These processes are time consuming and lead to operator fatigue. The epoxies themselves are only usable for 30 minutes before having to be replaced, and the delicate balance between too little epoxy used and too much leads to costly cleanup and rework.
As such, L3Harris Technologies’ production lines in Londonderry, New Hampshire, have incorporated new technology from Nordson EFD for automated dispense processes since 2020, according to Lou Veiga, L3Harris Manufacturing Engineering lead.
Virtually all of the production lines in the Integrated Vision Solutions production facility have some level of dispense as a process step, Veiga said, and the facility has now incorporated five EFD dispense systems within the product lines in the last two years.
“We started with applications that incurred a lot of operator fallout due the difficulty of the manual processes, which leads to more scrap and rework,” Veiga said. “We first targeted lines with larger volumes that could justify the cost of the system, and we’re now trying to get as much utilization out of the machine as we can, because it has been so successful in terms of repeatability of dispense.”
In fact, the lines have reduced application time by an average of 65 percent while almost completely eliminating the cleanup time for the processes by implementing the Nordson EFD system.
For epoxy, the automated dispense system is configured to use the exact amount needed for a particular step and mixes in real time, reducing waste, according to Ryan Esse, L3Harris director of Manufacturing Engineering. The Nordson EFD systems use a vision system to self-align themselves for predetermined tasks, further reducing the need for subsequent cleanup and the probability of application defects.
While other solutions in the market also have these features, L3Harris selected the Nordson family of systems because the manufacturing equipment company “put a lot of effort in their software package to make it universal to everybody,” Veiga added. This made it easy to program for new applications while maintaining repeatability and throughput time in the processes.
Operators on the lines benefit from the new implementation as well, as the automation replaces a repetitive process requiring fine motor skills.
“From an ergonomics perspective the implementation of the automated dispense systems score highly,” Dave Collins, L3Harris Environment, Safety & Health manager, noting that designing for better ergonomics in the workplace is a key goal for his department, which has been partnering with L3Harris Manufacturing Engineering to eliminate risks associated with repetitive motion. “The implementation of these automated dispensing systems plays well in meeting team goals.”
The difficult manipulation of hand-dispensing tools while holding parts or fixturing to apply bonds has been eliminated along with long periods of seated bench work – all of which can make it difficult to allow for the best ergonomic workstation design options, Collins added.
“Overall, the new equipment allows for a better work experience as reported by assemblers and operators who have worked both manually and with the new automated equipment,” he said. “Because of the obvious benefits that these systems provide, it would seem clear that their implementation may be considered an Engineering best practice.”