Benefits of Using Motion Automation for Stone Fabrication
With labor shortages possibly sticking around for years, many industries now turn to automation to answer labor scarcity and costly human errors. Motion automation is one of the technologies many enterprises are embracing.
Motion automation or motion control is considered a subfield of automation that involves moving individual parts of a specific machine in an efficient and controlled manner. Many industries that depend on movement accuracy in production, such as stone fabrication, use these types of systems.
Automated systems help reduce mistakes caused by human error and lessen the dependence on manual labor. Motion automation has many applications, but this article will take a deep dive into its benefits to the stone fabrication industry.
Automation Process for Stone Fabrication
Automated stone fabrication undergoes an extensive but reasonably straightforward process. What makes it unique is that there is far less manual labor involved, depending on what type of automated machine you have.
As an example, let’s assume that we are fabricating a polished granite countertop.
Step 1: Slab Inspection and Templating
Fabricators have to manually inspect chosen slabs of granite to ensure that they have the characteristics required for the final product.
Fabricators must keep an eye on the following characteristics:
- Black spots
- Polyester resin fills
- Dry seams
- Natural directional veining
- Knots (mica conglomerates)
These characteristics may lead to the granite slab being rejected or accepted into the next phase of the fabrication process. Fabricators then identify and mark areas that need to be avoided during the templating process.
Once the granite slab has been inspected, a templater creates a template of the final product, using their experience and artistry for this purpose. It’s possible to use some form of automation in this part. Many use computer programs to help with design and layout which will then be sent to the automated machine for cutting.
Step 2: Cutting the Stone
In this phase, automation takes over the fabrication process entirely. Motion automation at this stage can come in different forms:
- Form 1: Still requires one or two human beings to spot the templated stone slab and manually press a button to activate the splitter.
- Form 2: Uses robotics to pick up and place stone slabs on a conveyor, where it’s automatically led to a cutting machine. It stops at the very spot where it needs to be cut. Almost no manual labor is involved in this type of automation
Depending on the cutting machine, you could be using a segmented diamond blade, a water jet, or a combination of both. Segmented blades are often more affordable, but water jet cutters enable increased productivity. Meanwhile, a machine that utilizes both achieves higher productivity and quality.
Step 3: Post Cutting/Splitting
Once the splitting/cutting process is complete, there are several things to do. Automated systems can have an unloader that automatically picks up the freshly-cut stone or the resulting debris.
You may also use automated fabricators further to shape the stone slabs into their final form. This process may also include further strengthening the stone, coat sealing, polishing, and finishing. This series of procedures can also be done through manual labor, but automating it makes things more efficient.
Benefits of Using Motion Automation for Stone Fabrication
Automation has drastically changed the landscape of various industries. They can now churn out products quickly and efficiently using minimal human assistance. The following are some major benefits of embracing automation for stone fabrication.
Increased Precision and Quality
Through automation’s adaptive controls, machines can monitor all necessary stages in the fabrication process. This constant monitoring of the system and methodology enables automated machines to adapt and use the most efficient production method possible.
Enhanced precision capabilities also prevent costly human errors that lead to significant improvements to the quality and homogeneity of the final products.
The initial investment needed for motion automation tends to be higher than other options, but it’s far more cost-effective. Improved productivity and better quality often lead to a better bottom line.
Investing in automation can also help you reduce labor costs. Automated systems can replace manual labor and operations, eventually leading to a decrease in costs. Most importantly, motion automation minimizes the risk of production interruptions and human error.
These factors negatively affect production, and reducing them can reward you with reducing unnecessary costs.
Predictability of Performance
Motion automation makes it possible for the stone fabrication process to be performed regularly and continuously with little to no changes. That makes the automated system highly predictable in terms of performance. It will do what it is set to do unless manually adjusted.
That means stone fabricators can rely on automated machines to do their job correctly, efficiently, and with little to no expensive errors.
Increased Workplace Safety
Since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the health and safety of workers have become a priority. It also encouraged many industries consider automating their production processes to make their workplaces safer.
The same can be said of stone fabrication. The process involved can be dangerous even when done by experienced hands. Through motion automation, companies lower the risk of losing valuable human resources to injuries by letting the automated system take care of dangerous tasks.
Additionally, automation improves working conditions and enables companies to safely re-allocate their time to other valuable tasks.
Automated systems never get tired, maintain productivity, and are always available when needed. These cannot always be expected of human workers and operators. Taking advantage of this type of system can even help your business save on costs.
There’s more than one way to leverage motion automation for stone fabrication. Regardless of what kind of automation equipment you invest in, you will experience the benefits it brings.
Once your stone fabrication business is ready to embrace motion automation, you should work with trusted partners. John Henry Foster (JHFoster) is a leading distributor and service provider of automation technology to countless industries, including stone fabrication. If you have questions about how automation systems can improve your operations, contact us today. Our experienced professionals will show you the products that can streamline your business.