Cobot optimizes production by nine hours

Glidewell Laboratories

In short

By having a UR5 robot tend four CNC machines milling dental crowns, Glidewell laboratories in California was able to optimize a substantial part of the production cycle. Now, four more robots are on their way.

Producing the perfect crown is complicated process. It usually takes five days from when a dentist sends an impression of a patient’s teeth to the lab, until the finished crown returns. Glidewell Laboratories in Newport Beach, California, wanted to optimize this process.

The main challenge was a 10-minute milling cycle, which made it unfeasible to have an operator stationed at the machine. Instead, the lab manually inserted the crowns in batches of 15 each, which only needed to be done every two hours.

David Leeson, engineering manager at Glidewell, believed an intelligent automation solution could ensure a more fluent process and soon his research led him to Universal Robots:

“I had followed the collaborative robot development for a while, and hearing that the UR robots were used at BMW was a vote of confidence in this new type of robot”, Leeson says.

Glidewell Laboratories

Industry Medical and Cosmetics,Plastic and Polymers
Country North America
Number of Employees 1000+
Cobots used UR5
Video — UR5 cobot, Glidewell, USA

The solution

The company decided to try out a UR5 robot. It was easily programmed to pick a crown from the dispensers, place it in the milling lathe, pick it back out, and place it on a conveyor after the 10 minute milling cycle.

By communicating with a vision camera, the robot was programmed to move on to a different shade if dispensers run out, ensuring fluent production. Overall, this dynamic, single part flow has cut the production-cycle time from 27 to 18 hours, saving two milling operators per shift.

We run a 24/7 operation and the robot has freed our employees up to focus on complex tasks, which improves our overall product quality. We will likely get 3-4 more UR robots in the near future

David Leeson, Engineering Manager
UR5 collaborative robot, Glidewell Laboratories, USA
UR5 collaborative robot, Glidewell Laboratories, USA

Automation challenges solved:

  • Optimized a long milling cycle not feasible for human tending from 27 hours to 18 hours.

Key value drivers:

  • Easy programming
  • Fast setup
  • Collaborative and safe

Tasks solved by collaborative robots:

  • Pick and Place
  • Vision Camara

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