BOTTLE COUNTER, Engineering technology (instrumentation and control system)
Grocers and food industry players have caught on to the trend of automating their operations. Such automations include Automated and Semi Automated Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) which include stacker cranes, conveyers and sorting systems and guided automatic vehicles in such facilities. However, such automation of operations is expensive, thus only big firms, which have adequate funds are able to purchase the automated systems. In addition, the need for reducing costs and increased complexity in handling, shipping, storage, receiving and delivery of products from suppliers and to clients necessitated for the adoption of systems that would be able to handle such complexities. Moreover, employing people to handle goods that have been packed in a complex way, proved to be cumbersome and expensive for distributors, manufacturers and suppliers. Manual handling and packaging of products can be a tedious process such that it results in hiring of more labour to handle the large orders or increased demand.
The use of automated processes in handling of products during production or more so during packaging ensures the achievement of different objectives at once. The company is able to achieve adequate spacing by use of automation in processes, reduction of labour costs as some processes are automated thus labour required is minimal. Furthermore, the automation of processes helps to reduce cases of injury to employees during processes, which is costly to a company. Thus, it also enables to keep in line with trends in safety of the workers in a factory or warehouse.
The purpose of an intelligent artificial system to count bottles is to increase efficiency in the production process in an industry that is involved in packaging using bottles. Automation reduces the amount of packaging errors accrued from defects on bottles or wrong packaging because of missing information. This reduces time and costs incurred if a manual system were used. Moreover, the use of an intelligent system ensures accuracy in packaging because they are sensitive to errors or defects because of the complex programming that dwells on details of the bottles to ensure that they are perfect (Fuhrman, 45). In addition, the idea was influenced by the market need for a system that would reduce time spent in counting bottles.
The idea behind the project is to create a machine that will count the empty bottles from the full bottles. The counter functions in such a way that bottles will be moving on a steel roller sandwiched between two wooden sheets. There will be two gates, one for the empty bottles and another for the full bottles. The counter will function in such a way that all bottles pass aboard the rollers and the empty bottles and full bottles are detected by laser photo sensor that is programmed to alert the two gates when an empty or full bottle is identified. The full bottles are allowed passing whereas the empty ones are retrieved and passed through the second passage for the empty bottles (Koelsch, 78).
Bottle counter system can be used in different industries such as beverages, medicine and the bottle recycling industries. The system works in a way that it identifies defects in bottles before letting them pass on to the next process of packaging.
The idea is from the industrial trends and needs for systems that will allow automation for handling bottles in beverage industries or industries that deal with products packaged in bottles. The need for automation for such processes has been because of the dire need for error proof systems in packaging of bottled products in comparison with manual packaging methods, which are susceptible to human error.
Bottle counting systems are used mostly in factories that make products, which require packaging only in bottles. Such companies are beverage manufacturers, paint manufacturers, medicine manufacturers, and deodorants among others. The use of such automated systems enables such companies to keep in check the quantities of the products produced. Automation has become a vital aspect in manufacturing because it has enhanced accuracy in the production process. In addition it has enabled ease it adjustments in the production process.
For establishment of a Sorter, several components need be present to assemble the system. The components are rollers, wood, a pair of photo sensors also known as the photo electric switch (E3Z-R61), a pair of receiving buckets, bottles, a wooden base, LED lights, a relay chip and a microcontroller. The sensor is connected to the relay and the relay is connected to the mechanical arm. The Sensors are connected to a power source to start functioning (Koelsch, 78).
A relay is an electronic switch, which is used where there is need for controlling a circuit by a lower power signal. The advantage of using relays is their ability to withstand high voltage, which is found in automated machines industries. A photo sensor is an image sensor, which has an integrated electric circuit, which has several pixel sensors and active amplifiers. They are able focus on little details, which are then transmitted for interpretation. LED lights are used to display the number of bottles which are either full or empty as identified by the photo sensors. The preferable because they are cheap to maintains as they do not consume a lot of energy in comparison to their predecessors, which consume relatively high levels of energy. In addition their displays are clearly visible by the operators even form far distances or different angles. There are cube reflectors that reflect laser light cast on an object such that they enable shortening of the sensing distance of the photo sensors. A microcontroller is a relatively small computer that is able to perform embedded functions. They are usually used in automated processes because of their ability to function with speed and relative ease in comparison to microprocessors. They are at times formed by the integration of analog components needed to control electronic systems, which are not digital in nature. Microcontrollers are able to function on low operation levels as they rely on commands such as button presses to begin full throttle functions. In the low function levels, they do not consume high electricity, which makes them favourable among manufacturers. Rollers facilitate the movement of bottles in a systematic manner such that they do so in a chronological order.
A sorter works by use of its visual ability to detect irregularities in bottles such that those that have defects are separated from those that are fit to proceed to the next level of processing. A sorter usually performs varied visual checks to ensure that a bottle is fit to proceed to the next level. Bottles arrive from one phase of production into the sorter. The intelligence programmed into the visual laser sensors evaluates each bottle on its own to ensure that the bottle does not have defects, which might render the product useless (Fuhrman, 45).
Artificial intelligence is the backbone of a sorter such that it is able to identify the right bottles and the wrong bottles. In addition, it checks if the bottles are full and have satisfied the right criteria for packaging. The intelligence in the lasers is found in a transmitter, which translates and sends information into a form that can be interpreted by man. A digital imager inside the sensors sends data to a processor that has field programmable gate arrays to speed up results (Fuhrman, 45).
The microcontroller functions in a way that it solely relies on commands from operators on the rate at which it is supposed to count the bottles depending on the number of bottles moving on the rollers. This relates to the rate of production thus depending on the production process the operator is able to adjust the speed. Hence, at low production process the user is able to adjust the function of the microcontroller and reduce the consumption of electricity by the microcontroller. The microcontroller is important because it can be used form distances of up to 300 metres from where the process is taking place.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION:
A relay consists of two separate circuits that depend on each other for smooth function. The relay initiates and controls the flow of current in the sorter. The relay conducts electric current to the sensors depending on the required amount of current and tasks that the sensor is required to carry out. The conveyor is connected to an independent electric source and is brought into the strong bay. The sensor identifies the bottle according to how it is programmed. The lab provided the necessary support in provision of a venue and equipment to produce a project, which I thought as impossible. The sorter developed was a clear illustration of the changes that the automation world has undergone aided by the development and advancement of new technologies.
The university lab enabled the conduct of research about development of identical products in the automotive industry. The products required a lot of money to purchase because of the current high prices of products due to inflation. The components can be bought from any dealer of automotive parts. However, in a market flooded with cheap counterfeit products it is advisable to purchase such parts form an authorised dealer and to ensure to have a warranty for the parts bought. It is advisable to make purchases in bulk in order to get discounts on the purchases. It was difficult to assemble the Sorter because of the intricacies involved in assembly of the parts. The project required a lot of patience because of mismatching the parts. However, the system can be improved by the use of remote access controllers or M-controllers (Koelsch, 78). The controllers can be used to connect machines from distances a far as 300 metres. The use of Programmable Limit switches which replicates the functions of a rotary camera such that it can move at pre-programmed positions.
The project was an overall success despite the lack of funds to purchase the materials. In addition, it was difficult to assemble the parts, which required the utmost skill. The project required patience as a virtue because of the numerous times that the conjoined parts refused to work and we had to work on a trial and error basis and eventually the sorter worked after numerous tedious days spent on building and rebuilding of the parts. Automation reduces the risk of injury to people in production process. In addition, the automation of sorting of bottles ensures the reduction of defects in bottles to ensure customer satisfaction. The bottle counter will accrue many benefits if is used by a company involved in production of goods packaged into bottles by enhancing speed and accuracy in the production process hence the overall efficiency of the production process. The use of the microcontroller accrues many benefits in the production process as it serves as the heart of the bottle counter. However, it relies on the use of commands to initiate some levels of activities which it cannot do an automatic basis.
Koelsch, James R. “Smart Sensors Hold Gold: Technology streamlines the mining of data for Quality control” Quality Test and Inspection. November 2006. Print.
Fuhrman, Elizabeth. “More Than Conveying: Conveyor Systems Match Modern Production”, Beverage Industry. May 2008. Print.