recommend automatic screw feeder and driver system?

  • I need to select a screw feeding and tightening system to install 3/8-16 x 1.0 in. long hex head flange bolts and wondered if any of you folks had a supplier to recommend?

    A few more details, the screw will be horizontal during installation and will tighten to 30 in-lb torque. This will be in an automated assembly cell with a feeder about 10 feet away from the installation location. The screwdriver will be in a fixed horizontal location and the assembly will be advanced 3.0 in. between screw holes.

    I have gotten quotes from 4 vendors for 35 to 70$k for a vibratory feeder, deliver tube and screwdriver. The cheaper ones were pneumatic and the more expensive were electric screwdrivers. All had 12 to 16 week lead times.

    Do these prices and lead times sound correct or is there another vendor I should try?

    Are the electrics more reliable and worth the extra cost vs the pneumatic screwdrivers? I ran a calc for the cost of compressed air and found it would be about $2k per year so it would take about 18 years to pay for the extra cost of the electric driver.

    Thanks in advance for your advice!

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  • I can't speak specifically to this setup, but the $70k price doesn't sound insane compared to slightly similar systems I've used in the past -- vibratory feed systems have to be customized to their specific fastener, and the feed system to the screwdriver can be surprisingly tricky.

    As for electric vs pneumatic -- my knee-jerk reaction is to go electric, but that's because a good electrical driver can give you actual torque measurements, and (hopefully) detect situations like over-torque, under-torque, and stripped heads. By comparison, a pneumatic driven system is usually "blind." But, there's plenty of (cheaper) electrical drivers out there that act just like the pneumatics.

    Are you driving self-tapping screws into virgin wood or metal? Or driving machine screws into pre-tapped holes? Hex head, phillips, torx? These all play into how easy it might be to strip screw heads without getting them driven fully. Likewise, what are your quality requirements like? How bad (in terms of downtime, manual re-work, etc) is a single screw sitting 10% proud with a stripped head? Avoiding that in the first place takes more complex automation, which costs more.

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