Saving Time & Energy with a Multi-Station Valve Leak Tester for a Production Line

Making sure valve test equipment is able to manage high volume in an efficient way is important so our customers can maximize profits. With that in mind, when we set forth to work on a multi-station valve leak tester for a production line we consider:

  • Valves to be tested
  • Test sequence and timing
  • Maximum units per hour
  • Operators required

As with all of our test systems, the tests are fully automatic while recording all data. We have built multi-station test machines which include 4-station, 6-station, and 8-station machines. One feature unique to our machines is the stations operate independently.

Other machines currently on the market with multiple stations are tested simultaneously. The operator has to load unload all valves and begin the test. This keeps the operator waiting for 15-20 minutes while the test runs.

Our stations begin testing the valve as soon as it is placed into its station. It will test the valve entirely through the process. When it is finished, it is ready for removal. This means the operator is free to go service the other stations in the time it takes for the valve to be tested. One operator can run the entire machine so multiple valves can he tested at the same time. Not all stations have to be set up to test the same valve. This results in maximum efficiency and maximum profits.

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Computer Age EngineeringÔÇÖs Automatic Valve Actuator

There are many components and products that complement valve testing machinery. When a valve is tested, it is tested in both the open and closed positions. This means during the testing, the valve needs to be actuated opened and closed. The CAE automatic valve actuator consists of a motor, a gearbox, a stem adaptor, and a lift assist reaction arm.

The motor and gearbox can be air-driven or electric servo-driven. Torque can be calculated or measured and recorded for the tests. The stem adapter tooling is quick change tooling that works on one bare stem or reducer input stems.

The reaction arm is air-assisted. It responds without much effort when moved by the operator. After being positioned correctly, a simple press of a button (which is placed on the handle) locks the arm in place. All of the joints of the valve lifting arm have disc brakes similar to those in your car. The reaction arm can be floor or wall-mounted, depending on what works best for your test station.

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Upgrading Existing Valve Testing Equipment

We were happy to tackle the task when one of our clients approached us about upgrading their existing valve testing equipment. We visited their facility to study their procedure before proposing what we thought would be the best upgrade to fit their needs. We then provided a design package and all of the components and got to work!

We replaced all of their control piping, pumps, and valves. We installed a control system which automatically puts the valves through the proper test procedures. Their existing layout included test bunkers that were outdated and needed to be updated to todayÔÇÖs safety standards. We also built the pump and valve bank and an automatic actuator to open/close the valve.

We removed the existing system which had all of the high pressure pumps, valves, and piping outside of the bunker near the operator. We then installed our new system which has all of the high pressure equipment and plumbing inside the bunker, removing the risk of injury.

Outside of the bunker, we provided a control console that includes a touch screen computer and a PLC. With this console they now have the ability to store the test procedures for each valve. The operator just types in the serial number, selects the test or model that relates to the valve and presses go! Tests performed include shell tests, seat tests, measure of leakage, and actuator torque measurements.  We can breathe easier knowing that we helped to not only update outdated equipment, but we are also helping to keep factory workers safe.

Computer Age Engineering builds assembly and testing equipment for ball valves, gate valves, globe valves, butterfly valves, pressure relief valves, and check valves.

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Automated Valve and Assembly Testing Equipment.

When we see a gap in safety or innovation, we want to act on it as soon as possible. This is how our automated valve and assembly testing equipment has come to be. We have been building these machines for just over four years now and the feedback we receive is fantastic.

When speaking with our clients, it became clear to us a lot of the existing equipment is not only outdated, but also unsafe.  When testing valves, there is the potential for the machine operator to be badly injured. Valves that are tested to one and a half times of their rated pressure have the ability to blow up like a bomb if there are any structural issues with it. Not only have there been reports of injuries from this occurring, but also reports of fatalities.

The machines we are now building take this risk away. The operator is protected from the potential danger of a damaged valve or failed piping because they are no longer in the same room where the testing is happening. Bringing the operator outside of the testing bunker, yet still giving them control, makes this process much safer.

Another feature of our equipment is that it creates a digital file that will document all of the parameters of the exact test. This file lasts forever; therefore, it relieves the liabilities and proves it was tested properly before shipment.

Inside the Bunker:

  • Valve being tested.
  • All pressurized valves, pumps, and piping
  • Automatic valve actuator
  • Cameras to watch test

Outside the Bunker:

  • Test operator
  • Control Console
  • Camera monitors

Visit our website to see more regarding our equipment and contact us with any questions you may have.

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CAE: Custom Automated Solutions

Computer Age Engineering (CAE) provides custom automated machinery and automated equipment solutions. Our customer base includes rubber and plastics molders, extruders, oil field flow control manufactures, ammunition suppliers, and automotive manufacturing facilities. We also provide standard equipment for leak testing and ride control vibration mounts.

CAE is the preferred supplier of swaging equipment throughout North America. Our patented swage tooling provides easy adjustment, repeatability, quick change, and long life. The swage tooling is interchangeable and common to all of our swaging equipment.  This includes gap press tooling, adjustable hard stop swagers, electronically-controlled Smart Swager, and rotary swagers.

CAE is an authorized Fanuc Robotics integrator as well. We provide robotic solutions for material handling, component assembly, packaging, and vision guided applications. Each robot installation is evaluated by and pre-approved by Fanuc Robotics. CAE robot programmers have all been through extensive training at Fanuc’s Rochester Hills, MI. main facility.

Each project progresses through a proven management process to ensure success. Key milestones including concept review, design review, in house trials and customer site installation are set and monitored throughout the project. CAE engineers work with AutoCad Inventor to provide an engineered solution. A 3D model and FEA analysis of each major component is provided to demonstrate the performance and functionality prior to build.

Please contact CAE at to discuss your automation needs!

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Feeding Centerless Grinders and Increasing Efficiency with Step Feeders

Centerless grinders are used to put a tight tolerance, smooth finish on cylindrical parts. They’re a popular piece of equipment in both aerospace and consumer products manufacturing processes, with uses in a wide variety of additional industries.

To work efficiently, centerless grinders require a steady stream of parts. Often times, the responsibility of feeding these parts into the grinders falls on human workers. Step feeders are a viable and cost effective alternative to this method. They work continuously and consistently at a fast rate.

Flexibility is another huge advantage to step feeders, especially when comparing them to other types of automatic feeders such as bowl feeders. With a step feeder your parts can vary in diameter and length. This is especially important when feeding a cylindrical grinder or an automatic turning system.

As an added bonus, it’s easy to install a step feeder into a centerless grinder operation. Step feeders are compact units with a built-in hopper. The step feeder discharge for a centerless grinder is a conveyor. The conveyor delivers the parts, oriented end to end, to the input of the grinder. Installation is as easy as positioning the feeder, dumping parts into it and turning it on.

Step feeders are incredibly versatile pieces of equipment, with many applications in addition to feeding centerless grinders. While it would be difficult to list all of the applications we’ve built step feeders for, below are some examples:

  • Inspection Equipment
  • CNC Lathes and Milling Equipment
  • Assembly Robots
  • Welding Processes
  • Molding Processes
  • Medical Test Equipment
  • Bullet Inspection Systems

To learn even more about step feeders, and to read about how they compare to vibratory bowl feeders, check out our Step Feeders vs. Vibratory Bowl Feeders blog post.

Feeding Centerless Grinders with Step Feeders

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Redeploying Your Automation System

Automation is an integral part of your production process. But what happens when your product changes? These days, upgrades to existing products are often the favored route over introducing completely new product lines. Luckily, you don’t have to change out your entire automation system to keep current with customer demands. Rather, most times all that’s required is to manufacture new tooling for the system.

Making upgrades in the future takes planning in the present. If you’re ordering a system to manufacture a 12 in. long part, but that part could potentially move up to 14 in. in the future, then you build the machine with a footprint that will support the 16 in. long part. In addition to envisioning the future of your application, here are the elements we strive to incorporate into every system we manufacture:

  • Flexible work cell design
  • Flexible, programmable automation (robotics, PLCs)
  • Vision systems that can be taught to see new parts and features
  • Common components and tooling
  • Non dedicated feeding systems
  • Quick change tooling

Of course, there are times when all the planning in the world cannot foresee major shifts in business. This is when your existing machinery and automation becomes useless for your future. If the right components were employed in your system, they can be redeployed or sold to another manufacturer for their application. Robots, vision systems and control systems can all be reused and can continue to bring a return on your investment. All it takes is proper planning in the beginning.

At Computer Age Engineering our standard design practices involve looking ahead to your future. When production equipment and automation are conceptualized, our procedures include a questionnaire that ensures we have considered a multitude of scenarios.

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Building Trust – Lean Manufacturing, Automated Quality Control, and Traceability

Computer Age Engineering Automation ControlsAs more manufacturers turn to automated production lines, it’s become a common occurrence that the final product coming off the line is neither seen nor touched by a human. This is made possible by building quality control systems right into the line. These systems utilize many tools, including vision inspection. They can also be programmed with the specific parameters each part must meet, such as part length or width. When the system senses that the parts being made are no longer within the designated parameters, there are several options the system can take. In some cases, it can correct itself to keep everything within spec. In other cases, an operator will be notified who can then make changes to the system.

As a part makes its way through an automated production line, it gets scanned at multiple checkpoints along the way. At each checkpoint the part is inspected to make sure the correct operations were performed at the last process station. Once it passes inspection, a barcode or RFID code is printed onto the part that tells the system what operations to perform at the next station. This provides the manufacturer with detailed tracking of each part. Having this traceability in place is key to achieving quality certifications such from organizations such as ISO. These certifications allow manufacturers to enter into industries like military and aerospace, where tolerances must be tightly adhered to.

As manufacturers compete in an increasingly global economy, it is imperative that they pursue lean processes to lower costs and stay competitive. Employing automated production lines is key to achieving lean goals. But to make these automated efforts successful, manufacturers have to be able to trust their equipment. Quality control systems provide this trust, as well as the traceability that garners trust from customers. At the end of the day, no matter how lean a system, quality is still the most important factor.

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Step Feeders vs. Vibratory Bowl Feeders

Computer Age Engineering Step Feeder RemodelStep feeders are used to feed round parts that are generally longer in length than in diameter – think of a bushing or a bullet. Vibratory bowl feeders utilize a vibratory generator that moves farther forward in one direction than it does backwards in the other, essentially throwing parts up a hill. For those looking to automate their feeding process, more often than not the choice comes down to either a step feeder or a vibratory bowl feeder. Below we look at how they stack up on a variety of factors.




Step feeders are an engineered solution. By looking at the type of part you’re trying to feed, an engineer can design a feeder customized to your needs. Once the system is built and installed you can turn it on and get to work. And because step feeders utilize a variable frequency drive to power the elevating steps, you can tune the cycle time to perfectly match your production requirements. A vibratory bowl feeder requires a bit more of a “magic” touch. Because it relies on an inherently imprecise technique “throwing” it requires a lot of tweaking to get it to work right. Once its built you have to throw parts in and tinker until it does what you want it to do.



Computer Age Engineering Tabletop Step FeederStep feeders require maintenance less often than vibratory bowl feeders, and maintenance is simpler. The shaking action of a vibratory bowl feeder puts increased strain on internal parts, causing them to fail in a shorter time frame. And replacing a part typically means that the tweaking and tinkering setup process has to be undertaken again. All of the internal parts of a step feeder run on precision sealed bearings. This reduces the strain on internal parts, leading to a more reliable, longer lasting system. And if a part does fail, all you need to do is replace it and turn the machine back on.


Part Integrity

That same harsh vibrating that puts a strain on internal bowl feeder parts also takes a toll on the parts being fed, causing these parts to chip or wear. The smooth motion of a step feeder preserves part integrity.


Quiet Operation

In addition to placing unnecessary wear on internal and fed parts, vibratory bowl feeders are just plain noisy. In addition to their many other benefits, step feeders run quietly.


Utilizing an automated feeding system to bulk load components reduces the labor requirements to feed parts. Workers previously needed for component loading are now available for other duties, an increase in efficiency that translates into dollars saved. Utilizing a step feeder as your automated feeding solution truly optimizes this efficiency, and provides you with a longer lasting, more reliable system than the alternative.

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Computer Age Solutions: Automating an I-Beam Processing and Galvanizing Plant for the Solar Industry

Alternative energy is the talk of the town right now, and solar energy is right at the heart of it. With the public at large on a solar kick, backed up by funding from the government, the industry is booming, and demand is high for galvanized I-beams to construct solar sites. The galvanizing process protects the steel beams from corrosion as the sites are constructed in the middle of the desert.

CAE designed and constructed an I-beam processing and galvanizing plant that makes use of 100% recycled steel. We were responsible for the plant’s entire process, manufacturing conveying, punching, sawing and racking systems. The process begins when a huge fork truck about the size of a long island mansion picks up a 60 ft. long bundle of 21 I-beams and drops them onto a conveyor line. From there they’re conveyed into a building and cut to the necessary length. After that they’re lifted off the line by a robot and put into our custom punch, where both flanges are punched at the same time.

The holes that are punched will serve to connect the various beams to one another. Our custom punch has interchangeable, predesigned hole patterns. These patterns are switched out by a machine attendant, and the process is done in batches.

After each beam is punched it is conveyed and lined up with 14 other beams in front of an operator. The operator hooks the beams to a cross carrier, and then a fork truck comes and picks up the carrier with all 15 beams hanging from it. From there the carrier is brought to a staging frame, where it waits until 30 such carriers are assembled. Those 450 I-beams are then moved from the staging frame to a carrier rack. After that the rack makes it way to the galvanizing plant. There, the beams are washed off and dipped in molten zinc.

For similar systems we designed in the past, robotic grippers employed permanent magnets to pick up the steel beams. An air cylinder was then used to push the beams away from the magnets when necessary. Permanent magnets were used as an alternative to electric magnets for the simple purpose of avoiding a dangerous situation were the power to go out.

This time we designed the grippers to utilize neodymium rare earth magnets. These were smaller and more powerful for their size than the magnets we used before, and proved to be a more cost effective gripping solution.

We built the entire I-beam processing system from scratch. Today it is in full operation, galvanizing steel I-beams for use in constructing solar panel site support frames, as well as the rotating platforms where the panels sit and follow the sun.

From in-plant system upgrades to new plant design and construction for an emerging industry, Computer Age Engineering has your automation needs covered.

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