Dixie Zens: Abacus Automation is the manufacturers' manufacturer

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Editor's note: This commentary is one in a series published by the Banner in connection with National Manufacturing Day, Oct. 4.

For the past 34 years, Abacus Automation, off East Road across from Willow Park, has been "manufacturing" machines for manufacturers worldwide.

Abacus designs and builds "one of a kind" automated systems for a huge variety of products which are sent to factories all around the globe. Our machines have been delivered to neat places where we travel to install the custom equipment and train the customers' technical folks on how to operate and maintain these unique machines. In addition to the many locations in the USA (from the Northeast, to Florida, Maine to California, and even the top of Mount Haleakala on Maui, Hawaii), we have also installed our machines in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Brazil, Europe (France, Ireland, Luxembourg & Poland) and in Asia (China, Singapore & India).

Don Alvarado and I first met at Union Carbide (now Energizer) in the 1970s. We started Abacus in our basements in 1983. In 1985, we moved into the Incubator Building on River Street in North Bennington to work full-time at Abacus, and hired our first few employees. With a growth to 20 folks, a need for more space necessitated a move to an 8,000-sq. ft. building on Morse Road in 1992. Still growing, in 1999 Abacus built its current facility on Shields Drive in Bennington, expanding to 30,000 sq. ft. and 35 to 40 employees.

All the folks that work at Abacus need to be creative and solve unique problems that crop up when you are building "1st of Its Kind" machines. Work is always new and different, which makes it fun for us to come to work.

These machines are designed from concepts that are quoted to our customers using CAD Programs (Computer Aided Design), and end up as fully functioning systems that often must run 24 hours per day and 7 days a week to assemble, package, test or process all sorts of products.

Some of the fun machines built in Bennington:

- Assembling and packaging Simon using automatic screw guns and robots.

- Collating puzzles to bundle up to 12 different puzzles to fill orders for Walmart and others, using a giant robot with a 10-foot reach to pick up layers 20 at a time.

- Packing Monopoly using six robots and vision cameras to locate and reorient games pieces and cards to fit in the pockets of the game boxes.

CONSUMER PRODUCTS:

- Assembling, testing and packaging lotion pumps and perfume pumps at up to 600 per minute.

- Packaging Curtain Rods.

- Gluing and trimming wicks in jars for candle making.

- Testing razor blades for the longevity of the soap strips on the cartridges.

- Testing Sawzall blades as they cut through different materials.

- Assembling felt tip markers to be operated by the visually impaired folks.

AUTOMOTIVE:

- Assembling LED tail lights which include vision guide laser soldering.

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- A five-robot assembly of the air vents for heat and air conditioning.

- Assembling and testing steering columns for cars and trucks.

- Assembling special automotive bearing devices.

AEROSPACE:

- Huge ovens with elevators and conveyors to move products into multiple heating zones for curing ceramic inserts used to make high temperature turbine blades for jet engines.

- 3D weaving systems for extra strong aircraft components.

- Casting compressor blades for gas turbine engines.

- Laser cutting and welding for air bearings used in commercial jet air conditioning systems.

- 3D weaving machine for carbon fiber.

MEDICAL:

- Assembling syringes for taking blood samples adding anti coagulant and needle protector after use.

- Laser welding arthroscopic cutting tools which can cut bone.

- Forming needles for stitches.

OTHERS:

- Heating element insertion machine with vision-driven servos.

- Assembling fuel cells to be used to power larger office buildings, such as the New Freedom Towers in NYC.

- Testing explosive devices in a heavily enforced containment enclosure.

These a just a few of the many machines designed and built at Abacus in Bennington Vermont by our very talented staff.

We have great opportunities for electrical and mechanical technicians, programmers, mechanical and electrical designers, drafters and more.

Richard "Dixie" Zens is vice president of Abacus Automation. He lives in Shaftsbury.


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