A flexible manufacturing system for lawnmower cutting cylinders
The thesis is concerned with the conception and design of a FLEXIBLE MANUFACTURING SYSTEM (FMS) for the automation of the manufacture of lawnmower cutting cylinders at Suffolk Lawnmowers Ltd. A review of FMS definitions, planning methods and current systems is carried out for the development of a suitable FMS configuration for the final stages of manufacture of grass cutting cylinders having 21 different design specifications. This involves examination of the capabilities of robotics and microcontrollers to automate the technologies used in cylinder production. The company's current manual batch production system is analysed to determine the suitable form and requirements of the FMS. This includes analyses of annual volumes, throughputs, batch sizes, product and process mixes. Long term objectives to automate the system are identified from which short term objectives are derived. The FMS recommended for immediate development encompasses the short term objectives for the welding, hardening, grinding and transfer processes of 8 cutting cylinder specifications. It is shown that the MIG (Argon/C02) are welding, progressive flame hardening and wide-face cylindrical grinding processes can be developed successfully to automate cylinder production. The recommended system integrates these processes into an FMS through the'automatic handling of cylinders (through three process routes) by a robotic manipulator utilising a double gripper. 'A robotic welding station, manually loaded, is also recommended. ' The system is controlled overall by a 32K microcontroller with the process machines individually controlled by programmahle logic controllers with up to 6K of memory each. The economic appraisal of the FMS indicates a 4.4 year payback based on direct labour and material cost savings. The company's application for grant aid to implement the FMS design has led to an offer of a Department of Industry grant to cover 50% of all capital and revenue costs. The grant of £166,943 reduces the payback period to 2.3 years.