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Objective:
Ensure a reliable and consistent injection moulding process for high-precision engineering plastic parts while reducing energy consumption

Solution:
Automation of the injection moulding machine park with robots that can take over post-processing tasks and gradual replacement of the hydraulic machines with electric ones

Result:
The production capacity has increased significantly with the same number of employees and the power consumption of the machines has fallen by 80%.

Sub-contractors in the injection of precision parts made from engineered plastic, this Swiss family company is facing increasing technical and economic challenges. To overcome these challenges, the company has chosen FANUC, world-class supplier of injection moulding machines, robots and CNC. Together they are building a truly win-win partnership.

With his strong background as a precision engineer with a federal diploma qualification, Pierre Bercher founded the company that bears his name in 1980. His experience in producing measuring instruments, and later moulds for precision components, plus his extensive responsibilities in watchmaking, came together to inspire this creation. The company has slowly come to be known as a benchmark for the production of precision parts made from engineered plastic intended for the watchmaking, electronics and healthcare industries, for the mass production of parts, ranging from 20 to several million, with sizes ranging from 2 to 100 millimetres. In 2008, Pierre's son Dan Bercher joined the company, having trained as a polymechanic and automation technician. With his passion for integrating robotics, his arrival enabled the acceleration of production automation with FANUC Switzerland.

With FANUC Switzerland for greater added value

With Dan, our intention was to create greater added value in hidden time,” explained Pierre Bercher, by way of introduction. “We already had a Cartesian robot for unloading the parts after injection,” explained Dan, “but we wanted to perform additional operations with a polyarticulated robot.” he said. After a full market study, a FANUC robot - the LR Mate 200iC with integrated camera - was selected and ordered from FANUC Switzerland. It was installed on a hydraulic press in 2009, “The integrated vision and user interface enable technical integration and adoption by workshop professionals,” indicated Dan Bercher. He was the person who went on to incorporate the 6 FANUC LR Mate robots currently in use in the workshop. Five of these are dedicated to unloading a press whilst performing finishing operations on parts. Marking, polishing, small machining operations, testing, sorting, storage, so many operations are thus possible in hidden time thanks to the addition of finishing machines. The sixth robot works autonomously for specific operations. “Thanks to these complementary added values, our investment in robotics pays for itself,” confirmed Dan Bercher. “Robotisation also responds to the growing difficulties we encounter in finding motivated and competent staff,” added Pierre Bercher. “We have never doubted our choice in FANUC robots in the 12 years we have been using them. We have never needed to call FANUC Switzerland's customer services,” emphasised the director. Present during our visit, the Robotic Sales Director for FANUC Switzerland, Pierre Rottet, added: “Our experience in the automation of injection moulding has increased by working with Pierre Bercher SA. For the first time, we have a contact who is a user as well as an integrator of our robots. It is really valuable to have this double return of experience,” he said.

“We have never doubted our choice in FANUC robots in the 12 years we have been using them. We have never needed to call FANUC Switzerland's customer services."

Injection with FANUC Roboshot electric presses

To be able to compete with the low-cost countries, a fleet of around 15 presses of less than 35 tonnes must be in permanent production with reduced supervision outside the company’s opening hours. FANUC robots are already contributing to this performance. To better respond to this challenge, Pierre Bercer decided to invest in two electric presses. He immediately opted for FANUC Roboshot Alpha-S30iA presses. Another one would follow in 2020. “As well as the quality of our relationships with FANUC Switzerland, it was the reliability, precision and silence of the Roboshot that convinced us it was the right choice,” confirmed Pierre Bercher. The Roboshot electric presses have a numerical command for managing incremental encoder axes. This makes them easier to program. Furthermore, axis movements are more accurate and able to be repeated in all production conditions. The precision of closing and opening moulds ensures positioning without any risk to the robot in the unloading operation. Programming the presses and robots is much easier; the two FANUC CNCs naturally communicate with each other. Off-line programming is also a possibility. “The acoustic comfort of the electric presses in the workshop is also unparalleled,” emphasised Dan Bercher.

“Thanks to these complementary added values, our investment in robotics pays for itself. Robotisation also responds to the growing difficulties we encounter in finding motivated and competent staff.”

Pierre Bercher SA makes savings with FANUC presses

And the icing on the cake has turned out to be much more significant than forecast. “We have measured a difference in average power consumption between our hydraulic and electric presses of almost 80%,” confirmed Pierre Bercher. Pierre Rottet confirmed that the electric presses “are demonstrating an average reduction in power consumption of at least 50% compared with the hydraulic presses”. In addition, according to Pierre Rottet, axis management by CNC enables power consumption to be reduced to less than 27% of that consumed by other electric presses. This saving comes from management of the progressive drive of axes, delivering power only when required. Furthermore, on the Roboshots, the cylinder’s heating group varies according to the zones, optimising both heat quality and power consumption. Within the context of ongoing research in energy economy, Perre Bercher SA Is thus achieving the triple objective of a fleet of machines with greater performance, greater precision and greater energy efficiency. To say nothing of the machines’ reliability. For example, the material pressure barrels are still not showing any signs of wear and tear. “We do not inject abrasive materials. However, these components are nevertheless subject to very heavy demands,” emphasised Pierre Bercher. As a result, the company has never had to call on FANUC Switzerland’s customer services for any of its plant, including the Roboshot presses. “One of the big advantages for a company director is the reliability of their production tools,” concluded Pierre Bercher. “Pierre Bercher SA has become a true partner for FANUC Switzerland. Thanks to their expertise in plastic injection of the highest quality, our teams are also making progress towards perfecting this technology,” said Pierre Rottet. “For FANUC, the excellence of our products, teams and expertise continues to be a challenge around the world,” he concluded. Michel Pech

FANUC CNC moulding for precision injection

The range of Roboshot electric presses is fully controlled by numerical control to ensure perfectly controlled injection and moulding. Offering the highest level of precision and optimal reliability, all FANUC Alpha-SiA models have been designed to improve a business's productivity and reduce its production costs. With forces ranging from 150kN (15 tonnes) to 4500kN (450 tonnes), all models have a double-toggle locking mechanism. At Pierre Bercher SA, the a-S30iA models have a closing force of 300kN and accept moulds of mini-maxi thickness of 150-330mm, with an opening stroke of 230mm. Maximum injection pressure can be configured with the high-pressure filling option. Depending on the materials and pressure used, injection speeds can reach up to 800 mm/s. Axis management via CNC ensures high precision control of mould closure by means of incremental encoders. The interface for assembling an unloading robot is factory-fitted

About FANUC

FANUC Corporation is a world leader in industrial automation for CNC control systems, robots and production machines (ROBODRILL, ROBOCUT, ROBOSHOT and ROBONANO). Since 1956, FANUC has pioneered the development of CNC machines in the automation industry. With more than 264 FANUC subsidiaries worldwide and more than 8,000 employees, FANUC offers a dense network of sales, technical support, research and development, logistics and customer service.