Collaborative robots pave the path to zero quality rejections

Blue Star Limited

In short

Blue Star Limited is one of India’s leading manufacturers of air conditioning and commercial refrigeration products. The plant in Wada, Maharashtra, was facing issues of quality rejection as a result of the mental and physical stress caused by the repetitive but vital task of copper tube expansion, which was done manually. The manufacturer deployed collaborative robots and AI technologies to take over the task and completely eradicated the stress and ergonomic risk, empowering the company to increase their production by 10% and eradicate quality rejects, delivering their vision of high-quality products.

The challenge

The Wada plant of Blue Star Limited was experiencing quality rejections as a result of copper tube expansion, a critical process in the manufacturing of shell and tube heat exchangers, which was carried out manually. Being a repetitive process that required precision, the task led to mental and physical fatigue which, in turn, resulted in rejections and the need for rework.

The company, striving for Industry 4.0, aspired to station a technology which could take over the strenuous task and optimize this key process. Blue Star, thus, decided to explore the automation of their expansion process with collaborative robots.

Blue Star Limited

Industry Electronics and Technology
Country India
Number of Employees 1000+
Cobots used UR10
Watch how vision-guided UR cobots automate the drilling and sealant dispensing in copper tubes.

The solution

The Blue Star team deployed UR10 cobots to handle the task of copper tube expansion. Integrated with a vision system, the camera takes a photo of the shell and tube heat exchanger, detecting the profile of the copper tubes. With the help of artificial intelligence (AI), the center of each tube is calculated, and the coordinates are transferred to the cobot to guide it to the correct position. A specialized multi-gripper integrates a dispensing tool to apply sealant, as well as a drill that then expands the hole. The cobot is also programmed to dip the expansion tool in cleaner and lubricant every 5 cycles.

Stationing cobots in the company has enabled a safe space for people and collaborative robots to work in together. Human intervention lets employees supervise the process carried out by cobots, while also freeing up their time to handle other meaningful tasks that require human efforts. The cobot operators, who were upskilled to learn how to handle the cobots, are also excited about being able to use this advanced technology. “The manual process caused two types of stress: mental and physical. This is because the operator had to keep track of each and every pipe expanded, and the expansion process caused strain on the fingers. Now, operators are happy to use this advanced technology that has completely eliminated both types of stress,’’ says Yogesh Vakare, Senior Specialist, Manufacturing Engineering, with Blue Star Limited.

Human intervention is required in the process, because of which we cannot use industrial robots, as they are unsafe. We needed something that would work collaboratively with our operators, and also free up their time for more meaningful tasks. Now, productivity has improved by 10% and quality rejection is practically zero

Dharmesh Kapadia, General Manager, Manufacturing Engineering, Blue Star Limited
The product

The product

Founded in 1943, Blue Star is one of India’s largest air conditioning and commercial refrigeration companies, with a presence in 18 countries. The Wada plant of Blue Star specialises in manufacturing screws, scroll chillers, cold room panels and export water coolers.

Blue Star Limited
Improved quality and elimination of stress with the UR10 used for copper tube expansion at Blue Star, Wada, IndiaThe UR10 dispenses sealant before copper tube expansion at Blue Star, Wada, IndiaThe UR10s are integrated with a vision system and artificial intelligence at Blue Star, Wada, India

Automation challenges solved:

  • Quality rejection reduced to zero
  • Cobot safely works with humans
  • Mental and physical stress was completely eradicated
  • Upskilling of labor
  • Employees now free to work on other tasks requiring human efforts
  • Cobots deployed: 2 UR10s in Wada, Maharashtra + 1 UR10 in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh

Key value drivers:

  • Time and costs saved thanks to improved quality
  • Safe to implement as human intervention is required
  • Enables customized solution specific to application
  • Cobot can easily track variability in products

Tasks solved by collaborative robots

  • Copper tube expansion

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