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SAPA Machine
Implant Machine Arm

Integrated Manufacturing Systems -
Robots provide the answer

One of the greatest current challenges facing those of us who make things here in the UK and indeed most like-minded people across Western Europe, is the migration of manufacturing industries to “low cost” areas around the World.

FSB ZEPF Machine

Whilst for some the answer is simply to go with the flow and become part of that migration, for others the preferred, sometimes the only solution is to meet the challenge head on.  Increasingly, automation through the intelligent use of robotic systems allows companies to improve efficiency, increase productivity and lower the cost of production.  This can and is being achieved, in many different industries and applications.

FSB GmbH, a German manufacturer of hardware, principally door handles, locks and fittings, has automated much of its production processes.  An integrated system of Robotic handling and conveyorised movement supplied by SHL Automatisierungstechnik AG, with optical recognition and positioning, automates turning, notching, polishing, lacquering and palletisation of a range of components made from both aluminium and stainless steel.  The system can operate on a fully automated three shift pattern or can work to flexible programmes determined by specific customer driven production needs.

In the metal fabrications sector, Zepf Schleif und Bohrtechnik, a specialist supplier of Centreless Grinding and Deep Hole Drilling services, has introduced sophisticated Robotic automated handling into its production processes.  Their facility offers centreless grinding from 0.5 – 30mm diameter, up to 300mm length and deep hole drilling from 2.0 – 20 mm at depths of up to 500mm.  Almost 3,000 different components are produced with batch sizes ranging from 10 to 10,000 piece parts.  For Zepf it was the ability to retro-fit the SHL robotic handling system to existing grinding and drilling centres that provided a most cost effective solution to getting the improved efficiencies and productivity the company needed to remain competitive.

Retrofitting also proved the answer for Grohe AG, a world leader in the design and production of sanitary fittings.  New products and increased demand meant that existing plant was no longer adequate.  System requirements were considered to be processing time, flexibility of utilisation, efficiency, machining quality, maintenance costs and, above all else, productivity and cost-effectiveness.  SHL’s proposed solution was the partial utilisation of existing components from the old plant and their integration with a new additional robot system.  The initial concept was the replacement of a rotary table polishing machine with a series of robot cells linked to the existing workpiece transfer system and camera based surface monitoring.  However it was decided that the project would go further than that and incorporate mechanical manufacturing processes, drilling and milling, into the system.  The result is a fully automated process starting with two new machining centres, linked by a purpose designed workpiece movement system to the pre grinding, then grinding, the polishing stages.  Parts are checked by camera monitoring and loaded onto jigs for electroplating.  Production runs continuously over a six day cycle, 18 shifts over a 4 shift/24 hours model and output is in the region of 2,500 units a day.

Here in the UK Sapa Components UK Ltd has installed SHL Robotic systems to grind and polish large aluminium components for the automotive industry.  These components have been extruded, pressed and formed and present a real challenge in finishing them to the exacting quality standards required.  Developed through the collaboration of SHL and Lea Manufacturing the Robot cells perform a three stage grinding process immediately followed by two polishing stages, then on to anodising.  Automated cooling and lubrication system during grinding as well as the usual automated control of the polishing stages enable round the clock operation of the units thus ensuring that Sapa deliver the high quality, volume output the customer demands.

The orthopaedics industry places the most exacting criteria on all the processes involved in the production of implants and prostheses.  For more than 20 years automation has featured heavily in these processes, where absolute reproducibility of component geometry and surface finish are paramount.  More recently this automation has reached new levels, with SHL systems now integrating grinding and polishing cells with cleaning, measurement and palletising, all carried out in enclosed controlled environment units.   Given the range of components processed, flexibility is a high priority, with the robot’s handling systems designed to accommodate a wide selection of work piece grippers and clamping tools.  Programming too must be capable of generating different, customised operating procedures for the many different components being made.

Whatever the industry, whatever the application or production process, the objective remains the same.  We need to compete with low cost producers.  The answer can only be found in the right combination of clever design and innovative thinking that gives the levels of productivity, efficiency and thereby cost effectiveness we simply must have.  Integrated systems based on and around robots can and do deliver this.  They can be equally cost effective in both high volume, limited product range production and short run, quick turnaround flexible manufacturing.   SHL Automatisierungstechnik AG and Lea Manufacturing Co are committed to providing these solutions and to keeping us competitive.

Our Technology Partner:

SHL Automatisierungstechnik AG
Spaichinger Weg 14
D-78583 Böttingen

Tel: +49 (0)7429 9304-0
Fax: +49 (0)7429 9304-50
Email: info@shl-automatisierung.de
Web: www.shl-automatisierung.de

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Images:

Sapa (top left): Three belt grinders served by one ABB Robot
Orthopaedic Implants (top right): Kuka KR30 HA Robot grinding and then polishing hip prosthesis shafts
FSB (right one): Kuka KR5 Robot with automated optical placement system
Zepf (right two): Centreless Grinding Cell with retrofitted Motoman H3L Robot

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