Quality time

The NEC hosts a one-stop shop designed to provide UK manufacturers with the necessary know-how to remain globally competitive. Julia Pierce reports.

For the low-down on the latest systems, techniques and the regulations governing them, the NEC is hosting MedTech/IPOT 2008, three separate main shows and a series of associated manufacturing events on 13 and 14 February. This includes almost 500 exhibitors showcasing the latest tools and strategies for developing an effective and efficient manufacturing process.

The events will include areas dedicated to precision engineering, packaging, automation assembly and plastics technology, alongside a full conference programme.

Now in its 17th year, Medtech UK, formerly the MDT show, targets medical manufacturing professionals as part of an industry that in 2006 was valued as being worth £6.5bn to the UK economy.

On show will be everything from electronics to pumps, filters and membranes, nanotech and speciality metals, including new products such as EFD’s Performus fluid dispensers.

There will also be a show floor featuring areas dedicated to precision engineering, including special alloys, CNC machining and surface finish technologies required for the production of small orthopaedic parts, as well as medical packaging automation assembly and medical plastics technology.

The accompanying conference programme will feature information on regulation, clinical evaluation, product development, research and development and product validation, as well as a session concerning new and enabling technologies.

In addition to over 100 exhibitors, the MTEC 2008 Sensors, Measurement and Instrumentation event will feature free seminars from bodies, such as The British Society of Strain Measurement, the AS-Interface Expert Alliance and the Profibus Group.

There will also be talks on the various uses of strain gauges in biotechnology. These will include ‘wireless Systems’, presented by Ian Ramage of Techni Measure, and information concerning optical full field deformation measurement, presented by Ralf Lichtenberger of LIMESS Messtechnik and Software.

Running alongside this will be the Machine Building Drives and Automation event, featuring a robotics demonstration area supported by the British Automation and Robotics Association. This will include a showcase of industrial robots in a simulated live working environment undertaking typical pick-and-place tasks using machine vision systems.

The demonstrations will feature robots from Kawasaki Robotics and Motoman, one of which will be on show in the UK for the first time. The display will focus on systems and automation technologies used by machine builders and integrators.

Motoman will show two robots: the six-axis HP3 model with a standard payload of 3kg (optional 5kg); and its latest Scara-type YS450, a 5kg capacity model with a 450mm stroke, a z axis of 170mm and a t axis repeatability of +/- 0.015mm. The Motoman duo will be shown using vision systems in a typical pick-and-place scenario using sample parts.

Meanwhile, Kawasaki will be demonstrating the capabilities of its FS20N machine operating with a 3D vision camera, first identifying product, and then performing pick-and-place tasks. The FS20N is a 20kg payload six-axis industrial robot that has a vertical reach of 219.3cm, a horizontal reach of 177.3cm and a repeatability of +/- 0.1mm.

Outside of the robotics demonstration, the main floor of this show will include technologies such as drives, motion control system and compressed air technology in its display of the latest industrial automation aids.

At IPOT — a dedicated event for the optical, photonics, vision and displays industry — exhibitors will illustrate how the latest product developments can enhance quality procedures, especially in volume production environments. On the exhibition floor will be a comprehensive range of cameras from line scan to the latest high-speed area scan models.

Firstsight Vision will debut products including the Firewire-compliant Stingray series from AVT and the JAI C3 range of GigE and CameraLink cameras. The company’s so-called camera tree will show eight different camera types all simultaneously linked to a single computer via the Common Vision Box (CVB) hardware-independent imaging tool kit from Stemmer Imaging.

IPOT’s complementary education programme will demonstrate the problem-solving capabilities of vision, including optics and lighting as well as cameras and software. The UK Industrial Vision Association (UKIVA) will be running a series of free seminars under the heading ‘Industrial Vision: Advances and Applications’, including talks by FLIR Systems, MVD, National Instruments and Cranfield University researchers.

For those involved in the prevention of particle contamination to personnel, products or the environment, the 3C Contamination Control and Clean room Products exhibition — in collaboration with the Scottish Contamination Control Society — will include a host of workshops on the latest in clean room technology.

Finally, at the Practical Vacuum and Semiconductor Processing show, the seminar programme will focus on the latest trends in semi-conductor manufacturing. The talks are the result of a joint collaboration between the British Vacuum Council and the Vacuum Group of the Institute of Physics.

Organised by Dr Zoe Barber from Cambridge University and Dr Steve Shannon of East Sussex company SS Scientific, the two-day seminar series will be invaluable to all medical device manufacturing professionals who may also be visiting shows such as Medtech running alongside the Practical Vacuum and Semiconductor Processing event.

Highlights will include ‘outgassing: the villain in the vacuum’, presented by Dr Austin Chambers of York University; a talk on nanotechnology applied to medical devices by Dr Lars Allers of Mantis Deposition; and ‘advice on getting a move on: considerations and compromises for vacuum motion system design’, hosted by Dr Carl Richardson of RTA Instruments.

With so much on offer under one roof, the event should provide manufacturers with a one-stop shop for everything needed to refresh processes and procedures, allowing them to remain competitive and ensure their reputation for quality remains as good as always.