Live coverage of Automate UK: afternoon session

Posted on 25 Feb 2014 by The Manufacturer

Jane Gray continues blogging from#AutomateUK2014.

13.40: Steve Davis from Aston martin welcomes delegates back from lunch-time networking with insight into the luxury car firm’s use of automation.

Details of this presentation were not available for publication.

14.00: Chris Palmer, supply chain manager at P2i follows on from a popular Aston Martin video celebrating 100 years of production.

Mr Palmer explains why his hydrophobic nano-coating technology relies so heavily on automation.

P2i also manufacturers the vacuum machines which chemically bonds the coating to other materials.

“If we can fit it in the chamber we can coat it,” says Palmer as he describes some of the applications for the coating which was developed for military use – to protect soldiers from liquid chemical war fare.

In the last two to three years P2i has coated 30 million items world wide including around 65% of hearing aids “in the field”.

The coating could also be used for anti microbial applications and anti fingerprint purposes says Palmer.

Palmer gives a live demo of the coating by dunking a tissue into a cup of water and pulling it out completely dry – the tissue had P2i’s coating applied.

To achieve increased throughput, accuracy and repeatability P2i has recently switched to Siemens Simatic PLCs for its machines.

It also uses a Siemens Profibus architecture which reduces manufacturing complexity among other benefits.

In the future P2i will look to include environmentally adaptive feedback systems on its machines so that machine can autonomously optimise itself.

This ambition links to points made by Brian Holliday, Siemens, earlier in the day he notes.

14.25: Delegate asks if any car manufacturers have recently asked about coating windscreens with this technology.

Palmer responds, “not recently”. He says there have been enquiries on this head – and also from motorcycle visor makers.

14.27: Another delegate asks if the coating is food safe and if it could be used to coat stainless steel equipment in food plants.

Palmer says it has not been tried but he sees no reason why not.

The two manufacturers agreed to discuss this opportunity further.

14.30: Neil Burns of Croft Filters explains how a dabble in 3D printing led to the creation of a spin out business called Croft Additive Manufacturing.

Mr Burns recalls how the company was facing a dilemma as to whether it should “tool up” or not to deal with rare big jobs when the most common order size was for five filters – but could be as low as one or as many as 2,000.

While participating in a Fab Lab event Burns stumbled on a 3D printer and began developing a 3D printed filter.

The design potential with this new kind of automated production has opened up new markets and led to product innovation at Corft.

15.30: Mark Fisher from Jemmac talks about dealing with obsolescence.

Winning the argument of investing to protect against obsolescence is tricky if you treat it as an add on he warns.

“Protecting against obsolescence must be part of the holistic solution” – not a separate line on the budget sheet he says.

“Addressing your future obsolescence is the smart thing to do,” Fisher sums up.

But he also says that it is OK to live with obsolescence – it’s about understanding the risk and the cost and ring-fencing it.

15.45: Delegate asks Fisher what he thinks is riskier, migrating to a windows or open source network infrastructure?

Fisher responds, “If you’ve got the right people it wont matter. It’s about having the right skills.”