If it has never been done before… how can you be 100% sure that it will work? This is a question that we at VINTIV encounter in some projects. Because our engineering often starts from a blank page. The solution? A proof of concept.
A proof of concept is a test set-up that shows whether a certain automation concept has a chance of success. The aim is to exclude false assumptions and to remove as many risks as possible from the project. This allows us to leave a false track in good time during the concept study. A proof of concept is not the same as a miniature version of the complete machine. It is, however, a set-up of one or more critical process steps within the automation concept of that machine.
Think, for example, of a robot hand that opens a certain plastic bag. Will that bag tear? Will static electricity affect the action? We can discuss and philosophise about this, but it remains a guess. Simply because that type of robot hand has never opened that particular bag in that particular machine set-up. There’s only one way to find out: testing. So we build a test set-up and simulate that part of the machine. Because if that action turns out to be impractical, we have to look for another solution.
Not always useful
Is such a proof of concept mandatory? No. Because for certain designs we can fall back on previous experiences. Of course with respect for the confidentiality of our customers. For example, we are sure that a classic transport system will bring a certain product from point A to point B.
When is such a test setup useful? In what we call process treatments. The way in which a certain object reacts to a mechanical intervention. The plastic bag for example. Or the way in which a product slides off a chute – a kind of slide – to give another example. We test whether this critical action is carried out properly, with a high repeat accuracy.
During the engineering phase, every step must be right. That is why a proof of concept is sometimes a crucial phase during the concept study. And it is worth its limited investment at the end.