Plastic and Polymers
Dynamic Group had difficulty staffing their injection molding production and wanted to make better use of their existing labor force. Three collaborative robot arms from Universal Robots have now taken over several repetitive tasks resulting in improved product consistency and production capacity increases of up to 400%.
Tending an injection molding machining cycle is labor intensive and requires high consistency in handling due to the heat sensitive material being molded. The applications at Dynamic Group were fast paced and operators had a hard time keeping up, resulting in ruined parts with uptime difficult to achieve.
This led Dynamic Group to look for a flexible automation solution that could be moved from application to application addressing the company’s high mix/low volume production. A solution CEO Joe McGillivray assumed would cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars and require expensive external programmers.”
Video — UR10 Robot, Dynamic Group, USA
Dynamic Group installed three UR robots in injection molding and kitting applications.
“Universal Robots’ UR10 robot arm, gave us a perfectly consistent cycle; we went from having three operators on a single shift to being able to run three shifts per day with just one operator per shift. So we essentially quadrupled our production capacity and our scrap went from significantly high to near zero. It’s been an extremely successful application for us,” says McGillivray.
The first robot tends a complete machine cycle; it picks and places “book frames” that hold pieces to be molded into the injection molding machine, transports the units to a trimming fixture, places the part in front of an operator for further handling, and finally pushes a button to activate the cycle again. The second injection molding application uses a traditional cartesian robot that drops a molded piece down a slide where the UR robot picks it up and places it in a degating fixture, then palletizes the part on a table in front of the operator for inspection.
The third robot is deployed in a kitting application. Using a vacuum gripper the UR10 picks up a “clam shell” - the bottom part of a plastic box – then it places sterile wipes and saline solution into the clam shell, and pushes the box onto a conveyor. Before the UR10, Dynamic Group used six to seven employees at once to do the kitting application.
“Now we’re able to run it with as little as two people. Having this type of success out of the gate as first time rookies at this stuff has been phenomenal and totally unexpected. Our return on investment was less than two months, and we can even go further because we’re able to adapt the robots to other products so quickly,” says the CEO.
UR10 collaborative robot, Dynamic Group, USA
It took Travis Oksendahl, automation engineer at Dynamic Group, about two days to get the robots programmed once the robotic cell was set up. He placed the robots on bases with wheels and can now slide them between presses.
“Compared to traditional robots, I would say the UR robots are a lot easier to teach and program from drag and drop applications. You can also program the robot with the “Teach Mode”, where you simply grab the robot arm, moves it where it needs to go and teaches the robot this as a point. Once you’ve set your points, you simply hit play and the robot will replay through these movements.”
McGillivray and his team are working on getting more UR robots into their production. Next step will be installing the smaller UR3 model directly on presses.
“The UR robots’ number of I/Os and the ease of access to them, makes this relatively simple to do. With quick tool changes we should be able to address our high mix low volume situation extremely well. We’re also looking to integrate a UR with a structured lighting system for doing micron level inspection 360 degrees around a part. That’s a capability we’re anxious to get in place.”
- Increased production output by up to 400%, significant scrap reduced to near zero.
- Workers relieved from repetitive and strenuous tasks, staffing shortages eliminated.
- Easy programming
- Fast set-up
- Collaborative and safe
- Short payback period
- Flexible deployment
- Injection molding
- Machine tending
- Kitting parts into boxes on conveyor
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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.