Taking Benchtop Fluid Dispensing to a New Level of Process Control

Equally compatible with both benchtop dispensing and Smart Factory robotics integration, Nordson EFD’s new UltimusPlus™ line of pneumatic fluid dispensers represents nothing less than a quantum leap in ease-of-use and enhanced process control. Innovative features are for example the fully automated pressure regulation and the possibility to switch between stored programs using a simple barcode scanner.

Pneumatic benchtop fluid dispensers encompass a range of models that can accommodate specific fluid application processes with a wide scope of functionality. The latest benchtop dispensers provide a high degree of process control, capable of dispensing adhesives, solder pastes and all other assembly fluids with high consistency. Handling fluid dispensing of dots, beads and fills under a broad range of conditions, these units are equipped with multiple capabilities to refine the dispensing process. Features such as 0-100 psi air pressure regulation, timed-shots, vacuum control to keep thin fluids from dripping, digital time/pressure displays and electric foot pedals help operators maintain process control. For more critical dispensing requirements where exceptional process control is needed, like for dispensing applications in the assembly of medical devices and critical automotive and electronics components, some benchtop fluid dispensers are designed to deliver a much higher level of precision dispensing. These systems’ features can include: time adjustment as fine as 0.0001 seconds; full electronic air pressure regulation for full operator lock-out of dispensing parameters. In these demanding applications, small amounts of adhesives, silicone and other fluids must be dispensed reliably and accurately in dosage, placement and repeatability. The precise positioning and quantity of these fluids deposited is crucial to the products’ assembly, function, quality, appearance and viability.

An intuitive touchscreen user interface simplifies set-up and operation.
An intuitive touchscreen user interface simplifies set-up and operation.

Because benchtop fluid dispensing has proven to be a highly workable and reliable method for assembly of these products, fluid dispensing manufacturers have routinely improved and refined their systems. Now, pneumatic benchtop fluid dispensing is taking a quantum leap forward in both simplicity and ease-of-use, and improved process control, to further support the stringent requirements of medical device, electronics and automotive manufacturers. These improvements are designed to: facilitate easier and more efficient operation of the fluid dispensing process from the operator’s perspective; and maintain better process control over dispensing parameters to effect more consistent dispensing outcomes. But these latest changes also bring semi-automated desktop fluid dispensing into a compatibility with Ethernet, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the Cloud, enabling the potential for more direct machine/process interconnectivity. Although this is particularly beneficial where benchtop fluid dispensing systems are used in combination with robotic dispensing applications, aspects of this enhanced connectivity can be beneficial, right now, to non-robotic pneumatic benchtop fluid dispensing. In essence, these new improvements enable the benchtop dispense technician to begin to benefit from smart factory digitization.

Automated pressure regulation

Fluid dispensing systems incorporating these developments have just been released by Nordson EFD, under the new UltimusPlus™ line of pneumatic benchtop dispensers. UltimusPlus™ incorporates the world’s first HMI touchscreen control for input of dispensing parameters and management of all dispense process functions. This improvement brings with it a new level of usability for operators and production managers. Touchscreen control makes setup significantly faster than it was with analogue knobs and push-button controls. With little need to reference a manual and rarely any software updates to upload, the intuitive large-format screen also prominently displays process information. It simplifies setup and programming, allowing operators to focus on their process.

UltimusPlus™’ barcode scanner allows users to switch between dispensing programs to boost productivity.
UltimusPlus™’ barcode scanner allows users to switch between dispensing programs to boost productivity.

A key feature of this new UltimusPlus™ product line is the system’s very unique approach to full automated pressure regulation. Particularly in the assembly of medical devices, it is critical that the fluid dispensing be administered precisely and in same repeatable pattern on each component with repetitive standardizations. Typically, pneumatic benchtop fluid dispensers allow the operator to manually adjust the pressure regulation. On this new dispenser, the operator can now be fully locked out from manually adjusting the pressure regulation, as well as other dispense parameters like time and vacuum settings. Without access to an assigned password, the operator cannot change the dispense program parameters, which provides the next level of process control at a lower cost of ownership than was previously possible.

Barcode scanner and data recording

An innovative function to the world of pneumatic benchtop fluid dispensing is the unique capability to switch between stored dispensing programs using nothing more than a barcode scanner. This allows the operator to change the parameters for a new application without touching process parameters on the screen. The dispenser settings automatically switch when the new program barcode is scanned. In addition, most medical device components have a unique barcode assigned to them as they move through the production/assembly process to facilitate keeping track of the components throughout production. A system often utilized by industries other than medical device manufacturing for six sigma process controls. An option available with UltimusPlus™ is to scan the lot barcode directly into the dispenser’s memory. This is ideal when the factory is processing multiple parts throughout the day. UltimusPlus™ permits the selection of time, pressure, vacuum and other parameters for fluid dispensing on a specific project, as determined by plant and project requirements. These settings are locked in and stored in the dispenser, and can be called up at any time to be run with the associated project with a barcode scanner or via the intuitive touchscreen interface. Up to 16 memory programs can be set up and stored in the memory cells of the dispenser.

UltimusPlus™ has a digital dispense log, which automatically records data on dispense parameters – such as dispense time, pressure, vacuum, the number assigned to identify the component part, and the date, day and time of each dispense cycle. The log can contain up to 10,000 lines of data. It is downloadable manually through the dispenser’s USB port. The dispense log is beneficial to manufacturing processes that require stringent, documented process control, especially in life sciences applications to meet FDA requirements and/or of other global medical device regulatory bodies.
This new dispenser line is also equipped with a USB drive, which not only permits dispense reports to be output onto a flash drive, it also enables distribution of dispense programs into and out of the dispenser. This can considerably cut programming time when multiple dispensers are set up to dispense the exact same parameters on the same parts. One dispenser can be set up with multiple programs, those parameters then output to a flash drive and loaded into the other dispensers, minimizing human error and expediting loading of dispense programs across the factory floor.

UltimusPlus™ allows to minimise repetitive movements, permitting multiple shots with a single dispense cycle.
UltimusPlus™ allows to minimise repetitive movements, permitting multiple shots with a single dispense cycle.

For a smart and sustainable factory

An ergonomic advantage of UltimusPlus™ is that it reduces operator’s fatigue by minimizing repetitive movements, permitting multiple shots with a single dispense cycle. When this function is engaged through the touchscreen it allows the operator to make multiple deposits with only one cycle initiated, only one press of the foot pedal. This MultiShot™ functionality allows one single dispense cycle to make dozens or hundreds of shots with one single foot pedal press. A pause is programmed to occur between each deposit, to allow the operator time to position the tip on the next part. Essentially, the exact same shot is executed, based on the exact same settings of time, pressure and vacuum. Pneumatic benchtop fluid dispensing consumes both compressed air and power. In efforts to reduce both the power and compressed air required by fluid dispensing, the designers of UltimusPlus™ integrated a market-leading sleep mode functionality. Sleep mode can have significant impact on operating costs for plants using bottled compressed air, such as in cleanrooms in medical device manufacturing, or in facilities operating dozens to hundreds of dispensers. For robotics applications, UltimusPlus™ smoothly integrates with Smart Factory Industry 4.0 initiatives, encompassing Ethernet, Machine-to-Machine technology, Industrial Internet of Things, Edge Computing and the Cloud. The dispense cycle can be initiated by a centralized, customer-site-specific PLC as part of a large, in-line operation. When the production line needs to move from making one type of part to another, the PLC will remotely trigger the dispenser to change the program and dispense a different deposit pattern. UltimusPlus™ was designed to not only meet the most stringent fluid dispensing needs of today’s highly precise medical device, electronics and automotive requirements, but also to embody the essential components to integrate with the ongoing evolution of the Smart Factory. But ultimately, this new fluid dispenser represents a quantum leap where it matters most: ease-of-use and greatly enhanced process control.