Adding Capacity, Not Overhead

Automation Engineering Capacity Needed

The client company approached SGW Designworks with a problem. They had successfully sold a medium-sized automation project to a manufacturer, but their internal engineering team was booked up with other projects. To deliver the automation cell on time, they would need help. SGW Designworks reviews the conceptual design of the cell, the work required to fully engineer the system, and the timeframe requirements. It looked like a match: SGW Designworks would be able to apply mechanical engineers and machine designers to the project and produce full assembly level 3D models as well as all 2D drawings for fabrication and assembly. Work ramped up almost immediately.

Automated Tray / De-Tray System

The project focused on a 2-stage system, In the first stage, boxes came down a conveyor belt, and robotic arms shifted them into a grid pattern. Once the grid was completed, it was pushed off the belt into a tray. In the second stage, the same grids were picked and de-trayed, then placed onto another conveyor for processing. Feeding into both the tray and de-tray cells was managed by vision systems and rotary encoders, which were integrated into the design by SGW Designworks. A proprietary processing element of the system was developed by the client company. End-of-arm tools were a combination of commercially available items and custom elements designed by SGW Designworks.

The client and SGW Designworks planned weekly project meetings to make sure things stayed on track. Primary contact from both companies acted as the conduits of information between the two organizations, ensuring efficient communication. This project required frequent review of sub-system designs by the end user. Each of those design cycles represented a potential calendar slip if user feedback took too long. All parties committed to tight feedback loops to keep project velocity up.

Throughout the engineering effort, the team focused on delivering to the defined specs provided by the client. While the initial system concept was developed by the client, actual system engineering and design was provided by SGW Designworks. But the client and end user were open to new ideas from SGW Designworks about how to achieve the target performance. During development, the SGW team found a problem with one of the robotic arms specified: a new system requirement meant that the arm’s reach would be insufficient. SGW was able to analyze the impact of switching to a different arm, and validate the new approach. During design, available overhead space changed for part of the system. This meant the mounting location for part of the vision system had to change, which meant the original vision equipment would not work due to focal length and lighting limitations. A rapid re-design of the vision system was required, and executed by the SGW team within the existing project schedule. Late in development, the mix of box dimensions that the system would handle changed. SGW Designworks was able to design more efficient loading scenarios, which would lead to improved throughput long term.


SGW Designworks delivered complete models and 2D drawing packages as promised. Sourcing, fabrication, assembly, and FAT all went as planned.

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