Precise and stiff handling with modular components

Rationalizing and speeding up the design and the assembling of industrial automation plants.

Fig. 1 – Typical assembly of an industrial automation system by means of the V-Lock system. All components have a common interface that allows their fast connection without plates or adapters.
Fig. 1 – Typical assembly of an industrial automation system by means of the V-Lock system. All components have a common interface that allows their fast connection without plates or adapters.

The handling market segment, which concerns all components used in industrial automation, is a constantly growing market. More and more sophisticated actuators, either pneumatic or electric, guides, slides and pliers constitute the material with which automation system engineers deal every day. In the past, the trend of in-house manufacturing some components or parts of the machine was more diffused: the producer implemented the component and the machine manufacturer was committed to studying the interface between one component and the other. Despite the presence of holes and/or truing, for this goal it was always necessary to make an intermediate adapter permitting to interface the two components. This meant spending time and money for the design and implementation of interfaces. For systems currently available on the market, which provide for a broad range of interfacing plates to connect the various components, the customer is anyway compelled to lose time browsing big catalogues, searching for the most suitable adapter. In an increasingly dynamic market and for machines required to provide utmost flexibility, the demand is growing for complete and finished components and/or systems, supplied by a single supplier responsible for the plant, able to grant fast assembling and/or reconfiguration. The final customer can therefore focus on its core business, on the machine, without lavishing energies in the design of single components or assemblies.

Speeding up design and assembling
The V-Lock project, developed by Metal Work at Concesio (BS), operating for years in the automation sector, was conceived to give a concrete answer to all those requirements and can supply not only extremely innovative components but also a complete, modular and integrated system, where all components are provided with a standard interface that allows the fast error-free connection of the various components one another, in simple, precise and repeatable manner, without turning to adapters or interface plates (fig. 1).

Fig. 2 –“K” fixing bracket for the V-Lock system. Very light and precise, it allows the fast fixing of each component of the system.
Fig. 2 –“K” fixing bracket for the V-Lock system. Very light and precise, it allows the fast fixing of each component of the system.

The same interface enables the immediate connection of whatever component with another simple fixing bracket “K”, the access is lateral and pieces can be connected one another directly (fig. 2). We can imagine the great advantages for a designer who can choose the most suitable component for its use, without taking care of adapters. An end-user with automated lines in production as well, in case of execution of line modifications for a changeover, would be compelled to provision new interfaces and maybe to modify some machine parts. The V-Lock system allows instead changing the actuator and/or modifying its position, reconfiguring the machine, without having to design or acquire any adapter: when necessary, it is sufficient to browse the catalogue and to order the new actuator equipped with the standard interface for the system (fig. 3).

Fig. 3 – Assembling of components on an automation system: a) by means of adapter, b) by means of standardized “K” V-Lock bracket.
Fig. 3 – Assembling of components on an automation system by means of standardized “K” V-Lock bracket.

Metal Work has established a collaboration with the Swiss Montech that relies on a similar system with the same dovetail, but without the transversal slots. This allows also a millimetre regulation of the fixing position (Quick Set system), while the V-Lock allows the positioning with fixed pitch of 20 mm, in this case permitting to dismount and to reposition a component in the same exact position it had before. The machine designer can therefore connect the actuator by using both the standard K and the standard QS (quick set). Moreover, the V-Lock system is equipped with a series of plates and adapters for the highest design freedom. The universal Transformer plate allows easily connecting a component that is not part of the V-Lock system with a V-Lock structure or vice versa a V-Lock component with a non-V-Lock structure, allowing fixing immediately whatever additional component (valves, treatment groups etc.) with an existing structure.
The support to the design of an industrial automation system supplied by Metal Work is today well-structured and, besides the sales network and the Technical division’s support, the customer can download from Metal Work site apposite software developed for design. Easy Robotic for the sizing of handling components, Easy Sizer for the sizing of pneumatic components and the pneumatic Easy Scheme CAD.

Fig. 4 – Two electrical axes Metal Work SHAK used on an industrial automation machine.
Fig. 4 – Two electrical axes Metal Work SHAK used on an industrial automation machine.

The V-Lock® world
The equipment of components of this system is very wide. It includes standard components opportunely modified with V-Lock couplings and components specifically implemented for the system. The rodless pneumatic cylinder, with re- circulating ball pad guide, has V-Lock interface manufactured on carriage support and it is available with 16, 25 and 32 mm bores. CMPGK guided compact cylinders are prearranged with dovetail slots on the front plate and on one of the three body sides. The compact precision slide series S14K, purposely designed for the V-Lock system, is equipped with preloaded re-circulating ball carriage and stop position repeatability of 0.02 mm (fig.5) and it can be supplied in the version prearranged to have three work positions, too. GDHK/GDMK guide units, with possible coupling with cylinders compliant with ISO 6432 and ISO 15552 regulations, are available with bronze-type or with re-circulating ball bushes and have positioning repeatability of ±0.02 mm. The agreement with Montech has also allowed implementing some of that company’s components modified with dovetail and typical V-Lock slots to offer an even more complete range of components. This range includes the rodless electrical cylinder SHAK series, real electrical axis with V-Lock interface on two sides and on the mobile plate, handling through reinforced belt with inner tensioning system (fig. 6).

Fig. 5 – Section of the compact precision slide S14K. Thanks to the preloaded re-circulating ball carriage, it allows a position repeatability up to 0.02 mm.
Fig. 5 – Section of the compact precision slide S14K. Thanks to the preloaded re-circulating ball carriage, it allows a position repeatability up to 0.02 mm.

Metal Work R3K rotary actuators are now available with V-Lock interface and they are completed by the DAPK rotary actuators that, thanks to a patented system of backlash recovery between pinion and rack, allow extreme repeatability precision (under 0.01°) and long service life. Besides, they are available with two, three and four positions, all adjustable. LEPK linear units, with pneumatic cylinder and guide fully embedded into the body profile, feature repeatability precision inferior to 5 µm, and are totally closed for higher safety and operation silence.
The already broad range of Metal Work pneumatic pliers is now available with V-Lock interface, too, implemented on the bottom plate and completed by the two pliers with two parallel fingers and long GPLK stroke, with automatic backlash recovery due to the double rack and with the characteristic of having very flat force curves, i.e. able to perform high gripping force even on the longest distances. The choice of components is facilitated by a catalogue containing all detailed technical data concerning the component operation, three-dimensional sections to show all inner components and applicative examples. Moreover, the range of V-Lock products is in constant expansion.

V-Lock ®: designing is simpler

The idea at the base of this system was standardizing the connection and assembling system among automation components, actuators, fixing elements and accessories, thus creating an integrated and modular system that allows assembling and reconfiguring quickly a machine in precise and repeatable way, without turning to specific interfaces and adapters and making the whole very stiff.

Fig. 6 – Electrical axis series SHAK. Available in two sizes, the carriage is driven by a belt reinforced with mechanical tensioning.

Practically, all components show, along the entire coupling surface length, a dovetail with 40 mm-width, with, transversally, some square slots, with 6H7 width and 20 mm pitch. A simple “K” fixing element allows a fast and sturdy anchorage between two components, with high positioning precision thanks to a squared drilled key, with 6f8 sizes (fig.2).
As alternative, the “QS” fixing bracket, of the Quick Set system by Montech®, allows the same fast and modular assembling but it permits from time to time the regulation of the assembling position, being deprived of the key. A wide range of adapters make the system universal and suitable also for all most diffused extruded profiles of handling systems, with 40 mm axis distance and 8 mm pins or 45 mm axis distance and 10 mm. pins.

Face to face with Corrado Tamiozzo

At the end of our visit, we asked some questions to the engineer Corrado Tamiozzo, product engineering in Metal Work (fig.7).
How have you attained the V-Lock system?
We have been producing industrial automation components for several years and, starting from this consolidated experience, we have decided to revise the entire handling line, characterizing it with a unique connotation, also with peculiarities expressing the originality of our system. Relevant boosts have come from our customers that design and manufacture automation systems, with which we have been collaborating for a long time. In fact, the availability of standard components that it is possible to assemble one another directly, included in our catalogue and downloadable from the web, has been a great advantage for them in terms of time and money saving. When we started devising the V-Lock system, we have conceived it as interfaceable with the system produced by Montech, company with which we have then established a mutual collaboration relationship that has permitted the integration of the respective productions, with indisputable advantages for both companies.

Fig. 7 – Mr Corrado Tamiozzo, product engineering in Metal Work.

How has the market reacted to this product?
Very well, besides, to optimize applications, we try to interact more strictly with customers for the choice of the system. Our sale managers receive a data collection sheet about the application to be implemented. According to these data, our Technical Office processes the most suitable solution for the customer, essentially concerning the electrical part, electrical components and motors.
Will you fulfil future developments of this system?
We have already installed several applications and, also due to the success and the appreciations that we receive, the range of components is in constant expansion. In the future, we will have the availability of a three electrical axis gantry and of a screw rodless electrical cylinder.
What do customers ask today to the supplier of pneumatic equipment?
Customers call for a supplier offering a more and more complete range and acting as a real global partner, able to support customers from the design to the after sale service, in Italy and abroad. Moreover, higher attention is paid to the regulatory aspect to which instruments must conform, from Atex regulations to the directives for alimentary uses, up to the regulations for chemical or bio-medical applications.
What are the company’s ambitions for the next future?
The automation sector is certainly a market segment that is constantly growing and we intend to consolidate our presence with the continuous commitment to the development of new products, as the V-Lock system witnesses. Generally, systems will be more and more integrated, with data collection, interaction with electronic systems, approach to the fieldbus world. With constant focus on reliability and price. At the same time, we do not want to neglect the traditional sectors where we have been operating for a long time, ambits where we keep on investing to improve the product, which must be more and more performing and competitive at the same time, in rising markets, too. The key is a constant innovation, allowing us to stand out with a forefront product, as we have demonstrated to be able to do along all these years.

Metal Work
Established in 1967 as producer of push-in fittings for compressed air systems, today Metal Work is a leader company in the pneumatic sector, specialized in the production of components for industrial automation machines and systems. The production range includes valves, FRL units, fittings and handling components. The company’s headquarters are at Concesio (BS), where are employed over 300 workers. The sale structure relies on 46 branches in Italy and abroad for a widespread service on the territory, which rises the total of the Group’s employees to 600 people. In addition to the subsidiaries, Metal Work relies on a net of 45 distributors in Italy and in the world. The company has been ISO 9001 certified since 1992 and ISO 14001 since 2000. In 2007, it achieved also the OHSAS 18001 certification on the Management System of Workers’ Safety and Health. The 2014 turnover exceeded 147 million Euros, of which about 55% generated by foreign markets.