Vacuum Lifter Automation
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  1. #1
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    Default Vacuum Lifter Automation

    I'm designing a simple automated vacuum lifter, from a converted 3D printer.

    The application: this only requires one movement on the Z axis. The manifold needs to move down, activate air (picking up parts), move back up, and release the parts onto a placed tray.


    I have little experience with the electronic side of things.

    I need to program and coordinate the pneumatics with the Z travels/timing, activation, etc.

    EX:
    The manifold moves down the Z axis... how do I set up the pneumatic part to activate. Do I need a solenoid valve and how I would integrate something like that, with the rest of the program/setup?
    Most likely a solenoid doesn't use G-code.

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    Is your plan to run this from a CNC machine or a stand alone?

    How much of the 3D printer do you plan on using such as the controller and the axis drivers?

    Normally for an automation project, you would use a PLC to do the automation logic and control and use a couple of machine M codes to act as interlocks for communication between the CNC and the automation. Typical interface would be Start automation part handling coming from the CNC control to the automation PLC. A signal from automation PLC to CNC would be a Part Handling Complete signal. You could add a second signal of the automation PLC to report a Fault condition.

    Not sure exactly what you want to accomplish but if it is for actual production type application you should probably utilize a method of using prox sensors at each end of motion travel. This allows the PLC to know exactly what the status of the automation is at any point in time. It also makes error detction and handling simpler.

    Timers will work for doing this but they will be problematic in getting everything to play well. The issue is that timers are set duration and assume that the motion or operation is complete at the end of the timed interval. If the motion hangs for whatever reason, the timer will just go on to the next step. This will lead to a motion crash.

    The vacuum part handler will need several control devices. Assuming the vacuum is generated by compressed air, you will want an air on/off solenoid to control the compressed air.

    Compressed air vacuum generators do not produce a suitable vacuum rapidly so you really should use a vacuum storage tank that is also has a vacuum on/off solenoid that goes to the pickup devices. you should also have a vacuum break solenoid that will allow for rapid break of the vacuum. This will also require a solenoid valve to act as a vent line.

    Depending on the requirements, you will also probably want to detect a suitable vacuum level in the storage tank. You will also need to match your vacuum pucks to the shape and mass of the part you are moving. This will affect the vacuum generator specifications.

    This is probably more complicated then what you had in mind however this method will probably get you going the quickest with the least amount of development debugging. You can probably get by with a cheap PLC from some place like automation direct. If you chose the solenoids properly, you should be able to drive them directly from output lines of the PLC otherwise you will need to use interposing relays to drive the coils.

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    Thank you for the detailed reply!

    This will be a stand alone setup.

    I'll use most of the 3D printer parts, but Ill add on/buy parts as necessary.

    The automation part is again, simply moving on the Z axis, and picking up parts that weigh less than 10 grams each. The vacuum cup diameter will be ~20 mm in diameter. 35 cups in the manifold.

    With PLC's my knowledge is still limited in how to integrate with 3D printing electronics. Example, one process looks like this: a switch is manually activated, this moves the manifold -Z (3D printer), it hits a proximity sensor (PLC), the air is shut off (pneumatic) releasing the parts.
    My issue is understanding how to integrate these to work as a system.

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    Quote Originally Posted by teachme View Post
    Thank you for the detailed reply!

    This will be a stand alone setup.

    I'll use most of the 3D printer parts, but Ill add on/buy parts as necessary.

    The automation part is again, simply moving on the Z axis, and picking up parts that weigh less than 10 grams each. The vacuum cup diameter will be ~20 mm in diameter. 35 cups in the manifold.

    With PLC's my knowledge is still limited in how to integrate with 3D printing electronics. Example, one process looks like this: a switch is manually activated, this moves the manifold -Z (3D printer), it hits a proximity sensor (PLC), the air is shut off (pneumatic) releasing the parts.
    My issue is understanding how to integrate these to work as a system.
    What kind of cycle time do you have in mind?

    Do you plan on putting the try in place by hand?

    Depending on your exact parts selection, you will likely drive the solenoid directly from the PLC output line. Some of this gets into NPN vs PNP but most PLC output 24VDC on the output line to ground. Your challenge of using the existing printer parts could be that they are likely 5VDC. Non of these issues are insurmountable but gets gritty in the details.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ziggy2 View Post
    What kind of cycle time do you have in mind?

    Do you plan on putting the try in place by hand?

    Depending on your exact parts selection, you will likely drive the solenoid directly from the PLC output line. Some of this gets into NPN vs PNP but most PLC output 24VDC on the output line to ground. Your challenge of using the existing printer parts could be that they are likely 5VDC. Non of these issues are insurmountable but gets gritty in the details.
    I dont have a cycle time in mind yet, however it can be as long as 5 minutes/cycle. There will be a maximum of 30 cycles total.

    The tray will be placed by hand.

    Ill have to look into that, so far it flew over my head. But this is great information!

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    I picked up some 1 axis g-code controllers from a chinese manufacturer for pretty cheap. It sends step/dir signals directly to a stepper motor driver, and has two digital inputs and two digital outputs.

    I haven't used it because the coil winding machine it was for would do better with two synchronized axis. But you have good options if you search for g-code controllers.

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    I've been thinking about the same but I have a 2-storey home and 3 kids as well to worry about presence detection.

    I guess the next step for you is to use location data to tell the vacuum cleaner to return to base early if someone is getting close to home.

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    Quote Originally Posted by reviewcart View Post
    I've been thinking about the same but I have a 2-storey home and 3 kids as well to worry about presence detection.

    I guess the next step for you is to use location data to tell the vacuum cleaner to return to base early if someone is getting close to home.

    HUH? (is not ten characters)


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