£750k investment reshores production

Suscom Industries, a supplier of components to the office furniture industry, stopped all manufacturing over 20 years ago after electing to offshore. Today, after an investment of £750,000, Suscom has reshored production of office chair bases back to the UK – more profitably and with greater control over stock and availability. Suscom is using two 600-tonne Romi presses, with product handling and the assembly of castors managed by three Kawasaki robots.
Kawasaki Robotics’ systems integrator, Evershed Robotics, was tasked with the design and installation of the complete cell, which was purpose-built around new tool designs. Cell control is managed through the Kawasaki robots’ integrated K-Logic PLCs, with each mould tool having its own control box to select the correct programme.
Both Romi presses are served by their own Kawasaki RS-20N robot, which picks the completed moulding and sprue from the mould ejector pins. The robot delivers the sprue to a granulator for recycling, and checks to ensure that the sprue is detached from the moulding.
Placing the chair base on to a cooling conveyor, the same Kawasaki robot then picks up a slip ring, delivered by a bowl feeder, which it assembles into the centre of the moulding.
Each Romi press has its own conveyor delivering mouldings to a single Kawasaki RS-50N robot. This third robot unloads chair bases from the cooling conveyors and places them firstly into a turnover jig, and then into a castor assembly cell. After moving to a check point that confirms the correct size has been picked, the robot presses the castor into one of five location points.
On completion of castor assembly, the robot picks up the assembled base and places it on to another conveyor.
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Milestone for ABB robot manufacture

ABB recently announced that it has manufactured 50,000 robots in China. The 50,000th industrial robot, an IRB 1200, was purchased by BYD Electronics, which will use it for tasks such as the machining, polishing and assembly of mobile phone components.
“This milestone acknowledges the enduring relationships and great collaboration we have with customers here in China,” says Per Vegard Nerseth, managing director of ABB Robotics.
ABB has a long history in the Chinese market dating back to 1994, and is said to be the only multi-national robotics company with a fully local value chain, from R&D to manufacturing, application centres, service and spare parts. Today, it has over 1600 people in more than 20 different facilities across China.
BYD’s purchase of the IRB 1200 is one of many ABB robots it has ordered this year as part of the company’s strategy to create safer and more environmentally friendly technologies.
“We are pleased to receive ABB Robotics’ 50,000th industrial robot,” says Wang Nianqiang, CEO of BYD Electronics. “Our goal at BYD is to touch and improve lives; everything we do is built around that principle. We believe that technology can make life better. ABB Robotics has opened up the pathway for innovation in the field of manufacturing while ensuring the safety, health and wellbeing of our employees.”
In June, ABB solidified its strong position in the European market with the milestone delivery of its 300,000th robot.
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IoT technology maximises machine efficiency

A wireless sensor company has developed an Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled condition monitoring device to help engineers more effectively observe changes in machinery.
The sensor, named BluVib, which was developed by Sensor-Works with assistance from CENSIS, the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems, can be fixed to rotating equipment to record vibration and temperature data wirelessly via the IoT.
Connected via Bluetooth to an app on a worker’s handheld device, the sensor provides real-time information about the condition of machines. The product will be used in one of Scotland’s first Industry 4.0 demonstrators at the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC), part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. BluVib will be deployed to measure vibrational signatures on specific machines and the data acquired will be analysed to predict issues, in real-time, relating to machine performance.
As well as being a more efficient way to observe changes, it’s also a cost-effective alternative to existing condition-monitoring equipment. Sensor-Works’ product is said to be several times lower cost than current market alternatives, which can range in price from $20,000 to $40,000.
BluVib was created with the assistance of the CENSIS IoT Centre, which helped Sensor-Works mature the product from a proof-of-concept stage. The IoT Centre gives SMEs access to a range of off-the-shelf products and technologies to help them accelerate product development. This project is the 50th since the inception of CENSIS in 2013.
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Easing cam assembly at Nissan

In an interesting application at automotive OEM Nissan, a series of dowels and cam brackets have to be assembled to a cylinder head before the cam bolts are torqued. These tasks now benefit from a semi-automated solution, which not only improves productivity but generates quick financial payback.
The Altec system comprises two operational stations linked by a roller transfer system, plus a Kuka robot and Bosch Rexroth nut drivers. At the first station, the cylinder head is loaded manually on to a base plate, before being located and locked into position on the fixture. A guide plate is placed on to the cylinder head before six dowel pins are located and pressed home using a pneumatic hammer. Sensors located on the guide plate are used to detect that the dowels are fully inserted before the cylinder head is released.
At the second station, the cylinder head is located on a transfer table where the operator can position a guide plate to the cylinder head to allow the correct placement of the cam bracket and bolts. Sensors are used to ensure that the correct bracket is fitted for the variant being processed, and the table then transfers the cylinder head into the guarded robot cell.
Integrated within the cell is a Kuka KR16 robot, which has two spindles mounted to the wrist. The robot positions the spindles over the cylinder head before the tightening operations are initiated. Each bolt is tightened in pairs, in a pre-determined sequence, to a mid-torque point that ensures correct seating and location before being finally tightened to the final torque requirements.
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www.alteceng.co.uk www.kuka.com

Robots rack-up the benefits at Etalex

Installing a Universal Robot to pick metal parts from a press brake solved several automation headaches at Etalex, a Canada-based manufacturer of shelving systems. The company had no room for safety guarding in front of the press brake and needed a flexible, user-friendly robot able to safely handle the pick and place tasks in a high traffic area. The UR10 robot was up to the challenge.
Compared with the other 25 robots in operation at Etalex, all placed behind sturdy safety fencing, the Universal Robots application is an unusual sight. The UR robot belongs to a new breed of automatons dubbed ‘collaborative robots’, as built-in force control limits the force at contact and does not cause bodily harm, enabling them to work alongside employees.
Unlike more traditional industrial robots that normally stay bolted in one spot, the lightweight UR robots can easily be moved and reprogrammed for various production tasks. Plant engineer at Etalex, Jean-Francois Rousseau, was eager to try out this new type of robot: “We needed a flexible automation solution that could be used for 10 different production cycles. Since I only have 6 ft of space in front of the press brake, it was important that I could run this application without safety caging.”
Before the arrival of the company’s new robot colleague, an employee would spend 8 hours a day manually unloading the press brake. These manual tasks have now been reduced to an hour per day spent inspecting the quality of each pallet of parts and changing the coils, resulting in an estimated ROI of about 12 months.
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