Total Cost of Ownership for Linear Motion System

FUYU Technology
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Pre-purchase, post-purchase and low price in context.

You may not realize it, but many of the products you buy actually cost a lot more than the initial price you paid for them. For example, let’s say you paid $25,000 for your vehicle. How far do you drive and how many gallons of gasoline do you use each week? How often do you change the oil, rotate the tires, or have other maintenance work done?

Over a 5-year period, the expenses necessary to operate your vehicle can easily add up to $12,000 ” or approximately half of the price of the vehicle. The time you spent conducting online searches, reading auto reviews, and viewing potential purchase vehicles also contribute to the cost of owning the vehicle.

Similar logic applies in the purchase of capital equipment: It’s easy to add unexpected costs to the ownership experience, both before and after the purchase, if you look only at the initial purchase price.

The “cheap” solution in the short term may end up costing you more in the long run. In this article, we’ll explore how total cost of ownership (TCO) applies to linear motion systems.

Linear motion systems, also referred to as linear modules or electromechanical actuators, typically combine a linear drive mechanism, such as a precision ball screw or toothed belt, with a linear guide system—often a Ball Rail or Cam Roller guide assembly—inside a housing to create a single linear axis.

Many sizes and styles are available, which makes it easy to combine them into custom multi-axis robotic systems for a wide range of applications.

Extremely small systems can be combined to create a 3-axis dispensing system for laboratory automation, for example, or very large systems may be used to build a handling system for heavy automotive components.

For a more integrated system, motors, drive amplifiers and controllers are required, and to simplify specification and ordering, some linear motion companies have begun offering complete, pre-configured Cartesian motion systems.

Medical manufacturing and packaging companies often choose these pre-configured, pre-assembled systems to eliminate the time and hassle of mounting and aligning multiple axes, selecting the proper motor and drive combination, and designing mounting interfaces, which allows them to focus on their expertise: device manufacturing, high throughput screening, or packaging.

TCO Applied to linear motion

The Total Cost of Ownership principle was first defined in the 1980s to quantify the cost of implementing personal computers in the workplace.

Since then, TCO theory has been applied widely throughout all major industries, including manufacturing, to analyze the lifetime costs of major assets. A well-implemented Cartesian robot or other multi-axis manufacturing system, for example, can not only cut production time and increase throughput, but can also improve quality and profits.

If poorly implemented, however, those profits can disappear in re-work, re-design, or unexpected maintenance costs. In our car example, we evaluated the ongoing costs of running and maintaining the vehicle as important considerations beyond the initial purchase price. But what factors should you consider when evaluating the costs of a linear motion system? In this case, unplanned or infrequently considered costs are often found in three separate phases of implementing the system.

Pre-purchase activities such as design and specification.

Purchasing, which includes ordering, taking delivery, system assembly and startup.

The post-purchase phase, including maintaining and re-purposing your system.

The pre-purchase phase: The critical starting point

The pre-purchase phase is the most important phase of implementing a linear motion system. In this phase, the cost elements influencing TCO depend on the time required to design, specify, and purchase the appropriate linear motion system. Making good choices in the pre-purchase phase can save time in designing the system and in sourcing the components. Getting it right early also ensures smooth startup and trouble-free operation. With good planning, it’s possible to save some money here without causing trouble later.

Key to success in this phase is sizing and selecting the appropriate linear module or modules for your system. To make the sizing and selection process easier, most reputable linear motion companies offer considerable resources in web-based sizing and selection tools.

TCO of Linear Motion System
TCO of Linear Motion System

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