Increasing quality, productivity and employee wellbeing in a demanding environment.
01 the short storyBTC Mold introduced four UR5 cobots into its plastic injection mold production lines to product moving, palletizing, picking and placing products for the inspection. With flexible cobot arms and easy programming, UR cobots are suitable for manufacturing processes where complex ergonomics are involved. These cobots saved over 35% of labor cost for BTC Mold, and solved a serious manpower shortage caused by work environmental issues like noise. They also significantly reduced the risk of occupational hazard in the factory. Now 11% of BTC Mold’s manufacturing process is supported by UR cobots: greater agility has improved floor space utilization efficiency, and helped the company remain flexible on both operation and strategy. Therefore, BTC Mold can now immediately adapt its production lines to customers’ demand for high-mix, low-volume production, providing customized products of high quality and optimizing the company’s overall competitiveness
02 the challenge
A “full-process” manufacturer of plastic injection molds, BTC Mold has been committed to developing and optimizing plastic molding technologies for more than a decade, offering high-quality products to customers in Taiwan and abroad like FEC, SENOR, and renowned furniture retailers in Europe. By automating the production process, the company hopes to achieve its goals for more stable product quality and larger mass production in a more comprehensive manufacturing service for customers’ high-mix, low-volume orders.
BTC had introduced large-sized automated production equipment in its production lines. But these gigantic machines were noisy, bulky and risky, requiring large space for installation and safety distance. Other problems like recruitment and labor shortage also made it difficult for the company to achieve operation and strategy flexibility that would become necessary when output increased. Therefore, BTC Mold hoped to fill its labor gap by introducing flexible, low-risk cobots. With cobots’ ability to work in close proximity with humans, the company also wanted to reallocate human resources at production lines, optimize production efficiency and lower occupation hazard risks in a workplace that is friendlier and safer for employees.
Video — BTC Mold CO, Taiwan
03 the solution
BTC Mold has introduced four UR5 cobots to product moving, palletizing, picking and placing products for the inspection. As UR cobots can help human employees avoid from working in a noisy environment full of large-sized automated equipment, they helped BTC Mold save more than 35% of labor cost and solved the company’s urgent issues of high worker turnover and labor shortage.
UR cobots can be operated cage-free (subject to risk assessment)and be able to work in proximity with humans. In the past, products had to be packed in cases by manual laborers; as workers needed to bend over when putting products into the boxes, they tended to develop pain at joints and waists over time. The introduction of UR cobots broke BTC Mold employees away from repetitive tasks, reducing their risk of occupation hazard caused by extensive periods of hard laboring work. Moreover, as workers can learn how to solve basic problems in just one hour, over 80% of the employees have worked with cobots. UR cobots help employees transform from practitioners to supervisors, which in turn allows the company to allocate manpower with flexibility and increase production efficiency.
Able to move in 360-degree rotation at each axis, UR cobots can easily simulate ergonomics and adapt to different needs at the production lines. When packing plastic products into cases, for example, the angles and positions can vary with different products and some need to be placed in certain angles or the products could collapse or crush. With UR s’ patented safety system, UR cobots can protect the products throughout the packaging process, significantly lowering the failure rate in a safe and speedy way. A task involving a pallet with two cases can now be finished within 20 minutes, while using industrial robots in the same process could crash and ruin the products.
Moreover, UR cobots can be easily programmed and operated in an intuitive, fast and simple way, with built-in setup wizards to improve programming efficiency and enable easy integration with other automation equipment. Just one cobot is enough to handle multiple tasks including testing, sorting and palletizing. Leveraging UR5 cobots and existing vision sensors at its production lines, BTC Mold uses the cobots to pick up the plastic containers and place them in front of the sensors for yield rate inspection. The company no longer needs to free up space for automation machines of different functions, and as capacity continues to expand, UR cobots have effectively simplified the automated production process and the floor space is now utilized in a more efficient way. As a result, the company can invest more resources in R&D and technology advancements, which in turn is creating a virtuous cycle for the company’s growth.
From right to left, BTC Mold Project Leader Engineer Fan, Purchasing Denise Chang, Executive Assistant William Tian and Factory Operator Lee.
BTC Mold uses the cobots to pick up the plastic containers and place them in front of the sensors for yield rate inspection
UR cobots can work with humans in close proximity (subject to risk assessment).
The process of curtain rod head packaging is conducted by a UR cobot and it took only four hours to finish all programming and testing work.
- Labor shortage at production line
- Work environment/quality improvement
- Better workplace protection for employees
- Filling the labor gap
- Reducing occupational injuries of employees
- More flexible manpower allocation
- More efficient floor space utilization
- Pick and Place
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Cost-effective, safe and flexible collaborative robots - or cobots- are making automation easier than ever, even for the small and mid-sizes companies.