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Mechatronics applied to scale model decoration

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posted on 07.06.2017, 14:25 authored by Alan P. Slade
The European toy industry is very heavily dependent on manual labour and therefore vulnerable to Far Eastern competitors, who have the advantage of lower labour costs. Automation is Europe's best hope of beating off this oriental challenge. The aim of the project described within this thesis is to investigate the replacement of a traditionally manual series of operations by flexible automation to provide the basis for higher productivity and a greater degree of responsiveness to product change, leading to Just In Time Manufacture with reduced Work In Progress, while still retaining the high quality traditionally associated with the product. This thesis presents one of the first working attempts to this end, represented by a proof-of­concept cell designed and commissioned for investigating the many problems and possibilities associated with the decoration of scale models of cars and trains. The cell was designed using the Mechatronics approach which means that the various mechanical, electrical and electronic and computing possibilities have been taken into account from the start of the design stage. The proof-of-concept cell consists of five stations which provide the necessary means of loading the models in the cell, identifying the models and their orientation, decorating the models, inspecting the decorated models and finally palletising them for assembly. The industrial partners for the project were Hornby Hobbies Limited, J-L Automation and Staubli Unimation. Because this project centres around the present decoration operations at Hornby Hobbies Limited, which is heavily dependant on pad printing, an overview of pad printing is included. This will give the reader a background to the problems faced during the project. Before describing the proof-of-concept cell and its hardware and software components, the present factory based method and the constraints put on the project by Hornby Hobbies Limited are explained so that the reasons for choices within the cell will be more readily understood. A brief history of Scalextric is also included so that the reader may also understand some of the historical problems associated with the product. The result of this mechatronic approach are two fold: a) the efficiency of the cell is improved because the individual parts are working at optimal efficiency b) the cell has a greater degree of flexibility because of the re-programming facilities embedded in each of its component parts. This Mechatronic investigation has led to new concepts for pad printing and assembly operations and these are described in detail in the conclusions.



  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


© Alan Peter Slade

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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A Masters Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Master of Philosophy of Loughborough University.



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