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Hi-Tech - Hi-tech Automation


Hi-Tech - Hi-tech Automation

Plastics robots get packing at Timloc

December 17, 2009

Investing in six axes robots for its moulding operation has helped Timloc Building Products to reduce its cost base significantly.  Five FANUC Robotics robots are removing components from moulding presses and packing them ready for delivery.

Timloc, a member company of the Alumasc Group, manufactures a wide range of plastic building products for roof, wall and floor ventilation.  “We operate in a competitive mature market which is compounded by the current economic conditions,” explains David Preston, Timloc’s Managing Director, “We have two clear strategies for the business – new product development for growth and cost base reduction wherever possible to maintain and increase margins.

“Labour is our biggest cost base and operating at 3 shifts over 5 days it is significant.  As most of our labour is employed in packing large volumes of mouldings this operation became our target for automation.”

Already using linear axes robots on two injection moulding machines Timloc were aware of the limitations and capabilities of robots.  The current robots were limited to removing mouldings and placing them onto a conveyor. 

Hi-Tech Automation, a FANUC Robotics’ Strategic Partner, proposed a six axes robot approach for each unload and packing requirement.  “We needed someone to take responsibility for the project and give us the confidence that they could do it – this was easier said than done as many potential solutions offered relied on design teams based overseas making one-to-one feedback harder.

Hi-Tech have the specialist plastics sector knowledge that is clearly ‘meat and drink’ to them and demonstrated clearly that they capitalised on the robots full functionality to maximise efficiency.  An additional bonus for us was realising how affordable six axes robots had become.”

The five robot systems, comprising a FANUC Robotics ArcMate robot, an injection moulding machine and peripheral tooling for locating boxes and components, perform different operations but principally all systems are packaging products.

Complexity of task varies from assembly of two components to the handling of a long ‘floppy’ component.  The six axes flexibility has allowed the robot in each case to replicate the human packers.

Telescopic Underfloor Ventilators are produced in a two part mould and are removed from the tool by the ArcMate robot.  Both parts have to be assembled – one part slides into the other.  To enable this Hi-Tech designed a fixture which controls the shape of the mating parts prior to the robot assembling them together.

On completion of assembly the robot places the finished component, in an interlocking pattern, into a pre-erected cardboard box.  When the box is full it is automatically removed from the cell and a new empty box is conveyed into the cell for the process to continue. 

The only human intervention required is to keep the robot systems loaded with boxes and to remove full boxes.  This process also acts as a quality control as the operator tapes the box lid shut when it is taken away to the despatch area.   

David Preston, continues, “The Telescopic Ventilator is an example of the confidence we needed to have in the system builder.  This is a complex assembly task which needed a system to be designed and built to prove functionality – when Hi-Tech say they can make it happen it does.

Equally complex to handle and pack was a long comb moulding – a section of roof ventilation product – this previously proved to be difficult to handle manually as it has no rigidity.  Proven plastics gripper design combined with the ArcMate robot’s dexterity has made this operation highly efficient.”

Timloc claims to have achieved its cost down objective and although limited by space is looking to expand.  Not only are further six axes robots on the agenda at Timloc but their success has spread confidence Group wide.