Case Study: Press Side Automation with Robotic Assembly
The challenge today for any injection molding company is to reduce the amount of labor that touches a part after it comes hot off the press. Each secondary assembly operation requires an operator to intervene in the process, which increases the amount of time and human resources involved. With the growing demand for value-added services; press-side and secondary operations are becoming a necessity for injection molders to automate.
A local plastic injection molding company was recently awarded a project for an automotive tier 1 supplier of air induction equipment. To support Honda’s 2023 CRV model, the molder required a heat shield to have each secondary operation completed while coming directly off the molding machine, with as little human interaction as possible, once the machine’s process was finished. The part needed four compression limiters installed to provide and maintain joint integrity of the plastic part, and 3M Thinsulate welded to the inside of the part to further provide heat reduction, all by one synchronous machine. An automated solution was the only option as the project required fast cycle times and the customer wanted to use as few operators as possible to contain costs. Additionally, reducing the number of operators and assembly cells would result in a higher ROI for the customer. To meet the demand, AMS developed a robotic assembly automation solution with one operator at the station who could perform all the tasks simultaneously.
Solution: Robotic Assembly Automation
With decades of previous experience in assembly for plastic and automotive parts, AMS was chosen as a front-runner to provide a solution that would be feasible, reliable and cost-competitive.
The initial discussion regarding possible solutions was ultimately decided on one factor: Robots had to be part of the equation. Rather than creating multiple cellular machines, AMS decided to design and build a press-side piece of automation with a 5 position rotary dial table to perform all the operations concurrently. One station would perform the pneumatic pressing of all four compression limiters. Two stations would ultrasonically weld the 3M Thinsulate using Epson SCARA robots with hand-held ultrasonic welding units attached. A final station utilized an Epson SCARA pick-and-place robot for a good part and bad part chute.
The secret sauce in the solution for AMS was the technical expertise and experience with press machines and ultrasonic welding. Designing a station that would insert the compression limiters to a specific depth using the right amount of press force was the first problem to solve. Additionally, welding of 3M Thinsulate was nothing new to AMS, but still posed challenges. Our team knew the right approach hinged on asking the right questions: Which frequency would produce the most consistent and fastest result? Should the weld be using time, energy or distance? How do we integrate ultrasonic welders with robots?
By combining knowledge of each application from previous projects, AMS was able to design and build a solution that met the customer’s price, application and assembly requirements.
As a result of designing, assembling and integrating a dial table system with three Epson SCARA robots, AMS delivered a solution that was able to provide maximum value to the customer. The upfront expense of the machine would produce an ROI in less than a year having one assembly station requiring just one operator, instead of three to four separate stations with three to four operators. By saving floor space, operator payroll and cycle time, this system proved to be a success for AMS and the customer. The machine made it possible for the client to produce consistent, quality parts by decreasing the overall cycle time without having to worry about training temps on individual machines and avoiding the current labor shortage problem.
Searching for robotic assembly automation solutions? Contact our team.