Novel design and development of an active
Patrick S.K. Chua
School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Purpose – This paper aims to focus on the novel design and development of an automatic feeding system which is capable of feeding cylindrical parts
which are fragile and powdery in nature and possess asymmetrical features such as a groove near to one end.
Design/methodology/approach – It is an active feeder, performing its task without having to reject any feeding part by performing active orientation
of feeding parts that are in the undesired orientation. This design incorporating active orientating capability is aimed at 100 percent feeding efﬁciency.
The system is controlled and driven by a programmable logic controller and electropneumatics.
Findings – System evaluation results showed that the average jam rate is below 5 percent and the percentage of correctly orientated parts is above
95 percent. With enhancement and ﬁne tuning, the system could become a very useful feeder for industry in the future.
Research limitations/implications – The scope of this paper focuses on presentation of the design concept, development and evaluation of the
feeder only and design calculations are not included.
Originality/value – This paper is of value to those who are involved in the manufacturing of small delicate and powdery engineering parts such as
those providing performs to the semiconductor industry for encapsulation of integrated circuit chips.
Keywords Parts, Controllers, Assembly
Paper type Research paper
In industries where assembly costs form a large portion of the
production costs, manufacturers are increasingly looking
towards assembly automation to improve efﬁciency as well as
productivity. Special purpose automatic assembly machines
are, however, only economically feasible in very large volume
production and they are usually dedicated only to that
particular product, thus lacking ﬂexibility.
There has been an increase in demand for customized products
with special features and options to meet the particular needs of
the customer. To meet this market needs, manufacturers must be
able to reduce manufacturing lead times, accommodate for
product changeovers and part design changes in order to stay
competitive. It is envisaged thatﬂexibility of the assembly systems
is the key to survival in the competitive manufacturing market.
Therefore, there is now a growing interest in the development of a
ﬂexible parts presentation system to achieve a total ﬂexible
Parts encountered in the assembly line can also be fragile,
powdery, possess asymmetrical features about one of its axes,
and can also be circular (cylindrical) in shape. To date there is
no suitable feeding system that is able to perform the task of
orientating such parts, not to mention achieving it with high
Conventional vibratory feeders commonly seen in industry
today have the following shortcomings or limitations in scope:
1 They are usually dedicated types and, therefore,
unsuitable for productions in which there are frequent
batch changes or in which the product life cycle is short.
2 They are also not suitable for fragile, delicate or powdery
parts because of the rigorous vibration of the feeder.
3 The orientating devices used in the vibratory bowl feeders
are usually of the passive type, i.e. by rejecting parts which
travel on the track in the undesired orientation. Thus,
there is a reduction in efﬁciency.
4 They are incapable of feeding and orientating cylindrical
parts which have unsymmetrical features at the
circumference, e.g. a circumferential groove near one end
as shown in Figure 1.
Moreover, existing designs of non-vibratory feeders have similar
shortcomings as mentioned in items (1), (3) and (4) above.
Existing non-vibratory feeders are also unable to handle fragile,
powdery, asymmetrical, cylindrical parts. These limitations in
scope of existing feeding systems call for a ﬂexible, non-
vibratory gentle feeding system with active re-orientating
devices capable of orientating cylindrical parts even if these
parts have asymmetrical features such as a groove near one end.
2. Objective and scope
The objective of this work is to design and develop a ﬂexible
feeding system for small delicate powdery, and asymmetrical
cylindrical parts which have a groove at one end and of
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
27/1 (2007) 31 –37
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 0144-5154]