution allowed for toolless changeovers when swapping between the product- facing receiver plates.

Christian Weder, Design Support Engineer, fills a key capacity supporting the 3D printed part design and fabrication with the Markforged equipment at Farason. He said, “choosing 3D printing as the basis for this tool was really nice, and allowed us to incorporate machine parts while really cutting down the amount of aluminum. Keeping this tool light is super important because of how fast we’re moving.” Christian Weder went on to note that an alternative part made from machined Delrin would be unlikely to achieve the same robotic payload target weight, and efforts to further remove extraneous material and add features puts a milled part at risk for scrapping, dramatically increasing the time to deliver to the customer.

 “I know if the customer needs another part in a year, we will be able to produce it. The printed part is going to fit, it’s not going to be a different strength or surface finish, or other elements that might be a challenge for the customer.”
– Richard Cook, R&D Support Engineer, Farason Corporation
Quick Change Mount Plate printed in Onyx® and Continuous Carbon Fiber

Farason Corporation uses a Markforged X7™ industrial printer to produce the parts in Markforged Onyx®, with additional continuous carbon fiber to reinforce where appropriate for a part suited to lengthy deployments and multiple changeover cycles. They needed Markforged to deliver the complex part geometry in a suitably strong material, incorporating routing and mounting features necessary for adding the non-printed components into the CAD design. This eliminates the many milling setups involved in cutting features in multiple-axes using conventional tooling. Next, they were able to incorporate simple metal parts such as washer and nut plates and the vacuum gripper components right into the assembly to produce a reinforced, functional tool without exceeding the weight requirements. 

By forgoing costly one-off conventional fabrication routes, the Farason team were able to scale their solution to meet evolving needs. After confirming and testing their design, they were able to then deploy the solution to four robots, adding a series of product- matched receiver plates. Using 3D printing for the receiving plates as well made it possible to add further options to their customers, even after delivering and installing the quick change mount plate. 

Richard Cook points to other benefits of including 3D printing in this design: on-part text, snap clamps for the articulating lock barrels, a one-way-only tab, and a depression for the color swatch for the product receiver label. These extra elements aid with the toolless changeover process, and are achieved without increasing weight. “3D printing, “ Richard says, “kept us within the robot payload and inertia limits, because that thing was flat out flying.” 

But according to Richard Cook, the most important factor to the Farason team regarding their commitment to Markforged equipment comes down to a single word: Consistency. “I know if the customer calls in a year and needs another one,” Richard says, “I’ll be able to produce it. The printed part is going to fit, and it’s not going to be a different strength or have a different surface finish, or other elements that might be a challenge for the customer. It’s going to be the same by all reasonable measures.” 

Markforged Advantages

  • The Farason team reported that the Markforged solution is 25% of the costs of their conventional CNC milling approach.
  • Parts reduction: streamlines the number of machine components needed by
  • Lighter and more performative 3D printed EOAT can achieve more cycles.
  • Produce in hours instead of weeks; create multiples as needed.
  • Reduce inventory costs by printing on demand.

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