Hepco DTS track systems; the heart of an automated production cell

Automated production cells are now a fundamental part of manufacturing, especially as businesses pursue higher throughput and lower overheads in today’s turbo charged production culture. 


In order to meet high demands for the latest smart phones or laptops, production in the electronics industry must move at breathtaking speeds, still being precise and accurate enough to achieve repeatability and consistent high quality. Understandably then, the electronics industry is very well suited to automation.


The fundamental element of any automated production cell is how to guide and transfer a component around the system between processes, so that it can precisely interact with integral robotic or actuator systems.


The DTS – Driven Track System does exactly that. It is a belt driven track system made by linear motion expert HepcoMotion, and is supplied as a ready-assembled unit providing a facility to drive carriages around a track circuit under either continuous or intermittent motion. The DTS is ideally suited to form the foundation of an automated production cell, and not surprisingly, electronics is one of the key industries using Hepco’s DTS system.


Cutting-edge electronics production

Undoubtedly, the most prominent producer of hi-tech consumer electronic goods and components today is China. A world-leading company, based in Britain, Hepco is a regular supplier of DTS track systems into China and many other Asian markets, where they are used to form the foundation of automated production cells.


This fact genuinely highlights the strength of Britain’s manufacturing industry; Hepco’s products are exported to China from the UK, used in the manufacture of leading consumer electronic products; which are then sold across the world, and also back in to the UK.  The irony is not lost, but this is globalisation in action and an excellent example of a home-grown business taking full advantage of it.


Hepco’s DTS at the core of iPhone 8 production

Many DTS systems in China are utilised for automation of smart phone production; battery inspection operations, lithium Ion battery production. Indeed, DTS systems are core components in the automated production of Apple’s as-yet to be launched iPhone 8.


In this production line designed, built and commissioned on behalf of Apple by Foxconn – the world’s largest producer of electronic products, there are a number of key processes being performed on the DTS system. These include the assembly of components within the phone, testing the phone and inspection of the screens.


Repeatable accuracy for precise assembly or positioning operations

This application requires a consistent level of precision to ensure DTS carriages, which carry the product are aligned correctly to production equipment and processes.  The DTS incorporates a carriage locking system capable of aligning carriages to a repeatable position anywhere along a straight section of the circuit to +/-0.05mm.


This feature is particularly beneficial for applications using intermittent motion and ensures precise location of components whilst specific operations, such as drilling, soldering or assembly take place. This high level of accuracy and repeatability meets the stringent quality standards of world leading electronics companies such as LG, Samsung, Apple and Hwawei.


Small footprint maximises space

In an environment where space is a premium, a compact, space-saving production cell is high on the agenda. The benefits of an oval or rectangular track system over a straight linear system are clear to see, with oval or rectangular systems able to effectively reduce the footprint by up to 50%, by turning back around on themselves.  The curved ring sections are effectively used as a return, guiding the carriages back to the straight section where processing work is done. Equipment can be located inside or outside of the track shape, again, saving valuable production space and creating a compact, space saving production cell.


Oval or rectangle

Hepco’s DTS is available as either an oval or rectangular circuit to suit specific application requirements and is available in any length.  Customers can choose the exact number of carriages they require; limited only by the system size.  Saving time, DTS is a complete unit ready to be incorporated into a continuous positioning or dedicated assembly machine. The provision of all transmission and mounting components as a complete integrated package means huge savings are made in both design and build time.


V Guide technology for a smooth, low maintenance system

A key requirement of all automated production cells is the need for low maintenance. Systems that can deliver continuous and smooth operation, without the need to be regularly stopped for routine maintenance such as re-lubrication, are highly valued by designers and production engineers the world over.


The DTS system is based on Hepco’s proven and precision V guide technology, rigidly guiding the carriages around the track, ensuring accurate alignment and resistance to deflection. In an automated assembly cell, the ability of the carriages to accept the necessary assembly forces whilst maintaining good levels of rigidity is a key requirement.


Hepco’s bleed lubrication system automatically delivers a steady and consistent supply of lubrication directly to the running faces of the V track, exactly where it is needed. Using a lubrication canister that can be set to dispense over a period of up to 12 months, bleed lubrication is an option for DTS units, and effectively eliminates the need to stop production in order to re-lubricate the track. When the remotely located lubrication canister comes to the end of its life, it is simply replaced while the track system is still moving.


With end users including LG, Samsung, Apple and Hwawei, Hepco’s DTS meets the demanding needs of some of the biggest global technology leaders, and is a key production element in much of the technology we now rely on.