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Task: 
To provide a reliable and efficient automated manufacturing solution an reduce the burdens on employees with a system from one provider.

Solution: 

VL Robotix GmbH delivers an automated solution including the injection moulding machine ROBOSHOT and FANUC robots, which detects, picks and inserts different parts.


Result: 

FANUC robots control the complete feeding technology using camera systems. Communication between the robots and injection moulding machine is via one of FANUC’s own digital interfaces. Through this integration, the system can be started, stopped and debugged by an injection moulding machine. Trained users without programming knowledge can therefore also maintain production. The particularly user-friendly surface of the cell control is the know-how of Karl Vlahek. The cell can be flexibly expanded and the goal of the customer, to significantly reduce energy costs, can thereby be achieved. 

In the beginning the plastics manufacturer had dealt in detail with the issue of whether the next injection moulding machine should have a hydraulic or electric drive. The same tool, the same material, the same cycle - the starting conditions for the corresponding machines in the comparative test were the same.

The structured approach in selecting the machines produced a clear result: The FANUC ROBOSHOT consumed only one third of the energy in comparison with the hydraulic machines examined and used until that point. The finding: “The saving quickly reverses the additional costs, above all in the case of high levels of use in permanent operation.” The energy monitor integrated into the ROBOSHOT provides energy values at a glance, and no external measuring equipment has to be connected. “Initial sampling is now delivering the same precise data relating to energy expenditure”.

The crucial point when deciding to procure the FANUC machines came when the customer considered, “How can we develop ourselves further?” Inserting parts manually was already state of the art, but with increasing quantities, the question arose: Can we automate this?

The answer is simple: You can. Quantities beyond 200,000 justify automation. Initially one product was started in the new cell. Less than one year after starting, the machine is used to capacity and runs in multiple-shift operation. The advantage of starting with one article: You can gain experiences and show references and samples to potential customers.  It does not take long until the first follow-up orders are taken. A total of five different articles are running on the cells implemented by VL Robotix GmbH. Karl Vlahek, Managing Director of VL Robotix GmbH: “With one article, the customer would not have used the machine or the cell to capacity.” 

For the manufacturer, the robot technology is, like the entire machinery, primarily a means to an end. The technology is however always a part of the company’s image: “If customers or potential customers come to us, they see high-performance systems. We therefore also always want to show our production portfolio”. This is coming from the manufacturer's boardroom. This now also includes the robot cell.

In the cell, a 6-axis robot from FANUC positions precisely the respective inserts in the injection tool. For example, small ball bearings and sleeves are over-moulded; the finished components are used in a drill machine from Festool. Another example is synthetic toggles with integrated metal screws, which are installed in Stihl devices. 

Initially the feed system, a vibration conveyor, is filled with enough bushes, stud screws or ball bearings. At the start of the process, the parts are separated with the vibrator and the individual parts are detected by a 2D Vision System. The location information is forwarded to the robot, which picks up the parts with a grabber and inserts them into the injection tool. During the injection process, the robot buffers other parts in a buffer station, from where it can include them for each new injection cycle. The finished parts are placed on a conveyor belt or come in a container as bulk material.

The fully electric injection moulding machine ROBOSHOT α-S50iA and a LR Mate 200iD/7L robot, that is the long-arm version with 7 kg load capacity and a reach of 911 mm, are combined in the cell. FANUC robots control the complete feeding technology with camera system. Communication between the robots and injection moulding machine is via one of FANUC’s own digital interfaces, which provides more functionality compared with the common Euromap 67 interface. Through this integration, the system can be started, stopped and debugged by the injection moulding machine. Trained users without programming knowledge can therefore also maintain production. 
The particularly user-friendly surface of the cell control is the know-how of Karl Vlahek.

Clever detail in the VL Robotix solution: On a free side of the operating unit, parameters which have to be used and changed often are arranged where they are concentrated together.

These cells can be expanded modularly. For example, it is possible to have automated sampling. SPC parts are taken manually from a drawer. Vlahek: “This step can be automated by simple means. But it also has to be economically presentable. The cell overall is above all a flagship system due to the different parts that are produced.
Machine data are primarily used to guarantee the quality of produced parts. Since the ROBOSHOT already logs parameters like temperatures, pressures or speeds, these values can be used directly to monitor the process. Defective purely synthetic parts land in recyclable waste, while complete over-moulded, but defective parts land in residual waste. Automation excludes metal parts from reaching the synthetic waste baskets. 

The benefit for the manufacturer is obvious: Greater consistency in the weight of parts and more stable processes. In doing so, no professional knowledge is required. The function is optimally activated, and the AI takes over the rest.

AI mould protection is another ROBOSHOT function. Daniel Armbruster explains what this means: “Our mould protection measures the power of the clamping unit and stops the movement of the mould in case of a collision or tolerance deviation in order to avoid or at least reduce damage. At the same time, this monitoring warns of wear in the mould and injector pins in good time.” This reduces maintenance costs or prevents costs being incurred to repair the moulds. This is how it works: In the first five cycles, the necessary power of the tool clamp is measured and stored as a reference curve. Deviations occurring sound the cycle alarm. The sensitivity can be set by the operator as he wishes. The key feature: The ejector movement is monitored in this way. Sluggish ejector packages or loosened ejector rods are recognised before any damage occurs. This helps to reduce down time.

Regional proximity

To implement the project, FANUC proposed possible system partners, and the manufacturer ultimately decided on VL Robotix GmbH. The references for the integrator, which had already automated several injection moulding machines, were decisive. It was also necessary to be close by - this sounds trivial, but is “incredibly helpful” when implementing a project like the ROBOSHOT cell. Both for the procurement as well as for start-up and above all for everyday operation, it has been helpful that there have also been no interface problems. Vlahek: “Since all central components come from FANUC and we deliver such a cell from one source, all machines and components are coordinated.” 

This relieves the load in everyday operation, since the parts to be produced are technically quite demanding and require the latest production equipment. The ROBOSHOT from FANUC fits the customer’s goal of significantly reducing energy costs as well. Since introducing energy management, transparency in the decisive cost factor “energy consumption” has been significantly improved. On the basis of specific figures, it has been possible to optimise relevant processes. The ROBOSHOT made a significant contribution to this.