Category Archives: Product Spotlight

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A robust and intricate conveyor line

Our customer was using an automatic guided vehicle (AGV) that didn’t have any powered conveyor. They needed a machine that could move 500 pound, 30- by 60-inch pallets from the AGV to an operator workstation. Tuff Automation custom-designed the conveyor pictured above to solve the problem.

A Tuff solution

The machine we designed does a lot in a small amount of space. Our engineers and parts fabricators had to be efficient and precise in their work. Furthermore, the finished product needed to withstand heavy-duty part handling 24/7. Tuff Automation is uniquely equipped to handle these requirements.

Here’s what’s included in this complex line:

  • Six-strand chain transfer with lift and extend mechanism – This transfer handles three pallets at a time and uses an electric drive and pneumatic lift. The extender reaches into the AGV, lifts three pallets simultaneously, and conveys them into the conveyor line.
  • CDLR conveyor with accumulationPneumatic blade stops accumulate and meter pallets. The rollers are covered with Ultrex sleeves to handle accumulating pallets.
  • Tip-up/positioning mechanism – This part of the line pneumatically tilts 25 degrees at the operator unload station. A pneumatic clamping mechanism positions the pallet at a 25 degree tilt, and secures it for operator unload.
  • Two-strand chain transfer with lift and extend mechanism - This extender picks a single empty pallet off the conveyor line and extends to deliver it into the AGV.
The six-strand chain transfer extending into the AGV.
The six-strand chain transfer extending into the AGV.

Custom designs, custom solutions

Our lead times are highly competitive, and we use only materials of the highest quality. If you have questions about how Tuff Automation can customize a product for you, contact us.

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transfers newsletter

Re-route product with a Tuff transfer

Transfers are ideal for reducing conveyor floor space, because they can reroute product 90 degrees without requiring large conveyor curves. Tuff Automation designs, builds, and integrates transfers to optimize the flexibility of your conveyor systems.

Efficient, space-saving product redirection

Tuff transfers are custom built to fit your application. They can be mounted to any kind of live roller conveyor. They can be inserted into standard line shaft conveyor (1.9) with rollers on three-inch centers without modification, meaning you don’t have to buy special conveyor sections to accommodate them.

Durable and gentle material handling

Our belt transfers are ideal for product that needs to be handled more gently—the belts don’t mar product. Our transfers are typically pneumatically actuated, utilize DC or AC conveyor motors, and can incorporate as many strands as necessary. Tuff transfers offer torsion bar design for smooth, level operation, and they are easy to maintain with simple belt change-out.

Custom designs, custom solutions

Our lead times are highly competitive, and we use only materials of the highest quality. If you have questions about how Tuff Automation can customize a transfer for you, contact us or request a quote online.

Tuff does build lines

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Tuff Automation has made build lines for a few different companies, and we have experience in every part of the process. We specialize in outfitting build lines with custom controls, programming, and pneumatics.

Structure and customization

Build line projects start with the bare bones from a company that supplies modular design solutions. They provide conveyor, lifts, structural components and more. Then we put the lines together to customer specifications and integrate the necessary hardware. Tuff can also provide custom bracketry as necessary, making the final product as suited to customer needs as possible.

Then we make it all work.

Plumbing and controls

Tuff installs all the wiring and pneumatics required to get the machine running and the components functioning.

Tuff also provides controls and programming. We can incorporate torque tools with or without reaction arm feedback, cameras, function testers, FAM units, ovens, pallet lock/unlockers, barcode readers, RF read/write, and reporting to SQL servers for production monitoring. Model year changes are included.

Turnkey solutions

Finally, Tuff will provide complete installation, runoff, and support for our build lines.

If you have further questions, or if you have any other material handling equipment needs, contact us by phone at (616) 735-3939 or email at sales@tuffautomation.com.

stacker

Improve storage density with a Tuff stacker

Tuff stackers can be customized to stack or destack any kind of pallet, tote or container, keeping material organized and your employees safe from injury.

How they work

Stackers are large machines that move pallets or bulk materials into vertical stacks for shipping or improved storage density. Destackers perform the opposite action, individually moving materials from the bottom of a stack onto a conveyor.

Customized stacker designs to meet your needs

Tuff Automation builds automated stackers and destackers to match any specification. Tuff stackers are ideal for handling and organizing standard or custom pallet designs, as well as many stackable raw materials, and can be integrated with or without controls.

Tuff stackers can run with pneumatic, electric, or hydraulic power. Stacking and destacking speeds can be customized from 2-3 units per hour to several parts per minute.

Check out one of our stackers in action:

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This lift lasts

Pneumatic Lifts

High-cycle lift processes don’t have to mean short equipment lifespans. Pneumatic lifts are a long-lasting, cost-effective alternative to scissor lifts. They’re a perfect high-cycle solution, made in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

More powerful than a scissor lift

Ordinary scissor lifts are rated for a lifetime of approximately 200,000 cycles. The vertically mounted cylinders on our pneumatic lifts make possible a lifetime of several million cycles. If your application exceeds a cycle time of 45 cycles per hour or 500 cycles per day, you’ll see the return on investment on a pneumatic lift in no time.

Robust, custom design from Tuff

Tuff’s pneumatic lift is simple. It’s a direct lift design that significantly reduces side loading forces. Pneumatic lifts are easy to position precisely—which makes them an excellent fit for automatic loading or unloading applications.

Tuff lifts are typically designed to handle between 500 and 3,000 pounds, but we can customize them to handle even heavier loads. We also offer a model that is powered by an electric motor to facilitate longer strokes, multiple precise positions and specific applications.

Best of all, they require minimal work to maintain. Tuff lifts are made with off-the-shelf components, making part replacement easy and inexpensive.

Quality assurance with photo evidence.

The benefits of quality assurance don’t stop at establishing a good relationships with your customers. Doing everything you can to make sure your product is flawless can also save you thousands of dollars in damages. If a product fails and you have no way to prove the cause of the failure happened after the product was out of your hands, then you’re setting yourself up to pay hefty, undue legal fees.

camera build line quality assurance system

One way our customers have addressed this risk is with our build line QA camera system. The system is custom programmed by Tuff engineers to take a photo, record the necessary information to identify the product, and store the photo with that information. That way, in the event something happens to a product down the line and your customer starts investigating the point of error, you have the proof to keep your reputation clear.

PC camera quality assurance system manufacturing material handling controls

The system operates with a number of cameras attached by USB to a PC. The PC searches for a signal from the build line PLC, which then commands the cameras to take a photo and provides the product information (such as a serial number). Together, that information is sent back to the PC and stored for later reference.

icube camera application plc system pc

Our current software is programmed to work with iCube cameras. It can support up to 4 cameras simultaneously on a single computer, enabling you to get pictures from multiple angles. The file names of the photos can include string data from the PLC and the date, time, and camera name as necessary. The software is compatible with ControlLogix/CompactLogix processors and uses an Ingear.Net software library, so no OPC is required.

The style of lens and the lighting necessary to take good photos will depend on the environment and application. We can work with you to figure out the best configuration of the system for it to work optimally in your environment. Tuff has worked on a variety of build line systems—with our experience you can rest assured that the integration of your camera system will go seamlessly.

View a presentation on the Build Line Camera QA System.

slide rail conveyor affordable material handling solution

Slide Rail Conveyor: An Ergonomic Solution

Our customer had their employees pushing car seats down steel rails, and the force required to do this ended up causing numerous employee injuries. To address this, the customer came to us in need of something that could operate in the way the steel rails were while diminishing the force required to operate them.

We came up with the slide rail conveyor, a dual-rail conveyor outfitted with skate wheels to help easily move product.

Each rail features small, ultra-close affected wheel centers that are mounted on two lanes of staggered bushings. They create a very low rolling friction—even on heavy products with non-conveyable footprints—and they do it way better than UHMW or slide steel rails, which require more than 95% more push force.

The system can include as many or as few rails as required, and the customer can determine their spacing. They are painted with two-part epoxy paint in customer-specified RAL color, meaning they come in any color at no additional cost. The floor supports, guiding, and additional customization can vary with the application. They can also be incorporated with Tuff Automation metering stops or braking devices to control product flow.

Our slide rail conveyors are purely gravity conveyor—they require no electricity or controls to operate.  As such, they’re a much more affordable alternative to powered plastic chain conveyors.

These conveyors are a durable solution to an expensive problem, and they can save companies thousands of dollars in electricity and employee injury costs.

Think a slide rail conveyor could work for you? Let’s talk about it.

The best solution for incorporating conveyor transfers

On a single conveyor there can be multiple kinds of product, and they may all need different end destinations. This dynamic conveyor movement can be achieved by incorporating transfers into the conveyor system. They operate to reroute product 90 degrees.

Tuff Automation’s custom-designed belt transfers are easy to integrate, mounting into any live roller conveyor—line shaft, belt, or chain driven.  They can cut lead times on conveyor transfers by as much as half.

Efficient, space-saving product redirection

Transfers are ideal for reducing conveyor floor space because they allow for this change of route without requiring large arcing curves. A mounted transfer simply pops up when actuated and pushes product over onto an adjoining conveyor.

easy to integrate belt transfer material handling
Tuff Automation belt transfer

Custom design with the highest quality materials

Tuff transfers are custom built to fit your application. They can be inserted into standard line shaft conveyor (1.9) with rollers on three-inch centers without modification, meaning you don’t have to buy special conveyor sections to accommodate them.

Our belt transfers are ideal for product that needs to be handled more gently—the belts don’t mar product. Our transfers are typically pneumatically actuated, utilize DC or AC conveyor motors, and can incorporate as many strands as necessary. Tuff transfers offer torsion bar design for smooth, level operation, and they are easy to maintain with simple belt changeout.

two part epoxy paint match any color belt transfer mult-strand
Tuff Automation belt transfer

Key Features

  • Shorter lead times
  • Installs into standard conveyor without modification
  • DC puck drive option available
  • Torsion bar stability control
  • Non-marring belts
  • Easy maintenance
  • Match any color paint

Custom designs, custom solutions

If you have further questions about how Tuff Automation can customize a transfer for you, contact us by phone at (616) 735-3939 or by email at sales@tuffautomation.com

A more durable alternative to scissor lifts.

tuff automation pneumatic lifts scissor lift alternative custom design material handling

High-cycle lift processes don’t have to mean short equipment lifespans. Pneumatic lifts are a long-lasting, cost-effective alternative to scissor lifts, and they’re a perfect high-cycle solution.

More powerful than a scissor lift

Ordinary scissor lifts are rated for a lifetime of approximately 200,000 cycles. The vertically mounted cylinders on our pneumatic lifts make possible a lifetime of several million cycles. If your application exceeds a cycle time of 45 cycles per hour or 500 cycles per day, you’ll see the return on investment on a pneumatic lift in no time.

Robust, custom design from Tuff

Tuff’s pneumatic lift design is simple. It’s a direct lift design that significantly reduces side loading forces. They are easier to precisely position than a scissor lift—which makes them an excellent fit for automatic loading or unloading applications. Our lifts require minimal maintenance and are made in Grand Rapids, Michigan with off-the-shelf components, so replacing parts is quick and inexpensive. Tuff lifts are typically designed to handle between 500 and 3,000 pounds, and we have the capacity to customize lifts to handle heavier weights. We also offer a model that is powered by an electric motor to facilitate longer strokes, multiple precise positions, and specific applications.

Made to fit your application

Don’t settle for mediocre equipment when your process warrants something more. If you have an application that you think would benefit from using a pneumatic lift, Tuff Automation can build one to suit your needs exactly.

Product Spotlight: The Ultra-Quiet Electronic Pusher

ultra quiet electronic pusher tuff automation sortation low decibel equipment quiet warehouse

We always enjoy coming up with cutting edge solutions for our integration partner Cisco-Eagle. This time around, we created a pusher that runs so quietly you can barely hear it.

How it works

The unit was intended to push small product in RSC cases, sized 4.5” x 7.75” x 3”, into a Gaylord dunnage basket from a Hytrol E24 conveyor. Mounted to the side of the conveyor, the unit would push a max of 20 half-pound to one pound parts per minute. The customer requested that the pusher be no louder than 63 decibels. The Tuff Automation standard pneumatic pusher is not much louder than that as is, but we decided to take this opportunity to develop a “rotational pusher assembly” that operates much more quietly.

How is it so quiet?

Because it works without a valve, and because there’s no impact, much of the noise of a standard pneumatic pusher is completely eliminated in this electronic pusher. Simple VFD motor controls are actuated to get the pusher moving, and once it’s going it completes one cam-actuated divert per every motor rotation. The design is robust and very simple to control. A unit like this could be easily incorporated into any small item sortation application.

Going above and beyond

For this project, in addition to the pusher, Tuff also provided turnkey controls, drawings, and programming for the installation of the entire system scope. You can check out a video of the unit quietly in motion here.

Interested in a product like this or want to learn more about custom solutions from Tuff? Contact us.