Our solution to this was to build a triple chamber machine; by staggering the test itself, we can ensure the critical path – the time when the pumps are doing their thing – is optimised, and the pumps are working as efficiently as possible. While one chamber tests, the other loads, and the last can unload. A fully balanced machine is a joy to watch, as all moving parts come together to create a symphony of efficiency.
Still further measures were required, for example, an auxiliary ‘roughing’ pump set was included. The pump down cycle can be further segmented into stages: those where the leak detector (The Mass Spectrometer) is exposed to the Pumpset can be taken offline, and the roughing set can take care of the rest of the functionality, thus ensuring our machine would hit the all-important cycle time requirements.
Our original brief was that the machine was to be loaded manually and unloaded automatically. While humans and robots working together in the production environment is commonplace nowadays, safety is still a number one priority. We designed the machine to act as its own barrier – it could be manually loaded from the front and automatically unloaded from the rear.
During the later stages of the project, it became apparent that although the testing function of the plant was currently semi-manual, it would eventually become fully automated. This changed our brief again; we needed to ensure the machine could be manually loaded, with all the functionality described within our original spec, however, we needed to make provisions to allow retrofitting of a full automation system later in order to futureproof the machine.