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Robotics gives manufacturers a productivity boost

AN INDUSTRIAL robot supplied by ABB Australia and recently installed by Applied Automation & Engineering is delivering significant benefits for a manufacturing company in the Melbourne suburb of Melton.

MHG Plastic Industries, with some 140 employees, is a leading manufac turer and innovator of protective, func tional and decorative automotive parts and accessories including body side mouldings, wheel covers, grilles, mudflaps and fender vents.

The company’s plant at Melton is an 8,000m state-of-the-art facility equipped with computerised injection moulding machines and extruders.

ABB Australia’s Olivier Coquerel says the IRB 4600 robot supplied to MHG enables more compact manufacturing cells with increased production output and higher quality.

“Greater process speeds and lower scrap rates mean improved productivity, and the new compact and optimised design enables flexible floor, tilted, semi-shelf, or inverted mounting,” Coquerel said.

“The small footprint of this compact robot, with its slim swing base radius, fine elbow behind axis 3, small lower and upper arms, and compact wrist, means that your production cell can be created with reduced floor space by placing the robot closer to served machines.”

Steel tubes

Applied Automation & Engineering managing director, Andrew Shaw, says that the IRB 4600 robot installed at MHG is utilised to handle blank hydro- formed steel tubes into a JSW1300 injection moulding machine (IMM), and the over-moulded automotive front- end bolster assembly tubes (or RGOR’s) out of the IMM.

“The steel tubes are conveyed into the cell where they are over-moulded, checked for absent runner, trimmed, and then conveyed out of the cell as an RGOR. This process commences with the tubes being loaded onto the infeed conveyor which transports them into the cell where they are singulated prior to being picked by the robot. The infeed conveyor can accommodate 35 minutes of production,” Shaw explained.

“The robot is fitted with an end-of- arm tool (EOAT) that can handle both a blank hydro-formed steel tube and an RGOR at the same time.

“During normal operation, the robot picks a tube from the infeed conveyor, moves to a holding position, and waits for the IMM tool to open. The robot then moves into the tool and collects the completed RGOR.

“The EOAT then rolls over and places the blank tube into the mould before exiting the IMM with the RGOR.

“The robot then positions the RGOR over the attribute station to ensure, via stationary photo electric sensors, that all of the runners are attached. On confirming this, the robot loads the RGOR into the trim station.

“A trimming tool on the EOAT proceeds to trim all runners from the RGOR and trimmed waste is collected in a waste bin beneath the trim fixture for recycling. With trimming completed, the robot picks and places the RGOR onto the outfeed conveyor, which delivers it back to the operator.”

According to Matthew Mannix, product engineer at MHG, the robot has provided significant productivity improvements, as well as other benefits. “Some 15-20 seconds has been taken out of the cycle time, with the machine only operating at 25 per cent capacity,” he said.

“There has also been perfect consis tency of product and a significant increase in quality. In addition, there are substantial safety and ergonomic benefits. The structural members for the front end of cars that we produce have holes and sharp edges, but the robot takes away the need for manual handling.”

Carpet manufacturing

Godfrey Hirst Australia (GHA) is a totally integrated manufacturer of both woollen and synthetic tufted carpet, and the largest supplier of carpet into the Australian market. With over 1,000 employees, GHA has manufacturing facilities in Geelong, Melbourne, regional Victoria and New Zealand.

The company recently expanded its modular carpet manufacturing facility to improve manual handling and to increase capacity.

Group engineering manager, Brian Cassidy, says several bottlenecks were identified and solutions designed and implemented which resulted in a doubling of output.

“Technologies from several sources were utilised in the design of this modular carpet tile manufacturing process. Conceptual design was devel oped by GHA with individual design input from the various suppliers,” Cassidy said.

“Equipment was sourced out of Germany to assist us with the handling of the modular carpet tiles. This included single filing, bevelling, inline check weighing, flipping and stacking.

“A wrap around case packer was selected for the packaging solution and was designed and manufactured by HMPS of Adelaide.

“It was decided to use robotic palletising as this solution provided the versatility required for future devel opment. The palletising cell was manu factured by Automation & Innovation of Melbourne.

“To maintain and enhance the high quality of the modular carpet tiles, an automated two-station inspection system has been developed in conjunction with Industrial Photonics of Sydney.

This involved the introduction of cutting edge technology previously not seen in the carpet industry.”

Automation and Innovation’s Walter Meyler says that the palletising solution was designed utilising 3D CAD. “Equipment supplied included an ABB robot (IRB 660), a fully automated pallet dispenser with a 20 pallet capacity, an infeed conveyor with accumulation capacity of 15 boxes, a slip sheet dispenser, and a vacuum head to pick up two boxes at a time,” Meyer said.

“Control equipment was sourced from Allen Bradley, Festo Pneumatics and Sick, and our electrical integration partner Sage Automation was key in bringing this control gear together.”

Cassidy advises that the overall project has proven to be very successful with a significant increase in production achieved, along with a reduction in manual handling and a further increase in the quality control associated with the entire integrated production process.

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