According to Instrumentation, the official journal of the Society for Automation, Instrumentation, Measurement and Control (SAIMC), South Africa's Tectra Automation, industry supplier of automation solutions and member of the Hytec Group of Companies, has joined forces with Stellenbosch University's Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering and its Mechatronics, Automation and Design Research Group (MADRG) to help conduct research into reconfigurable assembly systems (RAS).
Under the supervision of Professor Anton Basson, the MADRG has established a laboratory-scale reconfigurable assembly system to develop the expertise required to implement such a system in the South African market. "The distinguishing feature of RAS is that they are aimed at the flexibility required to produce a wide variety of products," Basson said, "in contrast to the more conventional approach, where an assembly system is designed to produce a large volume of nearly identical items."
Most of South Africa's manufacturing exports are aimed at niche markets, implying that relatively small volumes of high variety products are produced. Manual assembly is readily adaptable to product variety, but the quality requirements for exported goods are often difficult to meet using manual labour alone. In order to meet these demands, a good combination of manual and automated production is required from local manufacturing operations, Instrumentation says.
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