Improve Your Feeder Bowl System (and Other Standard Equipment) with IO-Link

One of the most common devices used in manufacturing is the tried and true feeder bowl system. Used for decades, feeder bowls take bulk parts, orients them correctly and then feeds them to the next operation, usually a pick-and-place robot. It can be an effective device, but far too often, the feeder bowl can be a source of cycle-time slowdowns. Alerts are commonly used to signal when a feed problem is occurring but lack the exact cause of the slow down.

feeder bowl

A feed system’s feed rate can be reduced my many factors. Some of these include:

  • Operators slow to add parts to the bowl or hopper
  • Hopper slow to feed the bowl
  • Speeds set incorrectly on hopper, bowl or feed track
  • Part tolerance drift or feeder tooling out of adjustment

With today’s Smart IO-Link sensors incorporating counting and timing functions, most of the slow-down factors can be easily seen through an IIoT connection. Sensors can now time how long critical functions take. As the times drift from ideal, this information can be collected and communicated upstream.

A common example of a feed system slow-down is a slow hopper feed to the bowl. When using Smart IO-Link sensors, operators can see specifically that the hopper feed time is too long. The sensor indicates a problem with the hopper but not the bowl or feed tracks. Without IO-Link, operators would simply be told the overall feed system is slow and not see the real problem. This example is also true for the hopper in-feed (potential operator problem), feed track speed and overall performance. All critical operations are now visible and known to all.

For examples of Balluff’s smart IO-Link sensors, check out our ADCAP sensor.

I’ve got the Feeder Bowl Blues (not to be confused with “Feed Bag Blues”)

Honestly, every day we run into one of the most commonly seen and vital categories of automation equipment imaginable on the factory floor – the good old automation stalwart servant, the feeder bowl.

These devices are imperative to successful automated assembly processes and are used in hundreds of applications in factory automation.   But the successful and timely, synchronous delivery and individual of components provided by the feeder bowl from the bowl itself through the feed track system, is dependent on reliable sensing.  If “clogs” or traffic jams occur anywhere in the pathway, it interferes with the overall timely assembly of goods, regardless of the industrial discipline.  We see a wide array of sensing technologies from manufacturer to manufacturer, regardless of the country of origin, regarding sensing in these machines.

Inductive proximity sensors, ultrasonic sensors, photoelectric types are all integrated into the tracking of screws, nuts, washers, and a wide array of other metallic and non-metallic sub components fed into the manufacturing stream. One of the most common products used in sensing components being supplied through feeder bowl tracks even today, is the separate amplifier and armor jacketed pair of fiber optic emitters/receivers.  Do they work? Absolutely.  Do they fail?  Absolutely.

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