What makes a VTI SmartStation “Smart?”

A SmartStation approaches completion at VTI headquarters in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. SmartStations adapt to new manufacturing situations automatically, resetting their own operating parameters to accommodate new parts without relying on operator input.

Intelligent machines that collaborate with operators to manufacture goods more efficiently can help companies dramatically reduce production costs. But tailoring those smart systems to suit a plant’s unique processes can be challenging for plant managers eager to increase their output.

VTI SmartStations process units with maximum efficiency in mind

For decades, engineers at Vacuum Technology Incorporated (VTI) have manufactured their SmartStation product line to provide companies with simple, versatile solutions for processing a wide range of products. SmartStations have helped companies produce more reliable HVAC units, build better batteries for submarines, and leak test components for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), the world’s most advanced fusion reactor. Each SmartStation system communicates information to technicians through an intuitive, user-friendly interface, and allows operators easy access to hardware and software for simple maintenance. In addition, multiple SmartStations operating on the same manufacturing line can communicate critical information to one another, preventing faulty units from accidentally moving on to the next phase of production.

“Machines like our SmartStation that help technicians make the best possible decisions are invaluable in a manufacturing environment. They streamline day-to-day operations,” said Dr. Dan Miles, Development and Training Director at VTI.

A Software Control Engineer at VTI operates a PD+ Pressure Decay SmartStation.

SmartStations are custom built to fit seamlessly into any manufacturing environment. They can be as small as a single tracer-gas charge station or as large as a massive, multi-unit leak detection system. SmartStations can help manage every aspect of industrial leak detection, from gas recovery to alternative leak testing.

“SmartStations were designed with the manufacturing floor in mind,” said Rob Robinson, VTI’s Support and Service Director. “We want operators and engineers to become comfortable with this equipment quickly.”

In addition to its custom hardware, each SmartStation also comes with an individualized set of operational parameters that authorized users can change onsite. For example, if a plant manager wants to leak test a smaller or larger part than originally planned, they can quickly reprogram their SmartStation to accommodate this change. And, because SmartStations are “Smart,” they can also automatically change those operational parameters whenever they encounter a new part—without any operator input at all.

“Leak testing a smaller unit requires less time, so having a system that can change the length of a leak test on its own to be more efficient eliminates a lot of waste,” said Alex Parrott, a Software Control Engineer at VTI.

SmartStations working together on the same line can even communicate critical information to one another, storing leak test results on a shared SQL database accessible to every machine in the series. When parts fail one leak test, the station will inform both operators and any other SmartStations on the line, preventing users from accidentally passing faulty parts down the line for further processing operations.

“The SmartStations work together with operators to make manufacturing more efficient. We’ve consistently seen this relationship have a big impact on production,” said Miles.

Miles, who helped create the first generation of SmartStations, adds that this system is one of VTI’s most successful ventures. SmartStations provide companies all over world with thoughtful vacuum solutions custom-built to ensure their products are leak free.

“Many of our largest vacuum chamber systems were installed with SmartStations up-line and down-line from the chamber, and they continue to be the best choice for our customers hoping to improve their leak detection operations,” he said.